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Bubble-Bursting

Like most who watched the Golden Globes this past Sunday, I came away with stronger memories of host Ricky Gervais' comments than who the winners and losers were. Gervais' remarks took many in the room by surprise, and resulted in stifled laughter, nervous facial expressions, and gasps from those in attendance.

His jokes were surprising because, when it comes to awards shows, there are some unwritten rules about what's acceptable, and the host broke most of them. But upon closer examination, the attendees' shocked reaction wasn't so much based on the particulars of the jokes themselves, but on the fact that he told them in that setting, in that room. This group of people thinks a certain way, and takes certain stances, on the topics Gervais joked about, and they're used to being around those who think the same way.

Of course, it's fairly easy to find another room full of people who hold opposing views on those very same topics. Sadly, there aren't a lot of rooms which contain both groups of people. 


When Hollywood types spend time together, they place themselves in an echo chamber. They find people who think like them, and they all feed each other the kind of verbal affirmation we all crave, which is fine, but the problem with being in that echo chamber is it's hard to ever want to leave it. When we cross paths with someone outside of our circles, we're in for an unpleasant surprise when we hear someone express views we're not used to hearing.

While I have no inside knowledge of what it's like to run around in the same circles with film actors and directors, I get the impression that the majority of those in that industry will discuss these issues among themselves, and will, in the process, ensure conformity when it comes to how to think about the issues mentioned on stage: climate change, abortion, MeToo, sexual identity, sexism, war, etc.  And I'm willing to bet that these discussions result in groupthink, or at least the appearance of same. It's why very few entertainers are willing to admit they are, for example, anti-abortion. It's why the few entertainers who don't toe the company line are afraid to admit it publicly. 


As we watched the Golden Globes show, we heard Gervais ask winners not to give political statements when they accepted their awards; alas, they did anyway. One by one, they took the stage, held their trophy, and proceeded to give acceptance speeches which contained views, views which would be considered divisive in front of many audiences, but not in this room. In this room, the expectation is that one can share a view regarding something about which the country is deeply divided, and know they will only hear applause.


This was especially apparent when Michelle Williams chose to spend her award acceptance time giving a mini-speech about abortion. The crowd's response was positively Pavlovian, and they gave Williams what she craved: approval. Affirmation. This particular moment was a clear demonstration of the internally-focused, narrow, insular groupthink of that particular subculture. That bubble that Michelle Williams keeps herself in.

Don't read the preceding paragraphs as my judgment on Hollywood professionals. I'm honest enough to acknowledge that this same type of groupthink happens with those on the other end of the ideological, theological, or political spectrum: evangelical red-state Christians, for example. 

This is a good time to review the the Bubble Creek Canyon video:


Here's the thing: actors in Hollywood are 
no different from evangelical Christians who share their perspectives on Facebook, or in their weekly Bible Study, knowing full well that they will get applause for their views. This applause may not come in the form of clapping. It will manifest itself as nodding heads, verbal affirmation, "attaboy" comments on social media, etc. But it's no different from the entertainers who were gasping at Gervais and applauding Michelle Williams on Sunday night.

In the 21st century, most Americans live in a bubble in which they place themselves, only dimly aware of the existence of people who live outside of that bubble. They surround themselves with people who they know think like them. Moreover, any attempt to consider alternative points of view will be stifled, because once you're in that bubble, you don't want to be the one who rocks the boat.


It was refreshing to hear Gervais tell the film industry folks "you're in no position to lecture anyone about anything; you know nothing about the real world", because he's right. And the same could be said for other people who occupy other bubbles. 

My challenge to whoever is reading this: find people (not just one or two) who have different views than your own. Listen to them. Understand how they see you, and others who have similar stances to yours.

I'm not advocating that you become unequally yoked, or that you engage in activities are opposed to what you know to be right. Stand your ground on what's important to you: you don't have to violate your conscience in order to hear the voices of those who see it differently than you. But what I am doing is insisting that the Bubble is not a healthy place to be. If you find yourself in a bubble, proceed to burst the one you are in.  Be ready to hear something that makes you uncomfortable. Stretch your listening muscles. You might find yourself better off, and if all of us are willing to bust out of our bubbles, we'll be better off as a community, and as a nation. 

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