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The Lessons (And Misguided Agendas) Of The Harvey Weinstein Scandals

I promise I’m going to stop talking about the Harvey Weinstein scandal at some point. I know everyone is probably sick of it. Make no mistake, I’m sick of writing about it. Unfortunately, it’s one of those issues that grows way beyond its original context.

It’s not enough to highlight the sheer breadth of the transgressions committed by such a powerful man. It just has to be part of a larger issue that brings out the best and worst of all those eager to comment on it, myself included. Never mind the fact that Weinstein is being punished severely for his many transgressions. People just have to make it part of a much larger agenda, and not necessarily for the right reasons.

It’s that component of this tragedy/crime/outrage that compels me to keep talking about it. Make no mistake, I’d much rather be talking about resolving love triangles in superhero comics and products made specifically for female breasts. However, I see the massive uproar over the Harvey Weinstein affair as entering dangerous territory.

Now, I don’t deny the good that this scandal has inspired. Sexual assault is a serious crime and powerful men like Weinstein have too long a history of getting away with it. In a just and peaceful society, these kinds of crimes shouldn’t be overlooked. That said, there’s a big difference between pursuing justice and a misguided moral panic.

To provide some context, there’s plenty of recent history that should provide some perspective to the ongoing outrage. Back in the 1990s, before hashtags and dick pics, there was a huge outrage over the impact of violent video games and the role they played in mass shootings like Columbine.

Never mind the fact that there’s no established causal link between violent video games and actual violence. Never mind the fact that all available data has shown an overall decrease in violence over the past several decades. The moral panic allowed people with agendas to pursue those agendas to the utmost, even when the truth isn’t on their side.

This brings me back to sexual crimes committed by men like Harvey Weinstein. What he did was egregious. What he did to his victims, if even half-true, warrants full prosecution to the utmost. Unlike the panic over violent video games, this issue involves real people who were subjected to real harassment. That’s beyond dispute.

Unfortunately, the media, the public, and everyone with a Twitter handle aren’t content to just ensure that Weinstein faces justice for his crimes. They just have to turn it into a kind of rallying cry that exposes the depths of misogyny, corruption, and abuse. It happened with video games in 2014. Now, it’s happening again.

It’s getting dangerous because people who express concern about the implications of taking every accusation of sexual assault seriously are being labeled sexist, misogynist monsters. Like many moral panics before it, there comes a point where anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the panic is guilty of thought crimes that deserve the kind of scorn that even George Orwell would find excessive.

We’re already seeing this happen as everyone gets in line to voice their outrage and virtue signal, accordingly. In wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, everyone seems eager to become the hero in the battle against powerful men abusing vulnerable women. I’ve mentioned before how that kind of mentality is dangerous and misguided. We’re seeing a similar mentality emerge as everyone seeks to push their agenda.

Among those pushing that agenda include our friends at Cracked.com, a website I usually enjoy and often cite on this blog. They’ve already jumped at the chance to push an agenda, conflating the Harvey Weinstein scandal as an indictment of all men who ever dared to lust after a pretty woman.

It’s not just websites like Cracked either. There’s already a hashtag on Twitter called #MeeToo that has people recounting their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault. I don’t doubt that there are plenty of these stories that are both disturbing and true. However, there is a context to consider.

Sexual assault is a crime. It’s prosecuted like a crime. Like all crime, there are standards by which to process it. Chief among those standards is evidence. Those voicing outrage over the fact that neither Weinstein, nor Bill Cosby, are being charged with a crime is seen as a failure of justice. However, there’s another point to consider.

Sexual assault is hard to prove. So much of the evidence relies on testimony and in a court of law, that often gets conflated with anecdotal evidence. Science has revealed, time and again, that eyewitness testimony is among the least reliable forms of evidence you can have. Without better evidence, the high burden of proof that comes with a justice system that presumes innocence takes over.

In a sense, I can understand why those lamenting over men like Weinstein are so furious. It is frustrating to think that a man can commit such crimes against women and get away with it. In that frustration, things like facts and context tend to lose meaning.

I still don’t doubt that men like Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly are guilty of making life miserable for women. However, the extent and veracity of that misery is hard to quantify. The fact that they haven’t been charged with sexual assault tells me that the evidence just isn’t strong enough, even if it occurred. Where the justice system fails, though, mobs of hate and disdain will fill the gaps.

While that can help the voices of victims, it can also be dangerous. It can, in some respects, drown itself by claiming everything is harassment, everything is sexist, and everything is some sort of agenda to silence women. People want to believe that they’re Superman and men like Harvey Weinstein are the Lex Luthors of the world.

At some point, though, outrage burns itself out. Our collective capacity for emotional catharsis has its limits. Once it reaches that limit, we start rolling our eyes and become numb to it. For something as serious as sexual assault, we cannot and should not let that happen.

