Culture / Film / Music / Television

Drawing the line with abuse, misogyny in pop culture

Two years ago when news began to surface that Miley Cyrus, a young, hip, and showy pop star, was going to have part in Woody Allen’s six episode Amazon series, the world was mostly quiet. A Crisis in Six Scenes was released in 2016 and was met with apathy from viewers and critics alike.

Now, Allen is back and is supposedly working on his next film. In the past few days, both Selena Gomez and Elle Fanning have signed onto the project, following Cyrus’ lead. The elephant in the room remains.

Will misogyny and abuse allegations ever hold enough weight to change popular culture?

In 1993, allegations were made that claimed Woody Allen had abused his adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow. In 2014, Farrow published an open letter to Allen in the New York Times. Farrow and Allen volleyed back and forth—Allen denying the allegations, other family members affirming them—until the issue eventually fell to the wayside, as they usually do. And still, Allen is producing and directing films that young women continue to sign on for. Not to mention the women who continue to consume his works, despite Allen’s history of sexual assault.

Allen, as most people know, is not the only perpetrator. Nearly every genre of art includes someone who is at fault, whether it be R. Kelly and Chris Brown or Bill Cosby and Casey Affleck. Lists plague the Internet: “12 Famous Men Accused of Sexual Assault Who Got Away With It,” and “10 Artists Besides Woody Allen Who Are Charged with Sex Crimes.” Most of these allegations are swept under the red carpet while the famous men they belong to continue to walk on top of it.

A month ago, Buzzfeed broke a story that claimed famed rapper R. Kelly was “holding women against their will” in some sort of sex cult. The Internet erupted with comments on Kelly’s previous predation on teenage girls and and even with jokes and memes featuring lyrics from his songs, revealing that R. Kelly and his past is an extremely polarizing subject in popular culture. The Buzzfeed story was written by Jim DeRogatis, the first (and nearly only) person to report on the videos of Kelly engaging in sexual acts with underage girls almost 18 years ago.

In her essay titled “Conversation with Jim DeRogatis Regarding R. Kelly” written for the Village Voice, music critic Jessica Hopper admits to doubting DeRogatis’ judgement (that the allegations were true) and even publicly sparring with him on the issue. But after the release of Kelly’s album in 2013, Hopper notes:

“[DeRogatis] approached me offline and told me about how one of Kelly’s victims called him in the middle of the night after his Pitchfork review came out, to thank him for caring when no one else did. He told me of mothers crying on his shoulder, seeing the scars of a suicide attempt on a girl’s wrists, the fear in their eyes.”

The essay ends with a quote from DeRogatis: “The saddest fact I’ve learned is nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody.”

What doesn’t seem to matter is how buried or recent any allegations are. Original allegations against Allen were made nearly 25 years ago. But Casey Affleck, who was accused in 2016 of sexual harassment and verbal abuse on many of his movie sets, won the 2017 Oscar for Best Actor in the middle of his investigation. Not to mention Johnny Depp, famous pirate and Hollywood bad boy, had allegations made against him of heavily beating his now ex-wife Amber Heard, for which he was only monetarily punished. Because Heard donated her money from the settlement to the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital instead of keeping it, she was suspected of lying about the allegations altogether.

Forget assault allegations, just look at the rampant misogyny that exists in entertainment.

Leading up to the release of his 2014 album, indie artist Ariel Pink began going on misogynist rants during his press interviews. After picking a fight with Canadian singer Grimes, Pink spoke to The Guardian:

“The media lies to us all the time, and we always believe the media. Then Grimes – who’s completely stupid and retarded to believe any of it – jumps in and has her two cents. I’m not a misogynist. Maybe she’s angry that I’m the male version of her, who was at 4AD before her.”

Pink isn’t the only one who has spouted misogynist remarks to Guardian reporters. In 2015, music reporter Laura Snapes was assigned to interview Sun Kill Moon frontman Mark Kozelek. Snapes was met with this remark:

“You think you’re the only person who wants to get a face-to-face interview with me? Get in line. I’m the best person you never met and one day, if you ever meet me, you’ll probably want to have my baby.”

He proceeded to call Snapes “a bitch” while he was on stage, and The Guardian published the story with a subhead calling Kozelek’s actions “self-sabotage.” But Kozelek and his band continue to sell out national tours.

People often defend their consumption of problematic art by playing the fool. They respond, “But that (album/movie/TV show/etc.) is so good!” or “I grew up watching The Cosby Show!” and sometimes “That album reminds me of an exact point in my life that I miss.”

But why do preferences for certain entertainers outweigh the trauma and lives ruined by those very entertainers?

Young people seem to be increasingly concerned with being ethical and progressive. But the issue is that we will listen to Chris Brown on our way to shop at the co-op. We will watch Roman Polanski films for the romance and old Hollywood charm without thinking about his statutory rape allegations. We listen to Red House Painters while writing our college papers, ignoring the fact that Mark Kozelek regularly heckles and verbally assaults women while he’s on stage.

Feminism and women’s rights are not only buzzwords, but central issues to 2017. Because the U.S. President was caught on tape talking about repeatedly assaulting women, using a filter when consuming art and entertainment is even more crucial. Selena Gomez and Elle Fanning should not be able to work with Woody Allen without significant pushback from their fans.

When will we start consuming art and entertainment because it is ethical and not just because it is pleasing to the eye or ear?

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