Wow. You guys apparently can’t get enough of talking about Gentlemen of Leisure. The comments on the old post are getting a little unwieldy, so here’s a fresh space to continue the conversation.
My position remains unchanged. We’ve identified the film industry as one of our targeted economic growth sectors. Turning away a television series that wants to film here will cause irreparable damage to Oakland’s potential in that arena. Either we support this industry or we don’t, end of story.
But beyond what I see as a really cut and dried economic question, I have to say I find the opposition to the series just generally really creepy. It is not our business to make judgments about what is or is not permissible with respect to artistic content, and I don’t really understand why anyone would even think script or subject approval should be a factor in decisions to grant film permits. Pat Kernighan was downright scary on KGO last week, basically saying that we shouldn’t allow the series because she has a personal moral objection to its content:
While it might be okay to do a documentary about that to educate people, I think if you really portrayed those things in a fictional portrayal, it would be sensationalizing it. I think there would be, really a prurient interest in seeing that kind of thing that would be kind of sick, really. And I just – to me, it’s further sexual exploitation of those teenage girls who are already being exploited.
Just because of the nature of entertainment, there is going to be a sort of glorification of, certainly of the pimps. And whether it’s intended or not – I think the intentions actually, of HBO and the producers are – they have some good intentions, I think. But I just don’t think there is a way to portray this industry in a way that doesn’t sort of make the exploitation even worse. Or, that, sort of, other people are even profiting off it at another level.
The “bad for Oakland’s image” stuff is stupid, short-sighted, and wrong, but when you start using personal speculation about how people will perceive art to justify your behavior, that’s crossing a very serious line. It is simply not part of a politician’s job description to evaluate a producer or writer’s intent or whether a work of fiction will play out as intended. I volunteered for Pat Kernighan’s campaign in 2006, and supported her because I thought she would be a good legislator and make sound financial decisions for the City. I did not support her because I thought she should be determining what kind of creative content is tolerable in Oakland. I don’t think anyone else did either. And the idea that she thinks those kind of decisions are part of her mandate…well, that’s just chilling. And it gets us started down what I see as a very frightening road.