Tag Archives: Harvey Weinstein

Monster Hits and Monster Directors

There’s a big debate going on at the moment about whether we should support the work of artists who turn out to be monsters.  Where do you draw the line?  I would never knowingly go and see a film made by a Nazi or white supremacist, on the principle that I want nothing to do with such people.  But what about Woody Allen?  I used to love his work but now I don’t know if I ever want to see a film of his again.

There’s a similar question around Harvey Weinstein.  He’s done some terrific work but can I still watch it, now that I know what he’s like alone in a hotel room?  And what about Roman Polanski?  Can we – should we – divorce the person from the work?

I still can’t make up my mind about this.  It seems to me that there ought to be some sort of coherence here; that if a man is a monster it will come through somehow in his work.  But although Woody Allen’s later films are a pile of self-indulgent mush, his earlier work still dazzles.  I still love Annie Hall; and he was a monster when he made it.  So what to do?

It seems clear that there are men against whom the welter of evidence is conclusive.  I firmly believe that Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein are guilty of the acts of which they are accused (if not all, then most.)  But there are other cases where the accused ought, as in any other case, to be given the benefit of the doubt while investigations take place – and they’re not.  I have no idea whether Kevin Spacey was guilty as claimed, but he’s been made a pariah all the same, along with many others.  Did he deserve this?

I don’t know.

The problem with the #metoo campaign is the problem with public discourse in general.  On one side we have the accusers, supported by feminists and others; in the opposite corner we have the accused, supported by their friends and those who think sexual harassment is either a joke or something women are making way too much fuss about.  This is not simply a case of men vs women: many men have supported the victims and some women have spoken against, notably Catherine Deneuve.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/14/french-feminists-catherine-deneuve-metoo-letter-sexual-harassment

As the Guardian article above points out, Deneuve and others make some reasonable points but have been accused of ‘supporting rape culture’, such is the gladiatorial nature of public discourse.

But there’s another problem with these offences.  It’s not like dealing with murder or GBH.  It’s not even like dealing with a straightforward theft (and good luck getting the police to take any notice of that nowadays).  These offences take place in private, in a situation where it is often impossible to prove or disprove consent.  Rape is of course an offence and can be reported; but what do you do, say, when a man like Michael Fallon (a government minister at the time) keeps putting his hand on your knee despite repeated requests to stop?  What do you do when a man leans in a little too close and looks down the front of your dress, or touches you on the back and lets his hand wander down to your arse or (as Jimmy Savile repeatedly did) sticks his tongue down your mouth?  You’d have better luck reporting the theft of a stapler than going to the police with that.  So what do you do?  The newsreader pestered by Michael Fallon threatened to punch him, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with that.

We need to stick up for ourselves and for each other – but more than that, we need to change the environment to make this kind of harassment completely unacceptable.  So, does that involve not going to see Annie Hall any more?

I don’t know.  Here’s an article that might shed some light on the question:

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/11/20/art-monstrous-men/

Kirk out

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The Indifference Engine

As you probably know, the Difference Engine is a proto-computer designed by Charles Babbage to do something called polynomial calculations (polynomial being the sort of word you hear bandied about and just nod as though you understand, after which it’s too late to ask.)  But the Indifference Engine is something else entirely, and has to do with public debate.

The point of debate used to be to enlarge on topics, to test out arguments against counter-arguments and maybe arrive at some sort of conclusion, and along the way to learn something and even to change people’s minds.  But nowadays public debate is becoming more and more gladiatorial: a contest where the only interest is in the outcome.  Who won?  Who lost?  Who was ‘shut down’?  Whose arguments ‘killed’?  We cheer for one side and boo the other and rejoice or fume at the end, depending on the outcome.  It’s basically a boxing match.

As far as the actual arguments go, they are not tools for debate or food for thought but weapons – and the upshot of all this, for many, is indifference to whole swathes of reality.  Forget your nuanced arguments – sock it to us with a slogan.  You can keep your if’s and but’s – what we want is a knockout punch.  Nobody cares about the grey areas.  If a politician is accused of sexual assault he’s probably guilty (or probably innocent, depending on which side you’re on.)  There’s no examination of the evidence; no ‘wait and see’ – we want a judgment and we want it now.

Tragically this may have led to someone taking his own life.  Yesterday Carl Sergeant, a Welsh Labour MP who had been accused of sexual assault by three women, committed suicide.  We don’t know – and may never know – whether he did so because he was guilty or because he couldn’t cope with the burden of accusation.  Nothing can be inferred from his death – though you can bet your life that the media (social and otherwise) are inferring it left, right and centre as we speak.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/07/suspended-welsh-labour-politician-carl-sargeant-has-died

Whereas it seems to me highly likely that Harvey Weinstein was a predatory creep, since so many women have come out and told similar stories about him, it does not follow that every man accused of such crimes is guilty.  There needs to be a process.  Evidence needs to be gathered and assessed.  And not by us, that’s the point.  We don’t know who’s guilty and who isn’t – and we don’t like not knowing.  We must have a judgment and we want it now.

This indifference to evidence, fact and nuanced argument greatly depresses me.  I think I need to play around a bit on my difference engine…

Kirk out

 

 

 

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