As the film Green Book pulled off a surprising upset win for “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards on Sunday night, liberals rushed to attack the movie as a false “white savior” narrative that props up President Donald Trump’s alleged racism. The filmmakers presented a racial reconciliation theme grounded in a true story, but the main character’s living family members have insisted the story is false.
“Green Book winning the Best Picture [at the Oscars] is Hollywood’s version of putting Trump in the White House. It’s as if Mel Gibson, Jon Voight, and Vince Vaughn got the Academy drunk and rigged it!!! Just booooooo. These stories are so problematic,” liberal author Raquel Cepeda tweeted on Sunday.
Green Book winning the Best Picture #Oscars is Hollywood’s version of putting Trump in the White House.
It’s as if Mel Gibson, Jon Voight, and Vince Vaughn got the Academy drunk and rigged it!!!
Just booooooo. These stories are so problematic. pic.twitter.com/pQOrbZCitK
— Raquel Cepeda (@RaquelCepeda) February 25, 2019
“Propagating the white savior narrative: a low moment for John Lewis at the [Oscars] Donald Trump would have been a better peddler of Green Book’s saccharine propaganda,” she said.
— Raquel Cepeda (@RaquelCepeda) February 25, 2019
“Green Book??? Trump’s getting re-elected, isn’t he?” Hari Kondabolu, a comedian who supports Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), tweeted on Sunday.
Green Book??? Trump’s getting re-elected, isn’t he? #Oscars
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) February 25, 2019
Playwright Jeremy O. Harris quoted transgender actor Hari Nef, who predicted that “green book would win because trump is still in office.”
At the start of the night @harinef told us that green book would win because trump is still in office. I’m dead.
— Former Broadway Playwright Jeremy O. Harris (@jeremyoharris) February 25, 2019
“Soooo, let’s just be absolutely clear: ‘Green Book’ was definitely not the Best Picture of the year, but it was certainly the most comforting movie for fragile white people who need that sort of thing in our Era of Trump,” Charlotte Clymer, a transgender activist and member of the media relations team at the Human Rights Campaign, tweeted.
Soooo, let's just be absolutely clear: "Green Book" was definitely not the Best Picture of the year, but it was certainly the most comforting movie for fragile white people who need that sort of thing in our Era of Trump.#Oscars
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) February 25, 2019
“Remember when Trump got elected and a bunch of dudes went and bought women drinks as a way to console them, without actually having to do anything to change the world we live in? That’s Green Book, but for race,” Kizito Madu, a staff writer at SB Nation, chimed in.
Remember when Trump got elected and a bunch of dudes went and bought women drinks as a way to console them, without actually having to do anything to change the world we live in? That's Green Book, but for race.
— Zito (@_Zeets) February 25, 2019
Wahajat Ali, president of the Before Columbus Foundation and a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times, tweeted, “Just a reminder that the now Oscar winning [sic] screenwriter of Best Picture Green Book tweeted Donald Trump’s lie that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 9-11 terror attacks. He finally apologized for it a few months ago after [Jordan Horowitz] and others brought it up.”
Just a reminder that the now Oscar winning screenwriter of Best Picture Green Book tweeted Donald Trump's lie that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 9-11 terror attacks. He finally apologized for it a few months ago after @jehorowitz and others brought it up. #Oscars
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) February 25, 2019
Indeed, Green Book screenwriter Nick Vallelonga supported then-candidate Donald Trump’s claim that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated on September 11, 2001. He tweeted in 2015 that Donald Trump was “100% correct. Muslims in Jersey City cheering when towers went down. I saw it, as you did, possibly on local CBS news.” Yet the screenwriter disavowed the statement and the tweet and apologized. (A police officer and New Jersey residents insisted some Muslims did indeed celebrate on 9/11, although their claims are disputed.)
Yet the far more substantive critiques of Green Book involve the film’s central theme. The movie focuses on black classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who is portrayed as bisexual in the film, and his Italian-American chauffeur Tony “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen).
Dr. Shirley’s family has contested the truthfulness of the film. Maurice Shirley, the main character’s only surviving brother, said he was “furious” in a letter to the press. The film presents Dr. Shirley as not being in contact with his brothers, and the brother said that was blatantly false. He critiqued the film for giving Vallelonga’s family ample screen time.
The movie presents Dr. Shirley and Vallelonga as friends. “It was an employer-employee relationship,” Patricia Shirley, the main character’s sister-in-law, told Shadow and Act. Maurice Shirley insisted that his brother “fired Tony,” an act he said “is consistent with the many firings he did with all of his chauffeurs over time.”
“Tony would not open the door, he would not take any bags, he would take his [chauffeur’s] cap off when Donald got out of the car, and several times Donald would find him with the cap off, and confronted him. When you hear that Tony had been with him for 18 months, I can assure you, no chauffeur lasted with my brother for 18 months,” Maurice Shirley said.
For his part, Nick Vallelonga claimed that Dr. Don Shirley only spoke with him and insisted his family did not know about the friendship. As for the Shirley family, Vallelonga said, “They were hurt that I didn’t speak to them.”
Green Book may present a false story about racial reconciliation and friendship across racial boundaries, but the claim that this supports Trump seems rather bizarre. Apparently, liberals think Trump is a racist, that America’s current society is racist, and that any story showing racial reconciliation in the past is not only false but counterproductive to bringing about an equal society today.
To liberals anxious for radical change on race issues, any feel-good story like Green Book represents a threat to their activism and thus a cultural aid to the racist bogeyman — Donald Trump. Whether or not the film is any good, they must oppose it and its vision of hope for racial reconciliation without government intervention.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.