In a podcast for the liberal website Slate, Isaac Chotiner talked to New York Times movie critic A.O. Scott about a thorny subject: how do we evaluate the art of Hollywood creeps after they are exposed for preying on women. Scott took a shot at how quickly NBC News is running away from Matt Lauer, a “blatant act of corporate ass-covering.”
I think there is a rush to disown a lot these guys, to make them disappear, and I think that that is certainly warranted morally in a lot of ways, but I think it lets other people off the hook.
In the case, for example, of television and movies, there’s a lot of brand protection and corporate PR that goes on. So, Matt Lauer—we paid him $28 million a year or whatever it was for 20 years, and he was the greatest guy, and he was the face of our network on morning television, and now it’s like, Oh, Matt who? We didn’t, nothing, that guy? Never heard of him. And that just seems to me a blatant act of corporate ass-covering. So I think that can be a problem: how quickly companies and organizations and institutions divest themselves of these bad guys without acknowledging or taking accountability for how they supported and enabled and empowered these guys for so long.
Slate wasn’t tough on Scott…or they would have asked about The New York Times and its CEO Mark Thompson, who as a BBC director-general enabled and empowered child-abusing host Jimmy Savile for decades.
Here’s how Scott answered the question of how you deal with the art of creeps. He said it might make you question your own morality, the way their work appealed to you:
But if you have someone like Woody Allen or Louis C.K., who has involved a certain amount of self-revelation in his work and has invited you into his head, into his neuroses, into his libido, into the messed-up places in his mind, and you’ve lived in there with him and enjoyed it and seen something that you might have in common with it … I mean, I certainly was a huge fan of Louis C.K.’s cable show and felt, as a middle-aged, not-in-the-best-shape, kind-of-thinning-hairline white guy living in New York that it was speaking to me in a lot of ways.
So now what am I supposed to do? There’s a feeling of betrayal and also of implication, of complicity, and I think it’s very important, especially for male critics and male fans, to stay with that, not immediately to say, “This has nothing to do with me. That guy’s gross. I’m a good guy.” You might need to think about why the grossness appealed to you in certain ways.