That’s a challenge, though, when everybody is so eager to virtue signal and ally themselves with the so-called right side of history. By over-blowing the outrage, victims of true sexual assault get lumped in with those who just didn’t like the person flirting with them.

Since harassment is so subjective and some people are more sensitive to it than others, the context will often get skewed. However, a scandal like Harvey Weinstein provides a sense of clarity on an issue that is so frustratingly subjective.

Therein lies the issue, though. Harassment, unlike assault, is subjective. Sexual assault is not. One is an emotional reaction. The other involves real, physical harm. Conflating one with the other is a dangerous precedent that will make people more reluctant to interact. As a fan of love, intimacy, and sexy novels, that’s not a world I want to live in.

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The (Kind Of) Silver Lining To Recent Sex Scandals

Given the number of lurid sex scandals that have popped up in recent years, and not just the ones I’ve mentioned, you can be forgiven for thinking that there’s an epidemic of powerful men being a dick to women. Go to any social media site or comments section and you’ll usually find angry rants that are nothing short of apocalyptic.

I certainly don’t blame people for being angry about these scandals. What the Harvey Weinsteins, Bill O’Reillys, and Bill Cosbeys of the world have done is egregious. There are no excuses for being that unapologetically crude.

These are men in positions of power. They know, on some levels, that they have leverage that they can use to exploit others. It’s impossible to know whether they would do what they did without this power. So few people have that kind of power that it’s difficult and disturbing to know how most people would use or abuse it.

At the end of the day, though, they still decide whether or not to exploit their power for personal gain. Even if they’re able to cover it up for years, it’s still their choice and it’s all the more egregious.

As bad as these scandals are, though, I think it’s worth taking a step back to acknowledge an understated upside to this string of lurid news. It’s easy to forget sometimes that good news hides in the shadows of bad news. In fact, good news in general tends to hide behind the glut of horror and dread we’re fed every day by the media.

So what kind of good news can we possibly glean from the increasingly lurid sex scandal involving Harvey Weinstein? What good can come out of any sex scandal where a powerful man exploits his position to seduce desperately driven women? Well, if you’re willing to look beyond the infuriating details, it’s actually pretty revealing.

It’s getting MUCH harder for people to get away with sex scandals in general.

Think about it for a moment. Take a step back and look at the world we’re in now, with respect to sex scandals. Ignore, for a moment, the extreme voices from radical feminists and men’s rights activists who would use this scandal to push an agenda. The fact that everyone is so outraged by this scandal should count as good news.

Very few people are making excuses for Harvey Weinstein. Former allies are abandoning him. His wife is leaving him. The film industry that he helped expand is cutting ties with him at every turn. Despite being such a powerful, influential figure in Hollywood, this lurid scandal is costing him dearly.

Compare that to how scandals of the past often unfolded. Other than hilariously dishonest tabloids claiming that Madonna had a secret affair with Martian ambassador, most scandals rarely drew this kind of scrutiny and condemnation.

One of the most infamous examples is that of O.J. Simpson, who had a documented history of spousal abuse prior to the murder of his ex-wife, Nichole. However, despite this abuse, he was still largely a beloved celebrity figure. He was so beloved that some people just refused to believe that he was the kind of monster who would beat a woman.

If O.J. Simpson had carried out such abuse today, it would trend on social media immediately and there would be no way to sweep it under the rug. Say what you will about the prevalence of the internet, but it does carry out one important function. It makes hiding bad, sometimes criminal behavior a lot harder.

Go back 30 years and it was possible, albeit inconvenient, for someone with money and influence to hide a scandal. They just had to pay off the right people, sweet-talk the authorities, and have some damn good lawyers. When used wisely, it’s like it never happened.

Fast forward to today and no amount of money, influence, or overpaid lawyers can stop some random person with a smartphone from tweeting about a celebrity having a major meltdown or cheating on their spouse. Once it’s online, it’s next to impossible to stop.

Now sometimes, this can be a problem. Every now and then, a false rumor will start trending and lead to a lot of frustration. However, given the breadth and speed of modern media, it tends to correct itself. Once a rumor is obviously false, it tends to disappear quickly.

When it’s not a rumor and there’s a lot of digital evidence to back it up, as was the case with Harvey Weinstein, social media does not hold back. No amount of lawyers, PR agents, or hit men can stop it. Once the lurid truth gets out, people will respond and the internet ensures their responses won’t be filtered by the FCC.

This is where we, as a society, show another kind of progress. When it comes to powerful men exploiting women, we as a people have very little tolerance for that these days. We’ll tolerate a certain amount of douche-baggery, but when it becomes criminal, most people draw the line.

Harvey Weinstein is now paying the price. While I think it’s still important to see how valid the accusations against him are, the amount of evidence that has come out thus far leads me to believe that a significant chunk of these lurid stories are true. For what he did, he should pay a price.

