There is no such art, no such glorious work of fiction, no such extraordinary performance, that excuses a real-life abuser.
By Candice Frederick
It’s been a mere eight months since women in Hollywood first brought Harvey Weinstein’s horrid history of sexual assault to the masses, and just as long since the #MeToo movement catapulted to the mainstream, ushering in a new era in which women’s voices, victims of men including Bill Cosby, Louis C.K., R. Kelly, Junot Díaz, Matt Lauer, and Brett Ratner, were being validated unlike ever before. EIGHT. MONTHS. And already, countless apologists have rushed to defend these so-called “geniuses” whose work they’ve repeatedly asked us to consider as we reckon with their abusive behaviors. Some have even suggested these men can and should make a comeback.
The latest example was Jason Bateman, who went out of his way to interject when New York Times reporter Sopan Deb asked Jeffrey Tambor, who’s been accused of sexual and verbal harassment, whether he expects to be on future seasons of their series “Arrested Development”. “Well I certainly wouldn’t do it without [him],” Bateman said. Okay fine, he reveres his award-winning on-screen dad, but maybe take some time to think about the question at hand, which was really asking whether Tambor should be on the show (or working at all) since he has been accused of sexual harassment during his work with “Transparent” and creating a toxic on-set environment—particularly for his female colleagues including Jessica Walter (who is sitting right there with them during this interview!). But it seemed for Bateman, and so many other apologists, that he prioritized Tambor’s talent and career influence over his abusive behavior of which the 73-year-old actor said he’s “working on” and “has profusely apologized”. When Walter tried to insert her voice (in a conversation where she should have already been centered), Bateman once again re-focused the attention back on Tambor, describing his actions as “incredibly common” in an industry that is “a breeding ground for atypical behavior.” But, you know, “not to belittle what happened [between Walter and Tambor],” he added.
Bateman has since apologized. Co-star Tony Hale has also tweeted an apology for essentially over-talking throughout that segment of the interview, and Tambor’s apology had previously been on record. They’re all just so sorry—and sadly so is Walter, who was so marginalized throughout the interview that she actually said, “I’ve just given up. I don’t want to walk around with anger.”
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This entire conversation was a perfect example of what can go wrong when men try to engage women in the topic of male toxicity, particularly when it comes to men in power. It’s rarely about their behavior; it’s about their professional value. Listen, I like “Arrested Development” (though it definitely did NOT need another season), and to that point I also enjoy “The Cosby Show” and “Louie”, but there is a difference between appreciating the art and using it to excuse abuse. There is no such art, no such glorious work of fiction, no such extraordinary performance, that excuses a real-life abuser. The actual artist is still in fact terrible. He’s “sorry” about it, but he is also still terrible.
What also struck me in the NYT interview, was the prevalent use of time as a construct to interpret and forgive behavior. “A lot of stuff happens in 15 years,” Bateman said referring to the amount of time the cast has worked together. Hale echoed, “We worked together 15 years. There have been other points of anger coming out.” Sure, but what have you learned from it? Have you ever checked in with the person it affected? Maybe the victim (remember her?) has experienced trauma or has been harboring feelings she’s been afraid to express. It just underscores the need for men to curtail a situation to protect the status quo—men regarded as icons despite their horrific behavior.
Because the #MeToo movement has disrupted that status quo, rattling men’s egos as well as their careers, there has been a more desperate urgency for women move to past the abuse, move past the hashtag as though it’s a mere moment and not a revolution, and move past their fury. There is a misguided push for all victims to show compassion for men with professional legacies when none has been given to them. The tarnished careers of victims have not once been considered, and neither has their mental and emotional state as a result of abuse. So, why should victims be asked to put aside their own feelings and experiences to restore their abuser’s good name? Why would we even be discussing potential comebacks for these men when the problem at hand has neither been fully regarded or resolved?
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That is one of the most harmful things about living in a patriarchal society—the need to maintain it even though it has clearly damaged so many. This same dependency that placed a known abuser in the White House has also protected so many powerful and predatorial “geniuses” in Hollywood, because the comfort of seeing a man in any leadership role has superseded our respect for women. That is hugely problematic.
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