Last Sunday, Parade magazine offered up Robert Redford as one of Hollywood's top 10 "class acts" in Walter Scott's "Personality Parade" column.
And I would have put Redford in that category as well, until I read his comments about Mormons in a Washington Times interview on Nov. 8, wherein he lumped members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or maybe just the men) in one basket and implied they are all well-trained, artificial automatons.
I was quite put off by that.
Would he stereotype Jews? No, that was Mel Gibson. Or blacks? No, that was Michael Richards.
Of course, Gibson and Richards fell from grace as a result of their ravings. But Redford? Nothing.
The main reason is that Redford didn't offer a rant filled with invectives. It was a more measured remark, coming at the end of something he was saying about Mitt Romney.
Besides, ever since Romney announced his presidential run, slandering Mormons has gradually become a national pastime.
I was too young to remember if Catholics in general were targets of stereotyping from high-profile folks when Kennedy ran for president, although it's on the record that a lot of celebs campaigned for him.
With Romney, the gloves are off.
Maybe it's the political climate in general, maybe it's just the direction of the 21st century.
Anyway, Redford was asked about Romney, not just because the movie star is a famous liberal who doesn't hesitate to wear his politics on his sleeve, but also because he has lived among Mormons in Utah.
Heck, he was married to a Mormon, and he hired his Mormon brother-in-law to help get his Sundance Institute off the ground.
But from what he told the Washington Times, Redford could use a tutorial on the LDS Church. Some of what he said was simply wrong.
Not wrong as in morally wrong ... although you can draw your own conclusions about that. Just incorrect, his opinions aside.
Here's the quote as it ran in the Times, a paragraph from the middle of the story, which bore the headline "Redford wants 'Lion' to provoke debate" (referring to his new movie "Lions for Lambs"):
"(Mormons) are very adept at not being fazed and speaking fluently and gracefully. Why? Because every single male who's a Mormon goes on a mission for two years when they're 19 or 20. ... They learn how to deflect blows and stay on message. No wonder Utah is the place that all these Republican senators go. It's perfect. So when you see Mitt Romney, he's already practicing how to deflect blows and stay on message. But it's plastic."
Every single male Mormon goes on a mission? Uh, no. Many do (as do young women), and all are encouraged to go ... but not all of them go. That's just a simplistic exaggeration for effect.
Redford isn't the only one who thinks so. I remember, some years ago, when Shawn Bradley was an up-and-comer in the NBA and he appeared on "The Tonight Show," and Jay Leno said something about all young LDS men being "required" to go on missions. Bradley corrected him and said it's not "required," and not everyone goes. Mostly I remember Leno looking a bit stunned at the correction.
Mormons aren't robots. One of the LDS Church's basic tenets is that people have been given free will to choose for themselves.
Mormons are just ordinary people trying to do the best they can. Some succeed incredibly, some fail miserably and most fall somewhere in the middle.
Redford's main offense, however, is suggesting that all Mormons (or maybe just the men) are "plastic."
Although, on this subject Redford is the expert. After all, he made his millions primarily from acting being phony, pretending to feel emotions in the context of a fictional story.
If he wants to suggest politicians are equally superficial, he's entitled to his opinion. Or that Romney is superficial; also his opinion.But let's leave religion out of it.
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