Cats are said to have nine lives. Rasputin was said to have almost as many. If only the MeToo movement had the same brief lifespan.
Alas, the pink hats and the accusations of abuse excavated many years after the fact are still part and parcel of the culture wars, as we have seen these past few weeks.
First came word that Bill Murray had been fired from a Hollywood production because of alleged “inappropriate behavior.” There wasn’t much clarification beyond that opaque comment, but if there had been a sexual element you know they would have publicized it to the hilt. It’s more likely that Murray was rude, arrogant and pretty much the same sort of character he played on “Saturday Night Live” a generation ago. In fact, Lucy Liu accused him of exactly that sort of conduct when she was filming “Charlie’s Angels” 20 years ago, so it’s likely he was more “Obnoxious Uncle Bill” than Harvey Weinstein wannabe. I suppose it’s some relief to be reminded that not every boorish act is libidinous.
Then came the assault on Frank Langella, an octogenarian who is well known for his dark, brooding characters on screen and on the stage. Langella was fired from an upcoming series after an unnamed actress accused him of putting his hand where it wasn’t supposed to go. Apparently, a love scene that had been blocked by the director required that Langella keep his extremities in certain positions, and when he moved one of the less offensive extremities in a direction that his colleague didn’t appreciate, she accused him of sexual harassment. She gets the protective veil of anonymity, and grandpa gets the shaft.
But it’s not just the geriatric set that’s in the cross hairs these days. Fred Savage, who grew up in front of our eyes as Kevin in “The Wonder Years” and is still a fairly young man, was fired as a producer on the reboot of the series after allegations of being “quick to anger” on the set. This wasn’t the first time that he’d been accused of harassment. In 1993, a worker on the set of his series filed a lawsuit against Savage, which was ultimately settled, and another lawsuit that was filed that same year was dismissed by a judge. There was never any evidence that little Kevin had been a hound dog, but those accusations make an impact years after they’re lodged.
And then we have Mario Batali, who was essentially forced into professional Siberia when he was accused in 2017 by a woman of groping her. He pleaded not guilty to indecent assault, and was just acquitted. However, Batali has admitted to acting inappropriately with female staff members over the years, so this acquittal is more of a pyrrhic victory than an actual vindication. Unlike the others, who have never admitted to any wrongdoing and who are only suspected of misconduct, Molto Mario was clearly much too Molto.
But I nonetheless find it interesting that almost four years after Christine Blasey Ford launched her “I can’t remember where or when but I know it happened” campaign against Brett Kavanaugh, and years after Harvey Weinstein became this century’s Bluebeard, we still have to deal with this cultural phenomenon. It’s not as fierce as it once was, and the Salem Witch hunt aspect seems to have calmed, but there is no question that we are still ready to “believe all women,” even when the facts don’t add up to abuse.
If being rude to someone, or a social miscreant, or a bad boss, or a precocious/obnoxious kid, or an old man with bad aim makes you a social pariah, there are an awful lot of people who should get ready to eat their meals alone. We got rid of the public stocks generations ago, but there is still this need to shame people for breaking some unwritten code that keeps changing with each passing day. I’m not sure we even know anymore what’s acceptable, and what’s not.
Don’t get me wrong. Gropers, leering losers, and patronizing pigs who think they are God’s gift to the female world are an albatross that will never fall from our necks. We will always be saddled with repellent folk who fall somewhere on the spectrum between criminal and pathetic. It used to be that you just walked away, head held high, nose held tightly.
And the true criminals, the ones who rape and molest and cause severe emotional and physical harm should be jailed forever, no parole, no probation. There is no excuse for abuse.
But it seems as if we are fixated on these smaller social violations, these breaches of etiquette, these collective failures in collaborative behavior. So what if Frank Langella kept his arthritic hand a little too long on his costar’s knee? She should have just slapped it.
Actions do have consequences, and the actions of these men deserved old school criticism, not the sort of triggered melodrama from these latter-day Miss Havishams.
Let’s hope this MeToo resurgence is as short lived as CNN+.
Copyright 2022 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]