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Honor and Dignity on the Screen


Paul noted Scaramucci’s bizarre reference to famed enabler of child rape Joe Paterno last week as a paragon of “honor and dignity.” I guess we all should have known there some grifting go behind this, like there is behind everything from guys like Scaramucci. It’s because he’s producing a film about Paterno, even while serving as Trump’s attack dog.

Anthony Scaramucci seems plenty busy with his duties as communications director for President Donald Trump’s White House, but apparently he’s got time enough to help make an upcoming HBO movie.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Scaramucci, when he’s not trading inappropriate barbs with hostile reporters or former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, is co-executive producing a TV movie based on disgraced football coach Joe Paterno.

The movie had been titled Happy Valley, but HBO is seeking a different name because a BBC/Netflix crime drama has already claimed that title. HBO now refers to the movie, set for airing in 2018, as the “Untitled Barry Levinson Project,” since Levinson is directing.

The movie stars Al Pacino as Paterno, the former head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team who was fired, a casualty of a sex abuse scandal involving his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.

Of course, Pacino is a great choice to play Paterno, at least in terms of looking like him.

I look forward to routine references to Paterno becoming part of White House news conferences as the film release gets closer. What matters more to these people than ratings?

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  • MikeJake

    Paterno “a casualty of a sex abuse scandal involving his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky”?! Let me get out my tiny violin.

    They never should have reinstated those wins.

    • Oh god. They actually wrote that.

      They should have given the program the full death penalty.

    • efgoldman

      Putting this as close to the top of the thread as I can get it, even though it doesn’t go with the threaded comment:

      Jackie Alemany‏Verified account @JaxAlemany
      Anthony Scaramucci was escorted from White House grounds today after ouster, per source familiar with the scene

      Well THAT was quick. Must have mouthed off to the boss, or maybe forgot to pay for coffee.

  • MPAVictoria

    I had the horror of discovering that people search for Paterno’s name on twitter and attack you for speaking ill of their “hero”. Fucking incredible.

    • NicknotNick

      In the early 21st century, hobbies aren’t what they used to be.

      “Grandpa, what did you do for fun when you were young?”
      “Eh, I’d search the Internet for people who criticized an enabler of sexual predators and dox them. Ah, those were the days . . . you have to understand, Little Timmy, that that was right around Gamergate, before everyone on the Internet got all PC.”
      “Grandpa, you’re a real asshole.”

      • before everyone on the Internet got all PC.”

        What, had they been using Macs?

    • NeonTrotsky

      At risk of offending a lot of people, the way we treat football, and people associated with it, in this country is damn near cult like. In the wake of the concussion scandals, the school district my mother works at implemented a new policy that bans kids who get a concussion from playing the rest of the season and people were pissed, like threatening to pull their kids out of school and calling members of the school board un-American.

      • tsam100

        I enjoy watching football, and totally agree with your statement. There’s no defensible reason to be offended by recognizing these realities.

      • HugeEuge

        Good for that school district. I recall that a kid who played hockey with one of my sons got a concussion, and his Mom had him sit out a couple of weeks. He then went back and of course got concussed again either later that year or the next. I like hockey (my wife hates it) but told my kids one concussion and that’s it, you switch to bowling or woodworking or art classes or just sleeping late on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

      • brendalu

        As an avid football fan, I don’t disagree with a word of that. I’m not ready to let go (first I’m quitting smoking) but the day is on the horizon, for me if not the country.

    • Kevin

      Oh, this is very much a thing on twitter, not confined to Paterno. Like, Brandon Fraser has a very weird group that will jump to his defense, and they were very active when the Cruise Mummy movie came out, outraged that they replaced their hero with Tom Cruise (and asking that Fraser replace Cruise in the upcoming Top Gun sequel, or Mission Impossible, because…why not?)

      The internet is a weird place!

      • John Slater

        Brendan Fraser got divorced so some crazies decided to get upset about the settlement. It’s a Men’s Rights/alimony-is-the-greatest-injustice-ever kind of thing.

  • keta

    The movie stars Al Pacino as Paterno, the former head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team who was fired, a casualty of a sex abuse scandal involving his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.

