Although she's best known for revealing her inner sanctum in a trashy film almost 20 years ago, Sharon Stone likes to be taken seriously. After all, she does (or did) have an IQ of 154, but her film career since Basic Instinct (and, indeed, before) hasn't exactly been glittering, so she has to do something to justify her continued presence in the international spotlight. So, like other Hollywood has-beens or never-quite-weres she likes to promote fashionable causes. Mainly AIDS and Tibet: you don't get much more fashionable than that.

Last week in Cannes it was meant to be about AIDS. She and soon-to-be-divorced Madonna were co-hosting a bash which reportedly raised around $10 million, mainly for African AIDS victims. Which ought to have meant lots of good karma, at least cancelling out the etheric debts that she must have incurred for making Catwoman and Basic Instinct 2. Unfortunately on the way in she was waylaid by a film-crew and proceeded to make poor use of her sky-high(ish) IQ. Here's the evidence.

A truly bizarre clip. "It's interesting because..." she begins, before reeling off a list of things about China that have been worrying her lately. ("I've been concerned about how should we deal with the Olympics, because they are not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a good friend of mine": that must rank as a classic of bathos.) Obviously, it's all about her.

I don't know a great deal about the doctrine of Karma, but I'm sure there's more to it than some Eastern version of divine retribution. Sharon Stone's initial reaction - "is that Karma?" - sounds a lot like "they had it coming", and has some similarity with that of the gay-hating Westboro Baptist Church, who lost little time putting out a press release congratulating God for smiting the godless Chinese. But that plainly wasn't the point of her little homily, which was intended to highlight the superior humanity of the Tibetans who shamed her by, like, actually caring about all those homeless and bereaved people. Even if they were, you know, Chinese.

"They wanted to go and be helpful, and that made me cry," she said. "It was a big lesson to me that sometimes you have to learn to put your head down and be of service even to people who aren't nice to you."

No doubt her "good friend", the Dalai Lama, could have told her that the children whose poorly-built schools collapsed in the Sichuan quake were as much victims of the Chinese system as the oppressed Tibetans. But then you wonder why she needed anyone to point out that the victims needed help rather than a lecture. Although I seem to recall that several leading Christian theologians had a similar reaction to hers when Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755.

What may have addled Stone's famously enormous brain is they way language tends to elide nations with their political representatives. It ought to be possible to say that "the Chinese" are oppressing Tibet without feeling antagonistic towards any human being who happens to be of Chinese nationality or descent. But it often doesn't work like that. Rather, the impulse to impute collective guilt takes over. A sentiment understandable when felt towards your nation's enemies during a war seems a strange reaction to have when faced with a natural disaster. But then Buddhism can be the most narcissistic of all religions.

I wonder, though, what the present controversy really signifies. Demands for Ms Stone to apologise and withdraw the remarks seem to miss the point that the whole comment was, in essence, an apology to begin with. Her mistake was to take a question inviting her to make sympathetic noises about the earthquake and its victims as an opportunity for personal analysis. On the other hand, we now learn that Ng See-Yuen, owner of one of China's major cinema chains and the chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Film-makers, is threatening a boycott of her films.

From the Independent: "He called Stone's comments 'inappropriate', adding that actors should not bring personal politics to comments about a natural disaster that has left five million Chinese homeless, said the Hollywood Reporter." You don't get to own one of China's major cinema chains without knowing how to get on the right side of the Beijing regime. And there seems to be a concerted campaign (at least on YouTube) to encourage the production of vaguely nationalistic "responses" to Sharon Stone's comment.

Who here is really playing politics?


Anonymous said…
Yes, it's possible she has been watching too much 'My Name is Earl' - but Sharon's heart's in the right place as indeed is all the rest of her (goodness couldn't say that on Cif - I'd get nuked).

You are quiet right as well about how we can all confuse the people 'the Chinese' with the rulers 'the Chinese' - we all do it.
Anonymous said…
Heresiarch - regarding Tibet, do you have a take on this

I know you normally cover news related items, but I'd love to know your thoughts on the topic.

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