Liam Neeson’s ‘Hypocrisy’ Is Wildly Overstated

Liam Neeson (AP)

Gawker's Nick Denton famously says that "hypocrisy is the only modern sin." And there's a certain amount of truth to that, given the Holden Caulfieldization of modernity: our penchant for posturing, our phony rejection of phonies designed to score points and do little else.

Still, some hypocrisies are more equal than others. Consider the issue of guns. It is amazingly hypocritical of Rosie O'Donnell to denounce the right to bear arms while simultaneously paying someone to bear arms near her. Her implicit understanding that the Second Amendment is about self defense coupled with her explicit denunciations of the same rankle because the hypocrisy is so insanely obvious. So we're all well within our rights to point and laugh at Rosie when she gets up on her high horse to whinge about firearm usage.

Then there's the case of Liam Neeson. Judging by the responses to this tweet, conservatives are very very angry with the Irish actor for saying that he thinks there are too many guns in America while also appearing in films in which he uses guns. Is this hypocrisy?

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Well, no. At least, I don't quite see the hypocrisy. Consider his latest film, Run All Night. In it, he plays a broken down mob hit man who has to pull it together for one last night to save his son from an aggrieved mob boss. (I reviewed it here.) Is Neeson really a hypocrite if he appears in a movie in which a paid killer uses a gun while also saying that such people shouldn't be allowed to own guns? Frankly, I don't want such people owning guns.

But this is entirely beside the point. Because the real issue here is that depiction does not equal endorsement. An artist's creation—whether it's a performance on the screen or stage, a novel that they've written, or a painting that they've committed to the canvas—is not necessarily the same as the artist's opinion. Anthony Hopkins probably doesn't believe that one should eat a rude census taker's liver with fava beans and a nice chianti. Jessica Chastain probably doesn't think you should waterboard terrorists until they crap their pants in front of you. Christian Bale probably doesn't think you should strap on kevlar and fight New York City's criminal element with a variety of gadgets. That doesn't make them hypocrites. It makes them artists.

Because, repeat it after me: depiction does not equal endorsement. 

Now, look: If you don't want to watch Liam Neeson's movies because you disagree with his politics, I can't stop you. You can join PETA in boycotting his work because his personal beliefs are displeasing. The beautiful thing about America is that you're free to live the politicized life regardless of how sad I think it is. But please stop saying that Neeson is a hypocrite. He's not. And you sound a mite bit foolish when you say he is.