    (my bold)

    A fucking casualty? How about ENABLER.

    • Patriarchs cannot fail, they can only be failed.

    • Chauncy Gardner

      This. Had Paterno not turned a blind eye to the rapist Sandusky, how many rapes could he have prevented. I may go one step further and describe him as an accomplice, or a phrase we may be hearing a lot soon, “unindicted co-conspirator.”

      • Lost Left Coaster

        Yes. Accomplice is the correct word for any adult who fails to step in and stop abuse.

        If we’re not looking out for children, then we ain’t worth a goddamn thing.

    • McAllen

      Much like Hitler was a casualty of WWII.

    • dogboy

      I kept seeing that as ” causality ” because it made more sense that way.

  • Drew

    Damn I had no intention of watching this but Pacino? Don’t think I can keep away.

    • Between this an Confederate I have to believe that someone at HBO with green-light authority has gotten into the bath salts.

      • Just_Dropping_By

        Given that Barry Levinson is directing and he’s previously directed a film with child sex abuse by authority figures as a major plot point (Sleepers), co-wrote a film about underage prostitution (Street Girls), and executive produced the critically acclaimed first season of a TV show where the sexual assault and murder of a young girl was the “A” plot line for much of it (Homicide: Life on the Streets), I kind of doubt that it’s going to be a complete whitewash of Paterno’s role unless Levinson has a pretty serious disconnect on the subject from his prior work.

        • Duvall

          Especially since Levinson has also produced or directed movies for HBO on Phil Spector and Bernie Madoff with Pacino and DeNiro, respectively.

          • TopsyJane

            The Phil Spector picture is not a promising precedent. The movie claimed not to be taking sides and they were careful to note that it was a work of fiction and not a documentary (I’ll say), but Mamet leaves you with the impression that Spector was railroaded, which is outrageous.

            As Spector, Pacino did his Pacino thing.

            • Origami Isopod

              David Mamet, famously misogynist playwright, going to bat for a wife-murderer? Gosh, I’m shocked.

        • Well, that’s a bit of a relief. Still, “Confederate” is by the GoT guys, so I’m less hopeful about that one.

          • Jon Hendry

            It’ll be fine. Harriet Tubman finds her dragons, and…

        • Jon Hendry

          The problem is, the loathsome Mooch seems to take a Paterno-worshipping position, and seems like the type to influence the artistic direction of the film.

      • Denverite

        I’m a bit perplexed at the controversy surrounding Confederate. I don’t see why an alternate history concerning the Civil War is inherently beyond the pale, any more than a WWII alternate history would be. And there hasn’t been any controversy over The Man in the High Castle, at least that I’m aware of.

        Now, a Civil War alternate history could be done in an offensive way, of course, but given that the show wouldn’t go on until 2020 at the earliest, that’s not what’s going on.

        • Veleda_k

          I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that outside extreme fringe groups, there’s very little romanticization of Nazis, while idealized images of the Confederate South still have their hooks in our culture. There’s still the romantic image of the Southern soldier who loves his home, there are still the whitewashed portrayals of people like Lee. Already having to fight against that kind of weight of cultural myth, there’s less patience for, “What if the slavers had won?”

          Is the impression I get.

          • Denverite

            Oh sure. If they romanticize the Confederacy or slavery, that’s encompassed by my “done offensively” category. But I think TMitHC shows that you can portray an evil regimes in a frank and transparent manner without reducing participants in that regime to charactiture.

          • NicknotNick

            Except I don’t think there’s any reason to think that the people making Confederate are going to buy into this cultural myth. The people who romanticize the slavers simply have a large, black-person-shaped blind spot. Imagining Confederate society updated closer to the present, with slavery and all its attendant details visualized, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

            I once saw an exchange on the Internet, between some asshole saying that his admiration for Lee and Company was simply a natural reverence for Southern heroes; someone asked him the natural question, which I thought was quite effective in its simplicity “Why can’t MLK Jr. be your Southern hero?”

            I strongly doubt that anyone making a film about the South today would be rash enough to cast the slavers as anything but corrupted anti-heroes, though perhaps there will be a certain amount of ambiguity at the beginning to get people to watch.

