“What’s in a nose?” asks Stephen Bush in the FT. News that actor Bradley Cooper wore a large prosthetic proboscis to play the Jewish conductor Leonard Bernstein is, to put it mildly, “dividing people”. Clips in which Cooper plays Bernstein as a young man looked, to some people at least, like a “racist caricature” – the bogus beak, these critics argue, seems “excessively large” compared with the composer’s actual conk. But when detractors took to social media to voice their disapproval, Cooper (who also directed the film) did something highly unusual: he simply stood firm.
It turns out that was precisely the right thing to do. The American Jewish Committee said they didn’t think the film “harms or denigrates the Jewish community” at all, a stance echoed by the Anti-Defamation League. Bernstein’s three children released a statement “praising Cooper’s work and saying that their father would have loved the film”. If only, in this dreary age of online pile-ons, more people would do what Cooper did. So much of what we call “cancel culture” is merely the inability to realise that just because someone is “loudly cross online”, you don’t have to listen to them or let yourself be paralysed by their anger. The whole point of good leaders is that they think an issue through, then, once they’ve made a decision, stick to their guns. We should learn from Cooper. “You can’t placate all your critics: sometimes you just have to ignore them.”