Amy Roberts: Equality and egos
For years, maybe decades even, I have found myself defending Sundance to other locals. It’s an easy target to lob complaints at, and each year the bullseye grows. As locals, we enjoy so many of the Festival’s benefits — the economic bump, the random encounter with our favorite celebrity, the chance to ask a film’s director/writer/producer poignant questions — these are unique experiences; bucket-list stuff for most people. For us, it’s just another annual event to endure, not much more noteworthy than filing our taxes.
And so, when I hear the grumbles, even though I’ve felt, agreed with, or even stated them at times, I often find myself playing host of a fictional game show I call, “Yeah, but…” It goes something like this:
“Traffic is terrible!”
“Yeah, but the slopes are empty.”
“There are too many people in town.”
“Yeah, but it’s finally snowing!”
“There’s so much attitude and ego to deal with.”
“Yeah, but it’s only a few days out of the year.”
This is the point in the conversation I often remind the person I’m speaking to (and myself as well), that for 10 days a year, we’re a little inconvenienced, but the other 355 days we enjoy free transportation, low taxes, and amenities we couldn’t fund without the Festival. Yes, some of our favorite businesses and restaurants are closed to us, but the money they make in a week and a half is often what allows them to keep their doors open to us the rest of the year. All in all, it’s a pretty decent trade-off.
Yeah, but… after this year, I either need a bit more convincing or most of those I met need a stronger dose of Xanax, followed by a reality check.
Perhaps I was chronically in the wrong place, at the wrong time, dealing with the wrong people, but this year, the vibe felt different to me. Sundance has long been the place where everyone thinks they’re someone. It’s where humility goes to die and “Don’t you know who I am” egos breed. But this year, at least from my vantage point, there was a shift. It was more than the standard level of self-importance, arrogance and entitlement. People were downright rude, demeaning even. Which is ironic considering how many independent films are created to make us think about how we treat one another.
I saw people push and shove others while in line for a film. I witnessed verbal assaults on bouncers who weren’t finding names on a list quickly enough. I overheard conversations that included belittling descriptions of colleagues who were “too old” or “too young” or “too ugly” for the business. At one point during the weekend, an L.A. publicist told me I was “just a stupid local” when I wasn’t interested in interviewing her client. That’s an odd way to secure press coverage. I was happy to let her know I was wise enough to call Park City home, in large part so I don’t have to be surrounded by people like her daily.
If the Festival had a theme this year, it was a message of equality. As part of a national movement, a Respect Rally was held at City Park. A number of celebrities — from Common to Jane Fonda — spoke up to demand a level playing field for all. The national dialogue that started with the #MeToo movement gave us permission to demand more, and has since expanded. Why stop at just being better to women in the workplace? It seems practical to extend the idea of equality beyond gender, and that has been the rallying cry of this Festival. Perhaps those in attendance should be the first to embrace and practice the idea.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.