Given the price he’s already paid, in terms of his reputation and loss of job opportunities, it sends a powerful message to powerful men. This isn’t the era of “Mad Men” anymore. You can’t expect to get away with these kinds of sex scandals anymore. Social media and the reactionary masses that use it will find out. When they do, you will pay a huge price.

In a world where powerful people can get away with atrocious behavior, some of which is downright criminal, it’s hard to have faith in people. While our world is far from perfect, I think the response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal shows that we’re making progress.

Even powerful men like Weinstein can’t hide their misdeeds anymore. People today are far less willing to turn a blind eye to these kinds of crimes. It won’t completely eliminate the kinds of lurid scandals that frustrate celebrities and titillate gossip magazines, but it will ensure that those kinds of scandals will be much harder to avoid. It won’t stop certain people, but it will help prevent them from using celebrity to hide their misdeeds.

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How NOT To Respond To An Old Sex Scandal (Too Late For Harvey Weinstein)

Whenever a celebrity or person of influence becomes the subject of a sex scandal, sometimes the most you can do is just pop open a cold beer, put your feet up, and enjoy the show. There’s sure to be a mix of hilarity, disgust, and anguish along the way. You might as well be comfortably drunk.

Last year, it was Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly who got caught thinking with the wrong head and that cost them their jobs. While I’ve expressed my concern about the precedent those scandals might set, I never doubted for a second that there would be more like them in the future. I also didn’t doubt those involved would find a way to handle it poorly.

Sadly, I was right, albeit not surprised. Last week, the New York Times broke a story about Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein, paying off sexual harassment accusers for decades. Among those accusers are famous names like Ashley Judd and not-so-famous names like Emily Nestor, who found themselves in a woefully unequal power dynamic where Weinstein held the kind of power that would make Christian Grey envious.

For those who are fans of Weinstein’s work, which include famed Miramax productions like “Pulp Fiction,” “Chasing Amy,” and “Good Will Hunting,” these are pretty distressing allegations. This isn’t the kind of playful flirting that goes too far. This is the kind of harassment that involves luring ambitious, vulnerable women to hotel rooms and demanding massages.

Granted, it could’ve gotten much worse, as we saw with the Roman Polanski scandal. For the most part, though, Weinstein’s conduct is not that different from what we saw with Ailes and O’Reilly.

He was a powerful man who could make or end careers. He was surrounded by young, attractive, ambitious women over which he had a great deal of leverage. Some men will take advantage of those opportunities and spend decades of their lives trying to shove it under the rug.

Eventually, secrets and hush money only go so far. Just a few days after the scandal broke, Weinstein was terminated from the Weinstein Company that bears his name. Even though many of the accusations haven’t made their way through the court system, the company heard enough and isn’t waiting for the verdict.

Before you start feeling any measure of sympathy for Harvey Weinstein, I think it’s worth pointing out that he hasn’t exactly denied the allegations, nor has he made any sincere apologies. Instead, he’s been making excuses and anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows how I feel about excuses.

homer simpson fail. . EPIC AIL Sometimes, youjust have no excuse.

Shortly after Weinstein was fired, he did exactly what nobody should do in a sex scandal and started making excuses. Instead of the old, “She told me she was 18,” excuse, this is what he said according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.”

In terms of excuses, this is basically the kind of D-level effort of a lazy high school student during a mid-term. He’s not apologizing. He’s not denying or asking for understanding. He’s just claiming that the times were different and somehow, harassing women like he did was okay back then.

Now, I wasn’t alive in the 60’s or 70’s. I don’t entirely know or understand what kind of culture Weinstein was talking about. I just know that in nearly every era and culture, being a dick to women is pretty frowned upon, especially if you’re in a position of power.

Weinstein wasn’t just some creepy guy following women home from bars. He was the head of a major movie company that could turn people into stars. Given the sheer breadth of people seeking stardom, and the vast majority of those who fail, it’s hard to understate how powerful Weinstein was.

It’s for that reason that his excuses come off as even more egregious. It goes beyond the “that’s just how things were” gimmick that we see glorified in “Mad Men.” This is a man who preyed on women who had dreams of being a star. He held those dreams in his hand and used them to take advantage of those women. There are just no excuses for that and his effort to make excuses just makes it worse.

Now, as bad as Weinstein’s excuses are, I also have to give him the same courtesy I gave Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes. By that, I mean I need to point out that these stories the New York Times reported are not completely verified. There is a possibility, however remote you might think, that Weinstein’s conduct wasn’t as bad as the women claim.

It may even be the case that some of Weinstein’s accusers were never actually harassed, but are seeking damages because they want to extort money from him. That does happen. Men and women are equally capable of exploiting a situation. While Weinstein’s conduct and responses have made that unlikely, there’s often a chance that the media will exaggerate the story for dramatic effect.

