Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Tale of Two Reactions

I've been trying to decide whether to write this one for a while, so as a consequence of that this isn't very timely, except for one particularly relevant detail. And although I am not going to speak to specifics, please note that this will deal with the issue of abuse, and the public consequences of that within the broader community (in this case the writing/artistic and film communities). So if that's going to be a thing for you, come back next week. It'll be less serious here, I swear.

Or read another post. There's lots here, even if there hasn't been much here recently.

For those of you who are still with me, Woody Allen has a new film out. It's not made a big splash, so I'm assuming the critics aren't raving over it, but still, Woody Allen has a new film out. And I'm not quite sure how that happens.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I don't understand the Hollywood process, because I do. I just don't understand how people still work with Woody Allen. The sexual abuse allegations that have come out against him are so quickly dismissed, so quickly tossed aside and ridiculed, you'd think there was concrete proof the allegations were false. Now, I understand how the presumption of guilt works, and I understand Allen claims it never happened. I also understand how quick the Hollywood community is to accept excuses, blame the victim, and express sympathy for the person who may very well have molested a 7 year-old girl. (Not just in Hollywood, either. I'll get to that in a moment.)

Maybe it's because I know enough about accusations of abuse, and counter-accusations of false-allegations, to understand how underreported the former are, and over-estimated the latter are. Or because I understand how hard it is to come forward, how difficult it can be to say what happened, even when the immediate consequences don't include a national spotlight. Or because I understand that it's easier to make excuses for an "artist" everyone admires than it is to wrestle with the uncomfortable truths and the consequences therein.

And yet, as a counter-example, there is Marion Zimmer Bradley. The woman is dead. She is no longer writing books. There is no worry that buying one of her books will, in any way, express support for what she did. Even so, when the allegations about the abuse she perpetrated came out, I watched the entire SFF community struggle with what to do. I watched friends decided whether they would keep her books on their shelves, simply because of what they now know. Books that were already bought, by an author who is already dead. By and large, the voices I respect in the SFF community all seemed to come to the consensus that, keep them or toss them, a conversation needed to be had. Not about whether the accusations were false, not about the reputations of those involved, but about the fact that it happened in the first place, and is in all likelihood still happening somewhere.

None of which I have seen regarding Mr Allen, who is still making films, still making money, still revered.

Why the different reactions? Does this mean the SFF community is better than Hollywood? (Possibly, but I'd argue that anyway.) Does it mean we're only comfortable accepting horrible truths when they impact people who are already dead, so we don't have to make hard choices? Does it matter that one of them is a well-known director and writer, and the other a name largely unknown outside a certain community? I certainly didn't see Stephen King writing an opinion that any of the accusations against Bradley were because the accuser was being "bitchy."

[I can forgive King, to a point, because people are allowed to be assholes. They are allowed to be jerks. They are allowed to take the more comfortable route out of a tricky situation. It does not make them good people, and while I will continue to read King (there's a review of Joyland sitting in the queue here), I do think less of him. Pretty sure that doesn't matter to him.]

Maybe some of this just comes down to separating the art from the artist. Lots of artists, in lots of fields, were less than stellar human beings. No questions there. But what happens when those lesser qualities are revealed and the artist is still putting work out? I'm pretty sure Woody Allen does not need the money, but even so, maybe if people stopped going to his films, stopped accepting parts in his films, stopped, in general, saying "it doesn't matter, it's not worth really looking into" in actions if not in words, maybe that would matter a little. Maybe not, but maybe we'd sleep a little less troubled for not having given Mr Allen whatever percentage of our money he gets from ticket sales.

So... Woody Allen has a new film out. I'd say I'm not going to see it, but honestly I've never understood the appeal of Woody Allen, anyway. I don't like his films, so there's no choice for me. I don't read Bradley, either, so that's an easy choice, too, even if the woman is dead. I'd like to believe that, had she not died, her career would have been over this year, and that would have been the end of it. But maybe not. Maybe when you're famous and popular, it's easier to overlook the allegations, easier to sweep it under the rug, and just proceed as usual.

Of course it is.

But maybe that should also be a reason to have a harder conversation.


Jon Wilson said...

Good blog.

I guess people like Woody Allen are quite powerful in Hollywood and if you are an actor/actress starting to make a name for themselves who publicly condemns/refuse to work with Woody then he might have the influence to reduce the chance of the actor/actress getting work with other filmmakers.

Sometime the individual has to bite their tongue to get/stay ahead in the profession rather than standing by their beliefs.

Having said all that, he could be innocent...

SLC said...

Possibly. Reasonable doubt and all that. Only... I think not. I think anyone who understands how hard it is for a victim to come forward in normal circumstances, let alone under a media spotlight, finds it really unlikely that she's crying wolf just to get some attention. Or brainwashed by her mother. If Woody Allen really thinks that, he's believing too many of his own movies.