Month: February 2014

Articles Read & Loved no. 7

Particular Ways of Being Wrong by Natalie Bakopoulos examines the failure of literary critics in their reviews to engage with the book on its own terms and concentrate on an author’s personal life instead. The question of whether art should be considered on its own terms regardless of the personal faults of the artist has been on my mind, especially in light of Dylan Farrow’s renewed accusations against Woody Allen. Bakopoulos argues that the role of the critic, to engage with the creative work, shouldn’t be impeded by the private life of an artist. But art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. So does lauding and celebrating the novel or film of a sexual offender mean we’re letting art take precedence over ethics? I think maybe the question I’m asking is: the artist’s private life shouldn’t be considered when judging their work, but are there certain cases when it should?

In Response to…Robert Weide

The opinions expressed in this Daily Beast piece by Robert Weide are the kind that allow sexual abuse to run so rampant.

His main point is, “look, I know the guy, and he’s a nice guy.” He also fills his piece with a lot of bluffs and fillers, such as a lengthy bit where he argues the issue about Soon-yi against a strawman so he can appear to be an informed guy, or asides like mentioning the fact that Woody Allen was claustrophobic so “how could he have stepped into an attic?” Compare the lengths to which he goes to rationalize his opinions (written before the Dylan Farrow letter, but he stands by it proudly) to Dylan Farrow’s plain-stated fact: it happened.

This is how abusers get away with it: people think their way around in circles to try to figure out every possible way that it could have not happened. Because if it did happen, that means they know like/love a monster. That makes them monstrous by association, which is something that doesn’t make any sense. Their world is filled with nice people, no monsters. They cannot, or refuse to, reconcile that these normal people they know are responsible for moral atrocities.

So, in the face of a simple utterance, “it happened,” people with the poisoned mindset of Robert Weide will start dragging in achievements and personality traits and family photos as if any of that means anything. There is such a wild misconception that we can spot abusers from miles away; that they’re slimy, unkempt, mouth-breathing, sweaty, that their eyes glaze over when they talk about their kids or their students or (etc). But their evil is a banal evil. They are the “average person,” they are the innocuous friends and family and teachers, and their niceness and achievements benefit them and cloak them. How else could they get so close and continue doing it?

Robert Weide is currently retweeting what he perceives as the worst of the insults leveled at him with a smug distanced air, because he’s the smart grown-up and everyone else is a little kid who doesn’t know any better. It’s this very individualistic warping of self — and of the powerful men in our lives, the invention of infallibility — that is a poison; one that hurts us all, no matter how much of it we ourselves partake in.