At this point, though, it’s too late for Weinstein. He’s effectively sealed his fate by making poor excuses and doing a pitiful job of managing the narrative. Even if the accusations were all fake, his response to them has shattered any sense of sympathy or understanding he might have garnered. He basically shot himself in the foot and tried to treat it with sulfuric acid.

It’s almost certain that Harvey Weinstein won’t be the last big mogul or media icon to get caught up in a sex scandal. It’s also fairly likely that whoever gets caught next will make the same excuses.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to handle a scandal, even if you’re guilty. However, the kind of people who make excuses in being dicks to women probably don’t care much about the right way to begin with. That’s not just tragic. That’s downright cold.

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Joss Whedon: Non-Feminist Hypocrite Or Too Human?

Happier times: Architect and producer Cole claims that Whedon cheated on her multiple times through their 16 year marriage in her piece for The Wrap; (pictured 2010)

If you’ve been following this blog in any capacity over the past year, or even the past few months, you’ve probably picked up on a number of themes. If you’re new and just stumbled across this blog because you noticed how much it talks about boobs, sex robots, and Deadpool, then here’s a quick rundown of those themes.

  • Every human being is at the mercy of their brain wiring to a large extent
  • Our brain wiring still assumes that we’re a bunch of cavemen hunting and foraging in the savanna
  • Our brains and body structure have two primary purposes, survival and reproduction
  • Any function other than survival and reproduction is secondary
  • Our overall biology is a blunt instrument that is nearly incapable of being precise, specific, or consistent
  • People will make endless excuses to justify actions they think were more logical than they actually are
  • Sex robots are awesome and cannot come soon enough

For this post, which highlights a major story that broke this past week, it’ll cover almost all of those themes. I’ll do my best to work sex robots into the discussion, but I can’t make any promises. It’s also a story that’s still developing so, in all likelihood, the details are bound to change at some point.

That tends to happen a lot when the story involves divorce, celebrities, and potential hypocrisy on a level that even our celebrity-loving culture can’t tolerate. I’ve made an issue of that kind of hypocrisy before when sex icon and walking male fantasy Pamela Anderson came out against porn, despite having become rich and famous from it. This, however, involves a different kind of hypocrisy.

That brings me Joss Whedon, whose life seems to have taken a few tumbles since it peaked while directing “The Avengers.” It’s not just that he never got “Firefly” un-cancelled or did not do a good job of handling the less-than-flattering controversy surrounding “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” His personal life is also suffering.

Lately, Whedon has been going through a long, tedious divorce with his wife, Kai Cole. Divorce is always rough, even when you’re as celebrated and successful as Joss Whedon. Celebrity couples endure it with distressing frequency, as Chris Pratt and Anna Faris recently learned. However, Whedon’s divorce has incurred another story with even larger implications.

Granted, it doesn’t take much to make divorce even more painful, especially when you have the resources of a celebrity. This might be one case where the pain goes beyond the relationship, revealing something about ourselves that’s as impactful as any billion-dollar movie.

That pain came in the form of a letter that Kai Cole penned about her husband for The Wrap. This is not just an angry rant from a bitter ex-wife, although that’s definitely a part of it. This letter potentially reveals a level of hypocrisy that may undermine our ability to trust any male celebrity who claims to be an ardent feminist.

While I’ve articulated my doubts about those kinds of figures before, especially of the beta male variety, Ms. Cole’s article is basically a perfect storm, of sorts. That’s because, until this letter, Joss Whedon had a reputation as being the quintessential male feminist in Hollywood geek culture.

He did plenty to earn that reputation too by creating shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Dollhouse,” and the aforementioned “Firefly.” He even wrote comics like Astonishing X-men, which I still highly recommend. The man had a long list of accomplishments is what I’m saying. The fact he did so much under the feminist label says a lot about him.

Then, this letter comes along that basically says Whedon’s feminist credentials are built on a lie. For feminists and geek culture, that’s akin to finding out Wonder Woman’s breasts are fake. It’s a major revelation that may not have surprised some, but it’s still pretty jarring for those who held Whedon as the gold standard for male feminism.

For some context, here are some of the things his ex-wife said about those lies. I’ll give die-hard Buffy fans a moment to brace themselves.

There were times in our relationship that I was uncomfortable with the attention Joss paid other women. He always had a lot of female friends, but he told me it was because his mother raised him as a feminist, so he just liked women better. He said he admired and respected females, he didn’t lust after them. I believed him and trusted him. On the set of “Buffy,” Joss decided to have his first secret affair.

Fifteen years later, when he was done with our marriage and finally ready to tell the truth, he wrote me, “When I was running ‘Buffy,’ I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.” But he did touch it. He said he understood, “I would have to lie — or conceal some part of the truth — for the rest of my life,” but he did it anyway, hoping that first affair, “would be ENOUGH, that THEN we could move on and outlast it.”

Joss admitted that for the next decade and a half, he hid multiple affairs and a number of inappropriate emotional ones that he had with his actresses, co-workers, fans and friends, while he stayed married to me. He wrote me a letter when our marriage was falling apart, but I still didn’t know the whole truth, and said, “I’ve never loved anyone or wanted to be with anyone in any real or long-term way except for you ever. And I love our life. I love how you are, how we are, who you are and what we’ve done both separately and together, how much fun we have…” He wanted it all; he didn’t want to choose, so he accepted the duality as a part of his life.

Now before I say anything else about this issue or Ms. Cole’s letter, I need to make one thing clear. This letter is just one side of the story. As of this post, Joss Whedon and his people have not commented on this letter. That could change between now and the second after I publish this post.

Also, keep in mind that the person who wrote this letter is an ex-wife who probably isn’t feeling too happy with her former husband. She has reason and incentive, due to his wealth and status, to undermine his reputation. That’s usually all anyone needs to shrug off details, context, and facts. Think excuse banking with child custody and huge amounts of alimony at stake.

For that reason, and others I don’t have time to get into, it’s unreasonable to assume that every word of Ms. Cole’s letter is completely true. It’s also just as unreasonable to assume that every word is false. Even if she is bitter, there may very well be elements of truth behind her claims. We’ve seen how hard it is to expose the hard truth of celebrities.

For the sake of exploring the implications, here, let’s assume that at least part of Ms. Cole’s letter is true. Since they are divorcing, it’s entirely plausible that Whedon was not entirely faithful during their marriage.

He’s a big name Hollywood director, armed with obscene amounts of money and influence. If you think for a second that beautiful women aren’t going to throw themselves at someone like that, then I suggest you watch some old Motley Crue music videos. Feminist or not, people are attracted to wealth and power. How else do you explain Mick Jagger having kids with women more than half his age?

I think it’s a near certainty that, at some point in his storied career, a beautiful young woman has offered herself to Joss Whedon in ways that would make Anastasia Steele blush. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some just showed up naked at his trailer and offered a guided tour of their vaginas. The only uncertainty is the extent to which Mr. Whedon accepted these offers.

Even if he accepted just one and never did it again, that would still be a major blow to his feminist credentials. That would be like finding out a Mormon priest smoked a joint with Snoop Dogg. It would be a hard thing to overlook.

Think of it from the perspective of the feminist characters that Mr. Whedon usually champions. What he did would be the antithesis of the narratives he tried to forge with shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Instead, it would basically be the same narrative of at least half of every porno ever made.

In that story, he’s anything but the feminist he claims to be. He’s a powerful man who uses his power and wealth to get sex from the kinds of eager young women who would fail the Bechtal Test on every level. It doesn’t matter that these women willingly offered sex. It still gives the impression that he’s a powerful man who’s using his position to get the kind of sex usually reserved for the villains in a “Mad Max” movie.

According to the letter, Ms. Cole was not an absent force in his life so it wasn’t like she was never around. She makes clear that she helped him with his career. She even contributed in some ways. However, those contributions didn’t stop Whedon from taking advantages of the sexy opportunities that presented themselves, often quite literally.

Whatever the extent of Whedon’s infidelity, if true, it still begs one important question. Does what he did make him a hypocrite in the eyes of feminism? Well, I would argue that it does, but to a fairly limited extent. He’s still a long way from the hypocrisy espoused by the likes of Pamela Anderson.

What he did was not very feminist. In fact, it was about as progressive as the setting of “Mad Men.” He plays directly into the narratives he claims to resent. However, he didn’t actively seek that narrative. It sought him. He’s a man. Feminist or not, when beautiful women throw themselves at you, that caveman brain of yours is going to take notice.

In Ms. Cole’s letter, she quoted Mr. Whedon offering an excuse for his behavior. Given what I’ve said about excuses, certain details should be fairly obvious.

When I was running ‘Buffy,’ I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive young women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.

That bold portion was my doing. Read it over a few times and think about what he’s saying. Mr. Whedon is implying that the concept of being surrounded by beautiful women wanting to throw themselves at you and feeling inclined to accept their eager offers isn’t just antithetical to feminism. It’s a disease.

That creates a couple of problems, both for his feminist narrative and his depleted excuse bank. One, it implies that, by being a disease, there’s some outside force responsible for his behavior and he’s somehow not responsible. Two, it also implies that a man wanting to enjoy the sexual opportunities that come his way is somehow inherently wrong.

Both of those problems fail miserably within the context of caveman logic and simple human nature. In fact, it even fails within the context of the natural biology of life that prioritizes survival and reproduction. Mr. Whedon did more than enough to acquire abundant resources for survival. Then, opportunities to reproduce follow and nearly every law of nature makes him inclined to use those opportunities.

In that sense, Mr. Whedon is not a hypocrite, but he is misguided in his understanding of sexual dynamics. I don’t deny that he sees himself as a pro-feminist person. However, I think that’s such a huge part of his identity that he’s willing to make more excuses than most to protect it. It’s really no different than what happened with Ted Haggard.

If Joss Whedon weren’t so closely associated with feminism, then the revelation that he might have cheated on his wife probably wouldn’t be news. He would just be another powerful man in Hollywood who enjoyed the fruits of being rich and famous. However, it’s his excuses, as Ms. Cole describes them, that are most telling.

It also reflects the distressing flaws in the kinds of sex-negative feminism that pervade certain parts of Hollywood and mass media. It paints certain sexual dynamics between gender, which are entirely logical within the context of biology, and paints them as flawed.

Now, I don’t deny that the human body has its flaws. Any man who has been kicked in the balls will attest to that. However, attempting to subvert those flaws never ends well. Just ask anyone who has survived gay conversion therapy. Any man or women who thought Mr. Whedon could subvert those same forces in the name of feminism is living in a fantasy world every bit as flawed as “Dollhouse.”

So while I don’t think it’s right to call Mr. Whedon a total hypocrite, I do think his actions, if true, reflect poorly on the principles he’s preached. It also reflects poorly on the brand of feminism that insists that certain male inclinations are inherently wrong. Mr. Whedon may be a great director and a less-than-perfect husband, but he’s still a man at the end of the day. If we acknowledge that, then we don’t need as many excuses.

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Breaking Down The Breakup Between Anna Faris And Chris Pratt

The life of a celebrity compared to the life of a non-celebrity couldn’t be more different without involving aliens, unicorns, and pet monkeys. That’s also a major reason why we’re so fascinated by celebrity culture. Say what you will about the crazy headlines of the glorified toilet paper known as tabloids. They still get our attention and, as I’ve pointed out before, that’s the most valuable currency in our economy.

As such, a high-profile celebrity couple breaking up is a big deal. From a celebrity culture and deranged tabloid perspective, it’s like crack mixed with meth mixed with heroin. It’s as addictive as it is debilitating. It crushes whatever fairy tale narrative we had playing out in our collective psyches and making us question whether love is truly real.

Now, I don’t doubt the allure of celebrity romances. These are people with a lot money and power at their fingertips. These are people who could ask a random stranger to smear pudding on their chest and have a hungry loin lick it up and they’ll do it with a smile.

They have every conceivable resource to make their relationships the sort of thing that Disney movies are built on. How is it that they keep failing? That’s not just a perception thing either. In terms of raw numbers, celebrity marriages fail at nearly twice the rate of non-celebrity marriages. With all that money and power, how is that even possible?

Well, last week we were reminded that no matter how many fairy tales fever dreams a celebrity romance may inspire, it can still fail. The latest involves Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, one of Hollywood’s highest profile celebrity couples. After an eight-year marriage, they’ve announced that they’re legally separating.

Even I admit, this one caught me by surprise. I’ve been a fan of Chris Pratt since his day as the chubby dork, Andy Dwyer, on “Parks and Recreation.” I’ve also had a soft spot for Anna Faris since her colorful performance in the horror spoof, “Scary Movie.” The fact that those two got together and stayed married for nearly a decade was just a nice bonus.

However, much like the end of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the high-profile nature of the marriage always made it subject to scrutiny. Most recently, there had been rumors that Pratt had cheated on Faris with Jennifer Lawrence, his co-star in their movie, “Passengers.”

I tend not to give much weight to such rumors, even when Jennifer Lawrence is involved. That hasn’t stopped some people from blaming Ms. Lawrence for the breakup, but that’s to be expected. Brad Pitt had been subject to similar rumors before his breakup with Angelina Jolie.

In general, it’s fairly safe to assume that, unless there’s high-definition sex tape, those rumors are only partially true at most. Since nobody other than Pratt and Faris know the full story behind their breakup, I’m not going to assume that cheating or infidelity was involved. According to Pratt’s own statement, the breakup was mutual.

“Anna and I are sad to announce we are legally separating. We tried hard for a long time, and we’re really disappointed. Our son has two parents who love him very much and for his sake we want to keep this situation as private as possible moving forward.”

For now, I’m going to take Mr. Pratt at is word, but assume there were other dynamics at work that neither he nor Faris care to share with an unforgiving public. I’m not even going to speculate on what those dynamics can be. Instead, I’m going to step back and look at the bigger picture here. If nothing else, I’d like to give think fans of both Pratt and Faris, as well as fans of any celebrity couple, a sense of perspective.

