Strange omens on an overcast Monday morning in Hollywoodland, on the eve of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Judd Apatow is stress-eating Oreos by the sleeve and Joss Whedon is busy fantasizing about a painful and humiliating end to House Speaker Paul Ryan; Katy Perry and Cher are on the next flight out of LAX to join the Women’s March on Washington, and all the big studios are nervous that Chinese checks won’t clear after January 20.
In short, Hollywood is On Edge.
So it came as something of a surprise, if not just a pleasant change in headlines, when Nicole Kidman said very matter-of-factly last week that Americans should come together to support the president, whoever that might be.
“[Trump is] now elected and we, as a country, need to support whoever is the president,” the actress told the UK’s Victoria Derbyshire. “That is what the country is based on. And however that happened, it happened, and let’s go.”
Or not. A few days later, Kidman put out another statement to clarify her previous comment.
“I was trying to stress that I believe in democracy and the American Constitution, and it was that simple,” the actress told Access Hollywood. She wouldn’t comment further, except to say: “I’m out of it now. That’s what I said and it’s that simple.”
Well, so much for all that.
It is obvious what happened. Kidman said something that vaguely resembled an endorsement of Trump, and Hollywood freaked out. After all, it was just days ago that decorated veteran Meryl Streep — or, She Who Must Not Be Called Overrated — delivered the stinging public rebuke of Trump that Mitt Romney was trying for back in March. That was the good stuff. The Right Message (and never mind that standing ovation for a convicted child rapist thing).
What’s weird is that Nicole Kidman — an Oscar winner and by any measure a successful actress — was forced to clarify a statement in which she said she supported the president of the United States, and encouraged others to do so.
Her publicist must have had a brutal couple of days; curled up in fetal position with a white-knuckle grip on two cellphones, babbling something about Vladimir Putin and the Great Red Menace.
It is clear now that the Enforcers are everywhere, at least for the time being. People like the insufferable, thuggish Joss Whedon, the Avengers director and self-described “feminist” who posted a meme mocking Kidman for being a “puppet for Trump” and a “blunderturd” over her original comments (and then went on to re-tweet an inspirational quote about “one people, one family, one house” from Congressman John Lewis, with no hint of irony or self-realization whatsoever).
The Enforcers meet daily now, in the waning days of the Obama Era; in the parlors of spectacular homes in Calabasas and the Hollywood Hills; over an early dinner at Catch on Melrose; in between vaginal rejuvenation sessions in Beverly Hills.
The conversations begin jovially enough, but then turn to protest, revolution. Who said the Wrong Thing this week? Yes, I’ll have another order of Salmon Belly Carpaccio, and hold the Yuzu.
But under the surface, the Big Fear pervades. A blind panic, the sense that something has gone horribly wrong. And it has, for the Enforcers. After all, all of their bleating, their political PSAs, their warnings, their fetishization of doom over the last 18 months… it all amounted to nothing. Hillary missed the mark; and now the Enforcers scramble, like rats in the dark, to seize every last shred of whatever respectability and political cachet they may have had before the walls of Jericho crash down around them.
And that is the point, I think, to be made in this now jumbling, incoherent mess: the era of Enforcement is drawing to a close. Slowly, yes, but it is ending nonetheless.
After the inauguration, and after the Women’s March, and after Lena Dunham gets up from sitting shiva, Hollywood will go back to Doing What It Does Best: the movies, the shows, the awards, the fake boobs and fake faces, the parties, the hashtag activism. Nicole Kidman will appear in many more movies, and maybe she’ll win another Oscar, or a Golden Globe, or a BAFTA, or any of the other dozens of meaningless hunks of metal the elite console themselves with.
But it won’t matter. Because the balance of power has shifted. The chickens have come home to roost. And the Enforcers have been put on notice.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum