How The Myth Of The Artistic Genius Excuses The Abuse Of Women
Directors, meanwhile, have justified the mistreatment or plain resentment of women as a gritty artistic choice. Bernardo Bertolucci, the director of “Last Tango in Paris,” boasted that he chose not to fully inform his lead actress, Maria Schneider, of all the details of the film’s infamous butter scene because he “wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress.” (“I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped,” she said of the experience.) The director Lars von Trier has whipped misogyny into a persona, delighting in riling actresses and selling the stories to magazines as kicky evidence of his transgressive brilliance. The auteur, celebrated for tightly controlling all aspects of the filmmaking, seems only to enhance his reputation by flaunting his control of women.
Meanwhile, the entertainment industry seems quite interested in conflating the art and the artist as long as it helps sell movie tickets. (If Hollywood weren’t invested in selling the people behind the art, the Oscars wouldn’t be televised.) Stars and power brokers are reflexively praised for their societal contributions. Even as they’ve been accused of harassment, Hollywood men have attempted to fend off the charges by trotting out such good deeds. Mr. Spacey cynically chose this moment to announce that he is gay in a bid to spin a harrowing assault tale into a heartwarming coming-out one. Mr. Weinstein countered accusations by dozens of women by mentioning his generous contributions to a scholarship fund for female directors. And Bill Cosby was more than happy to confuse his art with his personal life when he bellowed his old Fat Albert catchphrase — “Hey, hey hey!” — as he exited a courtroom this past summer during his trial for sexual assault.
Louis C.K., one of the most respected and celebrated comedians today, has built a public persona that simultaneously capitalizes on the praise afforded to the provocative auteur and to the Hollywood do-gooder. He’s been hailed as a thoughtful feminist figure, a comic capable of landing unexpected jokes while navigating politically correct positions on the issues of the day. In a memorable bit in his 2013 HBO comedy special, “Oh My God,” he asks: “How do women still go out with guys when you consider the fact that there is no greater threat to women than men? We’re the No. 1 threat to women!” His stand-up routine is obsessed with masturbation but also infused with insights into power and consent, situating him as a kind of ethical pervert, the schlubby male-ally version of the fashionable sex-positive feminist.