Much of that perspective boils down to one inescapable truth. Celebrities live crazy lives, work crazy jobs, and deal with crazy stresses that no ordinary person can hope to understand, let alone deal with. The fact that any celebrity romance succeeds in the long run is nothing short of a miracle.

These are not people with normal or even semi-normal experiences. These are people doing things few people can do, achieving success that most people never achieve, and struggling to manage it all without going insane. So whenever a celebrity does have a very public breakdown, of sorts, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

On top of that, celebrities often work jobs that keep them busy for insane hours and requires them to spend a good chunk of their time traveling. Even if they have their own private jet and a support staff who effectively manages every minor detail of their lives, right down to the brand of toilet paper they buy, they’re still always busy. In a sense, being a celebrity is as close to a full-time job as anyone can have.

How can you make a relationship work in those circumstances? That’s not a rhetorical question. That’s an ongoing issue that many celebrities struggle to solve. Pratt and Faris thought they had the answer. I’m sure Pitt and Jolie felt the same way. In the end, they were wrong. It’s tragic, but it shows just how hard it is to answer that question.

That’s not to say it’s impossible. Some celebrity couples find a way to make it work. They are, however, the exceptions and not the norms. Realistically speaking, the circumstances of a celebrity romance are a checklist of how not to structure a relationship. For the sake of context, here are just some of them.

  • Working extended periods in a high-stress, fast-paced environment
  • Managing large numbers of people and resources
  • Traveling frequently and having little time to spend at home or with loved ones
  • Doing physically demanding, often exhausting work
  • Being surrounded by extremely attractive people with a strong incentive to seduce others
  • Being subject to constant scrutiny and micromanaging
  • Constantly entering unfamiliar situations and dealing with unfamiliar people
  • Occasionally having to get naked and/or intimate with strangers

Just dealing with a few of these issues is stressful enough on any relationship. That’s why occupations like bartender, massage therapist, or police officer have a markedly high divorce rate. With celebrities, though, the challenges are even greater because it’s not just one or two issues. It all of them.

At the end of the day, no matter what Tom Cruise may think, we’re all human. We all have human brains that are stuck with caveman settings. Those brains aren’t equipped to deal with the rigors of a celebrity life. Hell, it’s barely equipped to handle our current ideals of romance.

Chris Pratt and Anna Faris had the odds stacked against them from the beginning. They clearly loved each other. They made that abundantly clear in their announcement. However, their brains have the same limits as ours. Those brains compel us to form the kinds of intimate, close connections that are easily strained by stressful jobs, constant travel, and an excess of beautiful people willing to sleep with you.

Most relationships, in general, struggle to function in those conditions, as evidenced by the non-celebrity divorce rate. Pratt and Faris tried to beat those odds, on top of all the forces working against them, and did a lot better than most. Just ask anyone Taylor Swift ever dated.

At the end of the day, though, the mechanics of a celebrity romance are just too daunting, even for those who genuinely love each other. It’s part of why people root for celebrity romances . The idea that two people can overcome those daunting obstacles nourishes our ideals about love and marriage. When that fails, it hits those ideals pretty hard, as evidenced by the Twitter reaction to the Pratt/Faris breakup.

While it is disappointing, especially for a relationship that seemed more healthy than most, it still shouldn’t be surprising. We, the non-celebrities of the world, can’t forget that people like Chris Pratt and Anna Faris live such crazy lives that are wholly unconducive to our romantic ideals.

Some of that is our fault. Some of that is the fault of biology with the way our brains are wired. Even so, it shouldn’t destroy our concept of love. If nothing else, it should remind us that making a relationship work is hard, but the fact that celebrities try as hard as they do is proof that the work is worth it.

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Thoughts on the End of Brangelina

I’m not a fan of celebrity culture. I never got the appeal of tying my identity so closely to a public figure that I get emotionally attached to the course of their life. That can be dangerous. There are too many Mel Gibsons, Charlie Sheens, and Gary Buseys in this world. You’re basically putting a big target on your identity and giving a squad of snipers a loaded bazooka.

That’s why if I’m going to tie my identity to anyone, it’s going to be a fictional character, such as superheroes in comics. As anyone who has followed this blog knows, I’m a big fan of superheroes and often use them to make important points about romance and pop culture. At least with fictional characters, they can’t be caught fucking the babysitter outside a bad porn parody.

All that said, I’m inclined to comment on the recent news surrounding the divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I know. I can sense your eyes rolling and your heads banging against the wall. This is not why you come to this blog. You come here to be entertained and updated by the twisted thoughts of an aspiring romance/erotica writer. Then again, it’s not like a lot of people come to this blog anyways so I don’t think it makes a difference.

