Do not feed the trolls even if you have the ‘Goodfellas’ spaghetti recipe

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Lorraine Bracco plays Karen Hill in "Goodfellas." Photo provided

Lorraine Bracco plays Karen Hill in “Goodfellas.” Photo provided

It’s an adage almost as old as the Internet: Do not feed the trolls.

But like all the sagest wisdom out there, it’s hard to follow.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Martin Scorsese classic, Kyle Smith at the New York Post wrote a little something titled “Women are not capable of understanding ‘Goodfellas.’” And by “a little something,” I mean, a piece of obvious clickbait that was clearly penned with the sole purpose of making people get mad about it, click on it, read it, get mad about it some more, respond to it and, most importantly, spread that link around so more people can get mad about it and then click on it and then share it.

Let it be noted that I’m deliberately violating usual legitimate Internet journalist protocol by not including the link here. If you really feel you must read it, you can Google it, but I’m encouraging you not to because I promise it’s not worth your time.

More than that, you’re giving a manipulator what he obviously wants by clicking on that link.

There are almost as many photos and videos in Smith’s post as there are paragraphs — not always but often a telltale sign of something that has been rather hastily thrown together — and all the paragraphs say essentially the same thing: “Chicks, man, they just don’t get it.” The column is not written or thought out well, and it ignores basic facts like these: The legendary Thelma Schoonmaker edited Goodfellas, and Lorraine Bracco played one of the film’s most interesting and pivotal characters, and both of them understood the film’s underlying concept — which for the record, is NOT “ball-busting etiquette” — well enough to earn Oscar nominations for their work.

I say that Smith’s column ignores these facts because I have no doubt that he is actually knows these facts. I have no doubt he was fully aware of the fury his patronizing tone, outrageous headline and insulting thesis would generate.
Because I think that’s exactly what he was going for: outrage, which equals hits.

Fellow film journalist James Rocchi  on Twitter labeled Smith’s column “agita-clickbait,” which is the perfect description.

“The problem is that non-think ‘thinkpieces’ get clicks, outrage, traction,” James writes on Twitter.

He’s close: The problem is, the rational among us — who deep down know better  — can’t help but respond, to point out the irrationality of those preposterous paragraphs. Just as the Internet makes it easy for a troll to spin his trollish little faux “thinkpiece,” it also makes it easy for those of us whose hackles are raised to vent our spleen.

I wince to think at the number of well-meaning people who have shared the link so that they could rail over Smith’s ridiculous nonsense. I’m not saying the ire isn’t justified — Goodfellas is my favorite Scorsese movie, and Smith’s post is straight-up sexist idiocy — what I’m saying is that expressing our ire isn’t always the right response.

I’ve read some really keen responses to Smith’s garbage, including Sasha Bronner’s over at the Huffington Post and Steven Zeitchik’s at the L.A. Times. Zeitchik even opens his up with this disclaimer:

“On the one hand, there are a lot of silly Web columns out there that are beneath criticism. On the other hand, the piece about the Martin Scorsese classic is so misguided — cinematically as well as morally — that it cries out for a reply. And since there are few writers, males included, who can resist that (unlike the men Smith imagines, we can’t turn down a good cry), a response seems called for,” he writes.

“Full disclosure: I am socially friendly with Smith, and I think he really believes his contrarian, often cantankerous opinions‎. He may be wrong — deeply so, in this case — but he’s not a clickbait guy, or at least it’s not his primary animating force.”

Well, I don’t know Smith, but I do know journalism having done this for 17 years. I am all-too-familiar with that sinking feeling of needing to turn that required weekly column and finding the well of creativity dry, the thrill of coming up with a timely, meaty idea just in the nick of time and the seductiveness of realizing you could get a boatload of hits if you tweak this idea just right. I’m not saying I know that’s what happened in this case, but it sure feels like it.

I am saying that the cantankerous Mr. Smith has been writing for and stirring up controversy on the Internet for far too long not to have predicted this outcome when he wrote his Goodfellas column. Judging from his Twitter feed (nope, not linking to that, either; feel free to Google him, though), Smith is having a fine time watching the pot he stirred boil over. He comes across as satisfied as a toddler munching a candy bar after a misguided adult has caved in to his temper tantrum.

In this day and age of journalism, with upper management always keeping the pressure on to get clicks or anything else that might make money and prove relevance, it’s easy for legit journalists to turn to clickbait, and with his established reputation as a contrarian, I think Smith has a long way to go to prove his opinion pieces can be regarded as genuine rather than manufactured for maximum attention-grabbing.

Along with HuffPo and L.A. Times, CNN, USA Today, The Guardian, The Wrap and, last but not least, the New York Post have reported on the tempest Smith’s Goodfellas column conjured. The NY Post even reported on it twice, aggregating outraged comments from Twitter and letting Mob Wives star Renee Graziano’s opine over Smith’s idiocy. The NY Post isn’t running from this; they’re running with it.

I’ve never seen Mob Wives, but I found Graziano’s answer smarter than Smith’s original column, and Bronner’s and Zeitchik’s responses are much more thoughtful and better written than the NY Post column that started it all. I just question the wisdom of responding at all since Smith’s post doesn’t deserve it. I’m not criticizing those who responded; I feel it’s sort of like Paulie (Paul Sorvino) using a razor blade rather than a knife to slice the garlic for the prison pasta dinner: You can do it that way if you feel so inclined, but it’s probably not going to make any difference to the final outcome.

In my opinion, we should save our efforts for people who actually have enough credibility to do real damage with their sexist opinions, like say, a Nobel Prize-winning university professor. I love the #distractinglysexy Twitter campaign many women scientists launched this week after Nobel-winning scientist Sir Tim Hunt made some truly boneheaded comments about his experience with “girls” in laboratories during a June 9 speech at the World Conference of Science Journalists.

“Three things happen when they are in the lab; you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry,” Hunt said, according to CNN.

This is a harmful attitude coming from someone whose accomplishments give certain credibility, so a response was actually warranted. Women scientists mocked Hunt’s drivel by posting photos of themselves collecting fecal samples, probing a cow’s rectum, donning heavy protective gear and more with sarcastic comments about how they were too #distractingly sexy to be effective as scientists.

In response to the response to his comments, Hunt resigned his honorary professorship at University College of London and issued an apology Wednesday.

Elizabeth Banks stays on Pitch after sequel success

Fresh off the record-setting success of Pitch Perfect 2, Elizabeth Banks is in talks to make her next project as a director.

According to, Banks is working on a deal at Universal to helm the adaptation of Victoria Aveyard’s young adult novel Red Queen.

Aveyard’s debut novel is about Mare Barrow, whose world is divided by blood–those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard, a growing Red rebellion.

If Banks inks the deal, Red Queen will not only be directed by and star a woman, it also boast a female screenwriter in Gennifer Hutchison, according to Forbes.

As previously reported, Banks now holds the record for highest opening weekend for a first-time director because of the success of Pitch Perfect 2, but that didn’t guarantee that she would be able to quickly book her next gig as a helmer: Forbes’ Scott Mendelson notes that Twilight’s Catherine Hardwicke and Fifty Shades of Gray’s Sam Taylor-Johnson propelled their respective projects to great box office success but didn’t have much luck lining up quality follow-up projects. So, news of this possible deal is very encouraging.

Banks also gave an encouraging speech Friday at the Beverly Hilton as she was honored at Step Up’s Inspiration Awards, reports Step Up’s after-school mentorship programs serve teen girls to help encourage them to finish high school; Banks discussed her visit with Step Up girls at Los Angeles’ Gertz-Ressler High School as part of her talk.

“On top of acting, I started producing and directing because I knew I had more to offer an industry that clearly didn’t expect too much from me,” she said.

“So like the young women at Gertz, I don’t like being defined by those labels or by others, and I don’t like limits.”

Quick hitters

– Actress/director Angelina Jolie Pitt addressed a room of delegates at the African Union summit Thursday to encourage more global support to end violence against women around the world, reports 

“There is a global epidemic of violence against women – both within conflict zones and within societies at peace – and it is still treated as a lesser crime and lower priority,” said Jolie Pitt, who is the special envoy to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

“The near-total impunity that exists worldwide for crimes against women, in conflict zones in particular, means that we are seeing more and more armed groups turn it into their weapon of choice. Women and girls are bearing the brunt of extremists that revel in treating them barbarically. This is inextricably linked to our overall failure to prevent and end conflicts worldwide, which is causing human suffering on an unprecedented level.”

– Be sure to check out The Hollywood Reporter’s fascinating roundtable with Emmy-nominated actresses Jessica Lange, 66, (American Horror Story: Freak Show); Lizzy Caplan, 32 (Masters of Sex); Viola Davis, 49 (How to Get Away With Murder); Ruth Wilson, 33 (The Affair); Taraji P. Henson, 44 (Empire); and Maggie Gyllenhaal, 37 (The Honorable Woman) in which they talk frankly about ageism and sexism in Hollywood, the awkwardness of nude scenes and, most interestingly, the continue blurring of lines between movies and television.

– Universal’s Jurassic World is expected to post the biggest opening ever at the domestic box office with a weekend debut of $208 million to $210 million, overtaking previous champ Disney’s Marvel The Avengers, which held the title for the last three years with $207.4 million, according to



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