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?
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.
Jared Leto’s emphasis on how he transformed his body (You waxed your eyebrows, wow, good for you?) for his Dallas Buyers Club role as a trans person during his Oscar acceptance speech was irksome, especially in light of Laverne Cox’s elegant shutdown of Katie Couric’s invasive line of questioning. Couric hosted Cox, an actress on Orange Is The New Black, and Carmen Carrera, a model, for an episode of her daytime talk show, but only asked them questions about their transitioning processes. Couric’s focus on their “private parts” (Couric’s words) spurred Cox to school Couric on how transitioning should take a backseat to any number of trans issues that are far more serious and important than the status of a transgender’s genitals, such as violence, discrimination, and the high rate of homicide and unemployment among trans people. Cox tore down society’s toxic obsession with transition and transgender’s bodies while Leto just upheld it. This feels like a succinct summation of the problem with casting cisgendered, heterosexual actors to represent transgender roles, especially with an actually transgendered actress as talented as Cox on the scene. Let’s also consider this another reason why Jared Leto should just fall off the planet and leave us with only fond memories of him as Jordan Catalano.
The War No Image Could Capture by Deborah Cohen
An article that explores on the lack of any iconic photographic representation of the First World War got me thinking about the limitations of representation, the limitations of any medium, whether it’s photography or even language, to represent and capture the pain, horror, and suffering of a dehumanizing experience. That maybe the pain of some experiences are so extreme, they destroy any capability to represent it. That maybe the pain of such an experience is beyond representation, beyond photography, beyond language.
Craving the Other by Soleil Ho
If you aren’t reading everything that Soleil Ho is publishing than what are you doing with your life?
An absolutely amazing profile of director Steve McQueen that shows what an absolutely amazing artist, filmmaker, and human being he is.
Saving Mr. Banks Is a Corporate, Borderline-Sexist Spoonful of Lies by Amy Nicholson
I KNEW IN MY GUT TO BE SKEPTICAL OF THIS MOVIE AND HOW IT WOULD TREAT P.L TRAVERS.
Treme Died As It Lived by Todd VanDerWerff
This overview of the final season of HBO’s most underappreciated treasure of a show, Treme, succinctly points out all the things that made the show great and why it was so disappointing to the many viewers who kept hoping for the show to be something it never was or tried to be.
Present Tense: Allie Brosh, Donald Glover, And Hurting Right Now by Linda Holmes
Against “The Death of the Novel” by Sam Sacks
Hey Arnold!’s Thanksgiving episode is about making peace with your own weirdness by David Sims, Brandon Nowalk, Pilot Viruet & Sonia Saraiya
Counting Bodies by p.e cuts right to the core of why crime dramas, especially current ones, make me queasy: they saturate our culture with the bodies of dead women, bodies that have been reduced to objects.
The Song of Solomon: The Cultural Crater of 12 Years a Slave by Wesley Morris
Therapy: The Cause of, and Solution to, All of Writers’ Problems by Meredith Turtis explores how there is a whole niche corner of therapy exclusively catering to writers suffering from writer’s block. The insecurity of writers is impacted by a lot of things, and therapy, especially talk therapy where through talking out emotions and events one can spin a narrative of the self, is one of them.
Goodbye to All This by Lauren Quinn is an essay that tackles one of my biggest insecurities, one of the issues I struggle most with: the difference between writing and Being A Writer and do I really have the right to call myself a “writer”?
“But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts, compared to what the immigrant fears – dissolution, disappearance.”
—Zadie Smith, White Teeth
In terms of nationalism and its accompanying anxieties over immigrants infecting and diluting the culture, Quebec is such a strange case. The disappearance and dissolution of the Quebecois culture are the Quebecois nationalist’s fears, yet according to Smith these are the immigrant’s, the minority’s, fears. Yet the Quebec nationalist, precisely because of his fear of dilution and disappearance, fears infection and penetration that, in their mind, will only hasten the cultural dissolution. The province and its culture, its language, and its identity, are themselves a minority within Canada; a minority that many are desperately trying to preserve. Thus, they respond, of course, with ever increasingly fervent nationalism and intolerance to the immigrants who represent these anxieties over cultural penetration and infection. Immigrants, who by bringing in their own values and cultures, are perceived by some as potentially weakening the French-Canadian identity, an identity this province is trying to build a nation on. Like a bullied kid who in turn bullies other kids who are lower on the schoolyard social ladder than they are, Quebec is a minority stomping on minorities that are more minor than themselves. Quebec nationalism is formed out of what Smith calls the fears of the nationalist and the fears of the immigrant. Quebec fears both penetration and disappearance, and is thus paradoxically the minority and the national majority all in one.
- Franzen and the Twitter Bog by Lydia Kiesling
A response to Franzen’s latest tirade against modern life and the Internet.
- A Tranquil Star by Primo Levi
A short story that will expand your idea of what a narrative can be.
- Why Teach English? by Adam Gopnick
A defence of why English departments and English majors should exist.
A pretty complete list of books and pieces of writing on that very specific genre, none of which turn the reader into tourists of suffering or exploit the suffering of others for the sake of entertainment or intellectualism.