In Glass Onion, the once famed but now fading model Birdie Jay constantly gets herself in trouble — mostly by simply opening her mouth. Perhaps, her assistant suggests, if you think “sweatshops” are where sweatpants are made, that “jewy” is a word describing cheap people, and that, as a white lady, going to Halloween as Beyoncé is a great idea, you’re better off not tweeting for the rest of your big media campaign.
Still, her billionaire friend Miles stands by her. “A disruptor,” he calls her. “Some people think Birdie is disruptive every time she opens her mouth, just because she is saying what everyone is thinking but no one has the nerve to say.” “It’s true,” Birdie confirms. “I say it like I see it.” But if what got her on the cover of magazines and into the idea of “sweetie pants” — designer sweatpants for every occasion — also gets her cancelled on Oprah, is “disruption at all costs” really the right attitude? What’s more, is Birdie even deliberate in her actions?
“It’s a dangerous thing,” master detective Benoit Blanc tells her, “to mistake speaking without thought for speaking the truth.” Just because your gut tells you something feels right does not make it right. We’ve all been led astray by our intuition at one point or another. Your true opinions are not the ones that first bubble to the surface, and your best ideas are rarely the ones you blurt out halfway through even thinking of them.
Some people, like Birdie, take pride in being “unfiltered,” but if your filter is not something you apply and remove on purpose, there is no distinction between honesty and stupidity. “I’m a truth teller,” Birdie claims. She comforts herself that “some people just can’t handle it.” In reality, Birdie simply has no control over herself and, by extension, no read on which statements will get her an award vs. kicked out of the studio.
Whenever I witness someone blubbering along without reflection, I’m reminded of a Louis C.K. bit from one of his stand-up comedy routines: “You know when you say to a friend of yours ‘You’re being an asshole,’ and they’re like, ‘No, I’m not.’ Well, it’s not up to you! That’s up to everybody else. You don’t get to say no to that.” Similarly, the truth is rarely straightforward and often subjective. What might seem 100% clear and obvious to you may sound shocking, even asinine, to others.
Think before you speak and don’t auto-pardon yourself after. Living unfiltered is only a virtue when it’s done deliberately, and the truth, like water, often must pass many layers of stones before it becomes crystal-clear.