            • McAllen

              The problem is, people like anti-heroes. There’s a real danger of slave-owner characters being valorized the same way Walter White is, especially given how much affection for the Confederacy still exists.

              • tsam100

                For some reason, I just got around to starting Sons of Anarchy. It’s a good show, but I’m constantly amazed at how well they get you to sympathize with the characters, who are all total pieces of shit who need to die.

                • BadExampleMan

                  Fortunately, *SPOILER*

                  most of them do.

            • They did reference Shelby Foote as a prime influence in an interview about it. And the HBO prestige Anti-hero tends to make people sympathize with horrible people. In this case the history itself seems like its too raw to me.

              • Leigh Grossman

                I love that the acknowledgments in Foote’s history credit the awfulness of Orvil Faubus and others for allowing Foote to overcome the temptation as a southerner to soften the awfulness of slavery.

            • Veleda_k

              Building of what McAllen said, these gritty anti-heroes are their own form of romantization. They’re hard men who do hard things, and we root for them. There’s no point to Breaking Bad if the viewer doesn’t want Walter White to get one over his fellow drug lords.

              Now, plenty of these shows claim they’re criticizing masculinity. But their idea of criticism is simply to show, as I said, hard men doing hard things. Yeah, they’re bad, but they look so cool. And of course, we’re also centered on the hard man’s pain.

              I don’t really want to be invited to feel for the hard man slave owner as he broods over doing hard things.

              • Jon Hendry

                I suppose the gritty anti-hero could be a slave doing what he or she has to do to survive and find freedom. Killing the master’s children, etc.

              • JustRuss

                Very good point.

            • Jon Hendry

              It requires a lot of people to grant the makers the benefit of the doubt, when they have very little reason to do so.

          • Ahuitzotl

            or, “What if the slavers had ostensibly won as well as managing their longterm win”

        • The difference to me is the Lost Cause, which was perhaps the driving political force in the country for almost 100 years after the war and which we’re still dealing with. If there were statues of Hitler all over Europe and protesters and major political parties that supported them.

          • Denverite

            Sure, but there’s a long, er, history of Civil War alternate histories not pulling any punches in their treatment of a victorious South. Turtledove is the most well-known; in his books the South ultimately is portrayed as a Nazi Germany-type entity, which engages in a Holocaust of sorts involving African-Americans.

            • Duvall

              Well, that’s the real issue with making another alternative history about a victorious Confederacy – it’s been done to death.

              • Denverite

                Not on TV or movies, though.

            • Linnaeus

              True, but that alternate history still has the Confederacy “winning” and its particularly pernicious manifestation of white supremacy persisting. Maybe we could have an alternative history of Nat Turner’s slave revolt spreading throughout the South someday.

              • Denverite

                That would be interesting as well, though given the Haitian experience, you’d have to be pretty creative to avoid punching down. Maybe have them discover some natural resource that makes the freed slave state a lot wealthier than Haitifrom the get go or something.

                • Helmut Monotreme

                  Not necessary, All they would need is powerful friends. Perhaps they get British backing with the goal of keeping the USA from interfering with British interests in the Caribbean?

                • Denverite

                  Maybe that would work! The point is that you’d need some explanation why the Nat Turner republic wouldn’t suffer the same “ostracized by the West and thus becoming an impoverished, less-developed state” fate as Haiti.

                • Jon Hendry

                  Juggle the dates of the Haitian Revolution and Louisiana Purchase a little and have Napoleon beneficently grant Haiti the territory of present-day Louisiana in return for use of New Orleans as a naval base. Then Haitian New Orleans levies tolls on the river traffic.

              • hellslittlestangel

                Or one in which, after the successful Harpers Ferry raid, John Brown goes on to become President of the United States. When southern states secede, President Brown puts down the insurrection decisively. The traitor Jefferson Davis is hanged along with all his generals and the worst of the slave owners. We get a 13th Amendment without any loopholes, universal suffrage and Medicare for all!

                • BadExampleMan

                  Terry Bisson wrote that, way back in 1988. It’s called Fire on the Mountain and I never heard of it until last week.

            • NicknotNick

              I disagree with that — in The Guns of the South, he did show some lousy aspects of Southern slavery, like a black woman who hangs herself after being raped; but then, at the end (in my memory at least), he winds it all up by having the Southerners all voluntarily relinquish slavery when someone shows them that this would have happened in ‘real’ history. They all turn out to be men of honour, who fought not to subjugate the Black Man, but because they were compelled to.

            • Leigh Grossman

              Ward Moore’s “Bring the Jubilee” really laid a lot of the groundwork for that, by starting the story in a world where the south had won, that was demonstrably more awful than ours. Mackinlay Kantor’s “If the South Had Won the Civil War,” the other early counterfactual, was much more romanticized.

        • tsam100

          I’d be less wary of it if it wasn’t two presumably upper crust white people producing it. Maybe get some creative perspective from people who are still eating the effects of slavery today…

          • Jon Hendry

            Executive producers Malcolm Spellman (Empire) and Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife, etc) are black and probably have some pull.

            • tsam100

              I had heard that. Honestly, I think we need more info before getting too upset about it, but I’m white, so my opinion on the matter is worth exactly jack shit.

        • Abigail Nussbaum

          1. It’s by the guys who made Game of Thrones, i.e. the people who failed to notice that they had filmed a rape scene until it had aired, even though the actress playing the rape victim told them so. Not to mention how tone-deaf the show’s handling of slavery and race has been over the course of six seasons. If I was going to pick people who could handle material like this, they would be near the bottom of my list.

          2. It’s by HBO, a network that has characterized itself with a fondness for violence and prurience thinly wrapped in a veil of social relevancy. Again, not the people I trust to do right by this material.

          3. Prestige TV in general, and HBO in particular, have a tendency to be most interested in characters who have the most privilege and do the most damage. So even if the show bills itself as critical of its neo-Confederate stting (and even if that’s the intent of the writers) I’ve seen too many works in this genre not to think it likely that the most interesting, charismatic characters – the ones the writers and the audience end up being drawn to – will be the slaveowners.

          4. In general, I think we’re long overdue for a discussion of how much depictions of fascist, racist societies actually function as an excoriation of those ideals, and how much they end up normalizing or even valorizing them. Again, the writers’ intention doesn’t really seem to matter – Marvel may claim that the ultimate goal of the HydraCap storyline is to expose the hollowness of fascism, but already the alt-right is walking around with Captain America shields, embracing “their” new hero. Especially given that we’re likely to see Confederacy-themed merchandising for this show, that seems worth nipping in the bud.

          5. It’s just the wrong time for this story. Treating an America in which slavery never ended as a fantasy world in this present political moment feels like a bad joke, and once again, I don’t trust anyone involved to use that premise to make cogent political arguments that might actually educate the audience about real politics.

          6. Finally, there already was a show that managed to tell an interesting, exciting story about slavery without either reveling the mistreatment of its black characters or foregrounding its white ones. It was called Underground, and it was cancelled despite good ratings for bizarre business reasons. I’d much rather see a serious attempt to find it a new home than whatever Confederate ends up being.

          • McAllen

            It’s just the wrong time for this story. Treating an America in which slavery never ended as a fantasy world in this present political moment feels like a bad joke, and once again, I don’t trust anyone involved to use that premise to make cogent political arguments that might actually educate the audience about real politics.

            Thank you. It’s going to be real hard for the show to not come off as saying “Pfft, you think you have it hard? Check this shit out!”

            • JustRuss

              Yeah, I can see conservatives pointing to this show and saying “What are BLM complaining about, this is what racism really looks like, and they have it so much better than that!”

          • Ash

            Roxanne Gay had a powerful op-ed in the NYT about how tired she was of slavery fanfiction (cf., Underground Airlines, also written by a white dude), and I tend to agree.

            Tho if you really feed a need to go back to the American slavery well, why not push for an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred, where a modern Black woman is forcibly pulled back in time to that time? It’s one of Butler’s books that I cannot bring myself to re-read, because it’s so incredibly wrenching.

  • NeonTrotsky

    What’s funny is that this isn’t even the first member of the Trump administration who’s tried to use their position to pump up a movie they’re producing. Steve Munchin did the same thing with Lego Batman.