I don’t know if it’s a cosmic coincidence or lousy timing on my part, but this monumental celebrity split happened in the same week where I’ve been discussing/ranting on our collective failings when it comes to divorce and commitment. It’s kind of spooky that I bring this topic up and then a famous couple splits. Maybe that means I should bet more money in my fantasy football pool this weekend or maybe my timing just sucks that much.

Whatever the case, let’s get this over with. Let’s talk about this latest celebrity heartbreak that we all knew as Brangelina. What happened? They were so in love. Their story was like a movie in and of itself. They meet on the set of Mr. and Ms. Smith, hit it off, and fall so madly in love that it causes Brad Pitt to leave Jennifer Anniston, who looks like this.

There had to be a hell of a love to draw them together like that. It had to be a pretty powerful love for them to stay together for over a decade, having children and even adopting a few along the way. Were they the typical Hollywood couple? Hell no, but then again there’s no such thing as a “typical couple” in Hollywood. That’s a flawed concept, sort of like “well-adjusted former child star.”

Every relationship is different. Every relationship has its quirks and proclivities. As I pointed out in an earlier post, every relationship has expectations as well and most of the time, these expectations aren’t reasonable to say the least.

Men want to be married to multiple supermodels who spend their days making sandwiches. Woman want to be married to a rich prince who spends his days massaging their feet and carrying her bags while she’s shopping with his credit card. These are the laughable expectations that we’ve all been fed by movies, TV, and bad love songs for decades. The difference with a couple like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt is that in their world, these expectations aren’t that ridiculous.

When you look at the details, Brad and Angelina had a lot more going for them than most celebrity couples. They were both very successful in their own right. Angelina Jolie has an Oscar. Brad Pitt is one of the most bankable movie stars in all of Hollywood. They each found success in their own way and their success was not dependent on one another. They were very much equals, which is rare in a place like Hollywood, so much so that you have to look to X-men comics for examples.

On paper, these two had everything they needed to make it work. If one of them hadn’t been successful, then that would’ve created some unhealthy dynamics to say the least. Speaking in terms of history and economics, when someone is overly dependent on someone else, it tends to leave a bit too much room for abuse and neglect. That’s just a sad fact of human nature.

When we’re among those we consider subordinates, we don’t treat them as equals. It’s not necessarily evil. It’s kind of a holdover from our evolutionary past. Remember, humans are evolved from predators. Predators, like wolves and bears, have to see their prey as subordinate. It makes them easier to hunt. Since our brains are so poorly wired by the blunt instrument that is nature, we tend to do a bad job of differentiating between survival and romance. Not saying Mother Nature is incompetent, but she can be pretty crude.

Since this wasn’t the case with Brad and Angelina, this must mean other forces were at work. Plenty of news outlets and gossip sites are speculating what those forces are. It may be infidelity. It may be drug use. It may upheavals in their careers. Who knows? I’m not going to speculate. I’m not going to contribute to that shit storm. If Brad and Angelina want to get a divorce, they can and it’s none of our god-damn business.

With this in mind, I’m going to say something that’s probably going to offend a certain crowd of people, especially those who got emotionally attached to their romance. Put the pitchforks down. Unclench your fists. I feel like this has to be said so here goes.

It’s perfectly fine for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to divorce because they can manage it better than you or I ever will. As such, they do not deserve sympathy.

Am I assuming more than I should about the intricacies of their personal lives? Maybe I am. I don’t deny that. However, I think there’s a point to be made by this split and it ties right into my arguments about our flawed approach to marriage and commitment.

It’s because that Brad and Angelina are a relationship of equals, as I described earlier, that they’re able to deal with this in a much better way than most. This isn’t a case of Tiger Woods’ ex-wife asking for $750 million. These are two people who don’t need to gouge one another for money.

They’re both rich and successful on their own terms. The only issue they need to resolve is custody of their six kids, which can be emotionally frustrating, but not nearly as much when money is involved.

Make no mistake. Keeping money out of the equation makes anything easier, especially divorce. Remove the money and you just have two people trying to find a way to move out of the same house and agree on the assets. That just involves legally binding negotiations, which is something people have been doing for centuries. We don’t need to subvert our evolutionary wiring to make that work.

I understand that there are still those upset by this split. I understand I’ve probably made a few enemies by commenting on this issue. That’s the chance you take when you share your thoughts on the internet and I gladly take that chance.

It’s impossible to know for sure what drove Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to divorce. Citing the laughably obscure legal term, “irreconcilable differences,” leaves many blanks for our perverse imaginations to fill in. Our imaginations rarely line up with reality because our imaginations rarely stay tied to the real world.

The only assumption I feel comfortable making about this relationship is that, as is so often the case, they went into this relationship with expectations. Despite all the money and resources they had, they were disappointed when those expectations weren’t met. Once they realized that they couldn’t be met, they ended it. Sometimes the best we can hope for us that, within a relationship of equals, the end is beneficial for both sides.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights