Well, they ate his career anyway. Picked it clean- every scrap of flesh clinging to bone is good and gone. The bare bones are all that is left as this cat with a ridiculous resume and acting chops to match has been banished to wander the frozen tundra of Hollywood- working as an ensemble cast member on a 4th rate basic cable channel. Doesn’t dude LOOK like he’s in exile?
Isaiah Washington is a great actor- not a good actor, a great actor. As a certified cinephile I am not shy with declarations of my impeccable taste and unimpeachable knowledge of film. And even though my consumption of small screen fare is sparing by comparison, I still have insights that are sophisticated and superior to those of casual viewers. That self-serving preamble actually serves a purpose. I needed to advance my bona fides before I ask and answer this question: With his undeniable skill and impressive resume, why in the fuck is Isiah Washington currently working on an obscure television series on an obscure television network- and only getting 4th billing? How is that possible? Stated plainly
Reactionary Liberal politics have unjustly killed this man’s career. Another way of saying it is to say that Liberal Hollywood Cannibals ate Isiah Washington
The problem with liberal politics is that we struggle to control our cannibalistic reflexes. We are so sensitive to issues of language that we prioritize image over substance. And that tendency is especially dangerous in the current political climate where words take primacy over actions to the point where a reality show ass-clown like Donald Trump can be elected president because his tweets have more impact on his image than anything he has actually done in his life. So when Isiah Washington had an on-set skirmish three years into his co-starring run on the wildly successful television drama Grey’s Anatomy, the liberal lynch mob came for him when word spread that he had called another actor a “faggot.”
We all know what happened from there: Que the public outrage; forced public apology; fired from job anyway; and fade to black.
It would not have taken a great deal of examination to see that Isiah did not deserve to be banished from the ivory tower of an ABC mega-hit drama to the Siberean wilderness of a CW science fiction series that most people have never even heard of. He had actually put his considerable acting talent to work in helping the LGBT community find the character dignity and acceptance on the big screen it so desperately needed nine years before Brokeback Mountain turned the tide of public opinion forever. In the 1996 Spike Lee film Get On The Bus, he played the role of Kyle- an ex-Marine and closeted gay man amongst the group of black men taking a bus from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. to attend the Million Man March.
The character was dignified and strong in the face of insult and indignity. A masculine character with war veteran credentials and pride in himself as he fought his battle of sexual identity and self-determination, making exactly the type of impression that audiences needed to see at that time- particularly black audiences.
That is a REAL contribution because imagery matters. While the bulk of the LGBT community representation in major Hollywood productions were comical, whimsical and non-threatening, a character like Kyle stood out for his demand to be treated with respect from all corners- and was prepared to kick ass to get the respect he knew he was entitled to.
But nobody paid any attention to that inconvenient historical fact- just like nobody seems to be paying attention to an actor of his caliber laboring in relative obscurity while lesser performers play roles that should be his. Evidently, the liberal lynch mob can’t miss an opportunity to make an example out of somebody for saying the wrong thing and once the momentum for a lynching builds there is no stopping it. Just ask Nate Parker about that tragic dynamic.
To all of my friends in the LGBT community I say this: pay attention to who is on your side by looking at the whole record before you decide to drop somebody down a hole. Most men who came up in the 70’s and 80’s grew up hurling gay slurs around at any guy we ever got mad at without regard for his sexuality. It is a sad fact but a verifiable one. Just because a guy calls somebody a “faggot” in the heat of the moment does not mean he is your enemy. Yes, he needs to get himself together and join the new world where that is not cool, but killing his career is not necessary.
Alec Baldwin lost his MSNBC talkshow in the first week over a similar incident, it just so happens that he had the cache to survive the controversy. And, of course, he does have the privilege of race and connection working on his behalf. But Isiah Washington did far more good for the causes that matter through his work than should have been cancelled out in that one moment. We’ll probably never know what kind of work he could have done to advance society by increasing his influence from that platform. And that is a shame for the rest of us almost as much as it is for him.