If your answer was "anything but actual slavery, which would have been a really bad idea," you are correct!
Just in time for Oscar season to get ugly—and for American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave to go head-to-head in the Best Picture race—American Hustle director David O. Russell made a really awful 12 Years a Slave crack.
Russell, speaking to the NY Daily News' Confidenti@l about Jennifer Lawrence's Hunger Games schedule, said: "I’ll tell you what it is about that girl — talk about 12 years of slavery, that’s what the franchise is. And I’m going to get in so much trouble for saying that." Well, yeah. Though the interview ran on Sunday, it's now getting some pick up from places like Complex and E!.
Russell, who was speaking to Confidenti@l at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Award last Friday, began on an innocent enough note: he discussed worrying about Lawrence's health—she had pneumonia last awards season—and placed the blame on The Hunger Games. "I personally think they should give her a bit of breathing room over there because they’re printing money," he said, adding: "But she’s a very alive person." He probably should have stopped here.
We're sure Lawrence is working very hard to complete the Hunger Games, but comparing her ordeal to Solomon Northup's—even in a veiled manner—is just ludicrous. As a movie star making a ton of money off a massive successful franchise, Jennifer Lawrence is maybe not the best comparison to, say, a free man sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War era Deep South. Russell's comments also don't exactly help make the case for his movie in the Oscar race. It's probably not the best idea to give everybody an occasion to observe that Hustle—while an entertaining romp filled with good performances—looks downright trivial when put next to 12 Years a Slave.
Here's the thing about making 12 Years a Slave jokes: don't make them. When Amy Poehler and Tina Fey touched on the movie at the Golden Globes this weekend, they made the joke about ignorance, rather than the subject matter. Good tip.
Update: Russell apologized in a statement sent to Huffington Post Entertainment: "Clearly, I used a stupid analogy in a poor attempt at humor. I realized it the minute I said it and I am truly sorry."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.