Smashing Idols in Tinseltown and Beyond

According to the familiar Midrashic legend, Abraham’s father, Terah, was a craftsman and salesman of idols. But Abram (Abraham’s original name) scoffs at the adults who worship idols. Having watched his father make the sausages, so to speak, he can’t worship them.

While Terah is away, Abram smashes all of the idols except the largest one, placing an ax in its hand. When Terah returns, he’s furious. Abram explains that the idols had brawled until one idol emerged victorious. Terah is incredulous: “Idols don’t destroy idols,” he says, “people do.” Abram smiles. “Exactly,” he says. “So, why worship them?” Terah hauls Abram to the royal court of Nimrod, where he is sentenced to death by fire. According to the legend, God saves Abram from the crucible.

Idol smashers are courageous and strong. Many Abrams have emerged from the current cultural crucible. These heroes break false cultural idols. They slay producers like Harvey Weinstein, directors like Brett Ratner and actors like Kevin Spacey. As we overturn boulders, the hideous creatures hiding beneath are scurrying blindly into the sunlight. We’re experiencing a massive cultural revolution — listening to victims of alleged abuse and believing them.

Today’s idol smashers are shaking Hollywood, and its edifice is wobbling. To some, Hollywood is a cesspool of vice run by vile, abusive men. As Hollywood idols are smashed, only debris remains. And the scornful public’s instinct is to discard Hollywood’s art, once beautiful and inspirational.

But there’s a more optimistic view.

Hollywood isn’t monolithic. It’s comprised of more victims of alleged abuse than reputed abusers. For every Hollywood villain, there are many heroes, people who succeed without harming others.

Hollywood also has its superheroes, people trying to change the world.

Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman in the DC Extended Universe. In real life, she stood up to Ratner, who has been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct. Gadot made it known that she wouldn’t work on a “Wonder Woman” sequel if Ratner were involved as a producer. Warner Bros. responded by dropping Ratner from the film.

Today’s idol smashers are shaking Hollywood, and its edifice is wobbling.

When Jimmy Fallon returned to the “Tonight Show” a week after his mother’s death, he told viewers that his mom “… would squeeze my hand three times, and say, ‘I love you.’ Last week, I was in the hospital, and I grabbed her hand and squeezed. ‘I love you.’”

During the same broadcast, Taylor Swift debuted her song “New Year’s Day,” which happened to include the lyrics, “You squeeze my hand three times in the back of a taxi. … ”

Swift wasn’t a scheduled guest. Producers had invited her to add a special touch to Fallon’s return show, and she agreed without hesitation. When she serendipitously sang “squeeze my hand three times,” there were tears all around. Afterward, the two stars embraced, overwhelmed with emotion. Swift’s brilliant performance and unbridled support for Fallon were heroic.

Drake may be the biggest superhero of all. Performing on Nov. 15 in Sydney, the artist was mid-song when he stopped to chastise a man for reportedly groping women in the audience. Drake’s righteous indignation and public calling-out is the stuff of superheroes.

If you need further reassurance that Hollywood is not a cesspool, see the feature film “Wonder,” a remarkable 100-minute sermon on kindness, acceptance, love and magnanimity. “Wonder” grabs you by the soul and, in the words of Henry Ward Beecher — used beautifully in the film — “carries up the most hearts.” It’s a reminder that no one does inspirational and powerful storytelling better than Hollywood.

One by one, false idols are falling. Morality pundits at Fox News, hypocritical politicians (left and right), Silicon Valley misogynists and Hollywood Neanderthals have been exposed and destroyed.

After Abram smashed the idols, he discovered God, the Creator. Not made of stone, wood or clay, Abram’s God was the maker of stone, wood and clay. Abram partnered with the Creator to teach morality and kindness, and together they changed the world.

We should celebrate the destruction of Hollywood’s false idols, but we should not discard Hollywood and all of its culture. Instead, let’s replace those idols with the Hollywood stars who light up our world with love and kindness.

Eli Fink is a rabbi, writer and managing supervisor at the Jewish Journal.