Oscar-nominated Precious director Lee Daniels has cast the famously liberal actress Jane Fonda as conservative icon Nancy Reagan in his upcoming film The Butler, proving that he has "an impish sense of provocation," says Russ Fischer at Slashfilm. Some right-wingers are fuming over the filmmakers' casting choice: "It's like they're trying to offend half of America before the movie is even made," says The Lonely Conservative. Fonda, known to many as "Hanoi Jane," was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War, and in 1972 she visited Hanoi and posed for a photo on top of a Viet Cong anti-aircraft gun. Still, Nancy Reagan is only a peripheral character in the movie which will chronicle the life of Eugene Allen, the White House's butler from 1952 until 1986, when Nancy's husband Ronald Reagan was president, and Fonda would appear in only a handful of scenes. Is Fonda's casting too controversial?
Without a doubt: "Hollywood just doesn't miss a chance to salute Republican icons with their middle fingers," says Lisa Beth Johnson at Indecision Forever. These two women are "as different as North and South Vietnam." Fonda was once accused of being a Communist, while the most controversial thing Nancy Reagan ever did was purchase new china for the White House while the rest of the country suffered from a recession. There couldn't be a more scandal-baiting choice to portray "conservative paragon Nancy Reagan" than "liberal succubus Jane Fonda."
"Hollywood casts 'Hanoi Jane' Fonda as Nancy Reagan"
It's not a big deal: Calm down, says Leslie Marshall at U.S. News and World Report. Fonda apologized for her behavior decades ago, and deserves our forgiveness. Besides, the filmmakers were smart to hire her: Her political history aside, Fonda is a superbly talented, Oscar-winning actress, who has "performed brilliantly in too many films to name," suggesting we're in for a fine portrayal of Nancy Reagan. The bottom line is that the producers have the freedom to cast her, she has the freedom to take the role, "and we have the freedom to buy tickets for the film or not."
"Let Jane Fonda play Nancy Reagan"
It's not controversial, it's all about publicity: This is egregious stunt casting, says Cole Abaius at Film School Rejects, and bloggers are gladly taking the bait. Nancy Reagan's character isn't even crucial to the film, especially in proportion to the amount of debate her casting has sparked. If anything, this role will make Fonda look bad. Her recent career has been defined by "bad movies and bad acting turns." It's unclear why she or anyone else is giving the film any serious attention: "So far it sounds like a dreadfully unfunny Funny Or Die sketch."
"Just for fun: Conservative bloggers already pissed about Jane Fonda playing Nancy Reagan for Lee Daniels's The Butler"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The latent sexism of the male marriage proposal
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- Bush vs. Clinton in 2016 is the perfect way to make millennials hate politics even more
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Alien conspiracy theorists think the government is on the verge of spilling big secrets
- The week's best photojournalism
Subscribe to the Week