    • McAllen

      The movie about a billionaire who had to learn to be humble and not abuse his power? It’d be nice if some producers would actually watch the movies they produce.

    • so-in-so

      Given what the Dump clan are up to, such grift may be the primary reason people join this (corrupt) administration. That, and enabling reinstatement of Jim Crow.

  • Abigail Nussbaum

    For the record, the BBC Happy Valley is an amazing (if extremely violent) TV show, and a welcome antidote to the over the top macho preening of Trump, Scaramucci, and their ilk. It’s got a great heroine – a no-nonsense, middle aged police sergeant – and talks about crime without making it seem grand or impressive. At its core, it’s about puncturing the belief of privileged men that they get to hurt whoever they want, or that there’s anything special about that desire.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      this is the first tv show that has sounded interesting to me in *years*

      • Ahuitzotl

        You need to watch more BBC tv then, I think

  • I’m sure we will be hearing more about how child molestation should not interfere with his accolades as a coach.

    • NicknotNick

      The funny thing is, I kind of agree with this — but only because accolades as a coach seem so trivial next to enabling child molestation. If you really are so pathetic that you can balance “enabled rape of children” with “devoted life to coaching and won a bunch of football games”, well, go ahead! It’s kind of like insisting that that horrific British abuser was also funny; he probably was, hooray. It’s like hearing that someone who beats children also crosses with the light — OK, whatever floats your boat.

      Coaches naturally dwindle with time, the essence of athletic competition is seizing the moment. Even the good ones, like Dean Smith, basically get forgotten except for a vague glow. I guarantee you that Paterno won’t have that.

    • chrisM

      Yesterday I was stopped at a light behind a car with a Penn State license plate holder, a Penn State bumper sticker, and the vanity license plate “THXJVP”

  • Ash

    I’m currently at PSU for grad school; the last thing the uni and the town needs is more shitty Paterno hagiography.

    But there are people doing good things here: I’ll encourage anyone who is disgusted by this and has extra funds to throw a few bucks towards PeacefulHearts Foundation, the charity founded by Matthew Paterno (who was abused by Sandusky) to provide support to other childhood sexual abuse survivors (especially male survivors):


  • It’s not like his day job of strutting around imitating Napoleorange will take up much of his time.

  • SomeTreasonBrewing

    Bad news in the film world all around. Sam Shepard and Jeanne Moreau died.

    • Having just 5 minutes ago finished reading (aloud) the Wikipedia synopsis of Zabriskie Point, which for reasons now unknown to me I had seen (and loathed) when it first came out, but had mercifully forgotten except for the final scene, I now know that the script was written by Sam Shepard. Consequently “bad” was not my first reaction to your news.

      I had also never taken in, though I was living in Boston then and it surely was in the Boston Phoenix at the time, that Mark and Daria (the non-actors who played the characters of those names in the movie) had been involved in Mel Lyman’s wacky Fort Hill Community, and that Mark had participated in an unsuccessful (but slightly lethal) “revolutionary” bank robbery, leading to a prison sentence which ended with his death in a weightlifting accident. Evidently Shepard spent a spell writing history as well as scripts, before he took up acting (which he may well have excelled at—I don’t know that I ever saw him).

      • SomeTreasonBrewing

        His biggest roles were as the Farmer/Owner in Terence Malick’s ‘Days of Heaven’, Chuck Yeager in ‘The Right Stuff’, and Frank James in ‘The Assassination of Jesse James….’

        He was good in the recent Jeff Nichol’s ‘Midnight Special’ as a religious cult leader, and as the lead in Volker Schlondorrf’s ‘Voyager’.

      • NicknotNick

        Oddly enough, the campus-radical debate in Zabriskie Point is what I always think of when we here debate punching Nazis.

  • P Gustaf

    “I look forward to routine references to Paterno becoming part of White House news conferences as the film release gets closer.” It’s supposed to air in 2018. What makes you think the Mooch will last that long?

  • SomeTreasonBrewing

    Looks like Scaramucci will have plenty of time to shepherd this project through production. What was that, 10 days?

  • Unemployed_Northeastern

    This post needs to be updated…

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