On the Responsibility of Privilege (Message from the Management)

Sorry I’m not sorry for he who lost his critic gig over his latest inappropriate comment. I am personally very fond of him, will always be regardless of this post, but I believe in heeding the responsibility of public positions.

Referencing rape as a vehicle for “humor” –using the image of a rape, no less–is bad blood in any universe, regardless of the backstory of what transpired on the set of Last Tango. Yes, the comment was on a private social media page but we all know the minute we press send on a social media post it’s not private–especially when you’re a published writer of no small repute. The bottom line is the profound entitlement that such a comment indicates.

All critics have privilege even though most of us are badly paid and badly published. The privilege is that we are paid anything to air our opinions. (It’s of note that the one in question until recently held three of the handful of plum critic gigs left in the country.) That we therefore must be clear and considerate in our commentary–not necessarily deferential but respectful of audience and subject–seems a given.

Thus we do not review the first significant film about a Marvel female superhero by mostly discussing whether we find the lead actress attractive. We do not discuss whether we find a tween actress alluring in the context of a children’s film review. We do not speak nostalgically of the good old days of racism. And we do not, in any context, use rape as a vehicle for humor–especially in the #metoo era that, thank god, has made everyone aware that female audiences/perspectives/experiences are valid. That he made any of these comments speaks of entitlement. That after raising hackles again and again he continued not to check himself–that he continued to issue non-apology apologies rivaling Lena Dunham’s–speaks of toxic flagrant entitlement (and arguably self-destruction, for which I privately feel compassion).

Most of us “others” have to think not once, not twice, but many, many times before we open our mouths, press send, walk down an empty street if we are to maintain our livelihood and in many cases our lives. This always has been the case. God forbid white straight men who occupy public real estate be expected to check themselves even minimally in order to honor the social contract. If we’re in the midst of a pretty major cultural overcorrection–and we are–it’s necessary in that privilege must be publicly checked. It’s time we all grew up–including those who’ve been taught to ignore the line between compassion and self-erasing codependence. And especially those who’ve been playing the boys-will-be-boys card for far too long without the good grace to admit it.

Yes, I’m cognizant that I’m pressing send now too…

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy