Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam: ‘I’m Tired of White Men Being Blamed for Everything Wrong with the World’
BY HIS own admission, Terry Gilliam is offensive. But it’s not his fault, it’s yours. “People work so hard to be offended now,” he says with a grin. “I don’t know why I’m doing it. It’s not fun anymore.” He seems to be enjoying himself today, though. The more incendiary his opinion – the bigger that smile.
The 79-year-old writer, director, and former Monty Python member has ideas that others have often found startling. He has sharp, keen eyes, and the air, energy and trainers of a man many years younger.
He started out, when a very young man, as a hippie-looking anti-authoritarian. He even left the US because, after being mistreated by ignorant police officers, he felt he would turn into a terrorist if he stayed:
I became terrified that I was going to be a full-time, bomb-throwing terrorist if I stayed [in the U.S.] because it was the beginning of really bad times in America. It was ’66–’67, it was the first police riot in Los Angeles. …In college my major was political science, so my brain worked that way. …And I drove around this little English Hillman Minx — top down — and every night I’d be hauled over by the cops. Up against the wall, and all this stuff. They had this monologue with me; it was never a dialogue. It was that I was a long-haired drug addict living off some rich guy’s foolish daughter. And I said, “No, I work in advertising. I make twice as much as you do.” Which is a stupid thing to say to a cop. …And it was like an epiphany. I suddenly felt what it was like to be a Black or Mexican kid living in L.A. Before that, I thought I knew what the world was like, I thought I knew what poor people were, and then suddenly it all changed because of that simple thing of being brutalized by cops. And I got more and more angry and I just felt, I’ve got to get out of here — I’m a better cartoonist than I am a bomb maker. That’s why so much of the U.S. is still standing.
His early years were an embarrassment of riches. After starting out as an animator for Monty Python – he’s responsible for those surreal, Dali-esque collages and that famous giant foot – Gilliam soon joined the troupe full time, the only American-born member among five Brits. His directorial debut was with them, 1975’s riotous Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and he helped write a film that dared to satirize both Jews and Christians (and recent releases of which have been censored by new Jewish rights owners), The Life of Brian (1979).
He has doubts about some aspects of the #MeToo movement. “I hate Harvey Weinstein. I had to work with him and I know the abuse, but I don’t want people saying that all men are like him.”
Apparently Gilliam, though refreshingly irreverent and dismissive about The Narrative, is unaware that Jews aren’t White: Gilliam mentions a famous actor he was speaking to recently. “She has got her story of being in the room and talking her way out. She says, ‘I can tell you all the girls who didn’t, and I know who they are and I know the bumps in their careers.’ The point is, you make choices. I can tell you about a very well-known actress coming up to me and saying, ‘What do I have to do to get in your film, Terry?’
“I don’t understand why people behave as if this hasn’t been going on as long as there’ve been powerful people. I understand that men have had more power longer, but I’m tired, as a White male, of being blamed for everything that is wrong with the world.” He holds up his hands. “I didn’t do it!”
Here we see a young Gilliam explaining one of the animations he made for Monty Python’s Flying Circus:
And here’s Gilliam playing the part of the jailer in a scene from The Life of Brian:
When an interviewer tried to lecture him about “White privilege,” Gilliam interrupted: “It’s been so simplified is what I don’t like. When I announce that I’m a Black lesbian in transition, people take offence at that. Why?” The interviewer replied, “Because you’re not.”
“Why am I not? How are you saying that I’m not? You’ve judged me and decided that I was making a joke.”
“You can’t identify as Black, though,” said the interviewer.
“OK, here it is. Go on Google. Type in the name Gilliam. Watch what comes up.”
“What’s going to come up?”
“The majority are Black people. So maybe I’m half Black. I just don’t look it.”
Unless he’s joking, that’s a pretty pathetic and weak “defense” — deniable Whiteness. Yet his lack of reverence for The Narrative is doubtless still causing trauma among some True Believers.
“I don’t like the term Black or White,” Gilliam says, digging himself even deeper both for us and the True Believers. “I’m now referring to myself as a melanin-light male. I can’t stand the simplistic, tribalistic behaviour that we’re going through at the moment.”
“I’m talking about being a man accused of all the wrong in the world because I’m White-skinned. So I better not be a man. I better not be White. OK, since I don’t find men sexually attractive, I’ve got to be a lesbian. What else can I be? I like girls. These are just logical steps. I’m just trying to make you start thinking. You see, this is the world I grew up in, and with Python, we could do this stuff, and we weren’t offending people. We were giving people a lot of laughter.”
“I’m into diversity more than anybody,” he says, “but diversity in the way you think about the world, which means you can hate what I just said. That’s fine! No problem. I mean, you can believe whatever you want to believe, but fundamentalism always ends up being, ‘You have to attack other people who are not like you,’ and that’s what makes me crazy. Life is fantastic, it’s wonderful, it’s so complex. Enjoy it and play with it and have fun. That’s why I didn’t become a missionary. That was my plan. I was quite the little zealot when I was young, but when their God couldn’t take a joke, I thought, ‘This is stupid.’ Who would want to believe in a God that can’t laugh?”
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Source: National Vanguard correspondents