I hate giving this guy publicity because he’s a tool and a douche, but whateves, Bret Easton Ellis, famous for writing American Psycho and for saying shit that pisses people off (which isn’t always a bad thing), got in some trouble because he tweeted that Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow was overrated because she was a “hot woman” (his words).
So apparently, the backfire was quick and swift because The Daily Beast posted a four-page “apology” where Ellis tries to explain himself.
This all started because he wasn’t too sure that Bigelow was worthy of a best director award from the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle. She won for her new film Zero Dark Thirty. Ellis felt Bigelow was overrated because he didn’t find her last film Hurt Locker (the one she won the Oscar for) all that great, and so he made his judgement about her new film on his reaction to her last one.
Fair enough – he can say Bigelow as a director is middling. Or sucks. Whatever.
The issue came when he said that she was successful because of her gender. And that’s where he finally gets it in his mea culpa. This is what he writes:
“I was “barraged” [with criticism] because the woman in question had moved ceaselessly ahead in a man’s field and made it to one of the pinnacles in a male-dominated profession”
But in his “apology” he still kind of puts his foot in it. When Ellis was writing his explanation of his offensive tweet he opined that Bigelow was directing “like a man” or she was guilty of making a “man’s movie.” When writing of Bigelow’s film, he compared it to Sofia Coppola – because, you know, all women directors are the same. He wrote Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker also felt like it was directed by a man. Its testosterone level was palpable. While “in Sofia Coppola’s work you’re aware of a much softer presence behind the camera.” If you paused (and I hope you did), you’re not alone, dear reader.
To say that Bigelow won plaudits and success because she was a woman (and an attractive one at that) discounts the struggles that all female directors go through each year to get their films made.
According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, of the 250 top-grossing films of 2011, only 5% were directed by women. And be honest if you think quick try to reel off the names of women directors, besides Bigelow: I tried and got only as far as: Jane Campion, Julie Taymor, Amy Heckerling, Ida Lupino, Jodie Foster, Barbra Streisand, Penny Marshall, Nora Ephron, Nancy Myers, Gillian Armstrong, Leni Riefensthal, Agnieszka Holland, Sofia Coppola. I’m tapped out. If I tried to name male directors, I could probably fill a whole blog post.
But none of this is Ellis’ fault. And that’s not what I was criticizing. I was criticizing this imagined sense of “reverse sexism” that people seem obligated to report anytime a woman achieves at something male-dominated. And it’s not just women – how many times did you roll your eyes when people said, “If Barack Obama was white, he wouldn’t have won the presidency” (among the people who said this was the late Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to be included on a major party ticket in a presidential race).
Ellis admits that because he’s gay, he expected some sort of “pass” because he’s part of an oppressed group. And for that, I had to walk away from my computer. And again, I stress that Ellis is sorry now (after apparently getting his ass handed to him by other tweeters as well as the women in his life). But I just hate, hate, hate having to remind people: GAY MEN CAN BE GUILTY OF SEXISM/MISOGYNY. We will NEVER get a pass because we’re gay, so we can never expect one.
I guess the thing people need to be reminded of is that Twitter is a public thing – people will be able to read what you say immediately, and if you try to delete your comments, chances are someone did a screen shot – especially if what you tweeted was particularly asshatty.
Whenever I start a new job, I have to go through a nettiquette class – you know the sort of thing – don’t look up porn, don’t send offensive pictures of naked people doing stuff to Kathy from accounting, that sort of thing. Only recently do I remember that part of the nettiquette class is a reminder not to email something right away. Instead step back, breathe, and doublecheck that you are sure what you’re sending is okay. Well, I think before signing up for a Twitter account, one should also have to take a quick course and be reminded that before you post your 140 characters, think about what you’re posting.
I love technology, I really do. I think it’s fantastic. But I gotta admit, I’m seeing that lots of people still seem to be a bit out of sync with it. The idea of being able to share a snarky, pithy one-liner with over a quarter million people at once is intoxicating. And if you believe you’re especially clever or interesting like Ellis does, then I can imagine the pull is irresistible. That’s why I don’t have a Twitter account – because some of the nonsense that flies around in my head shouldn’t be shared with the outside world.
But back to Ellis and his apology. Do I think he’s sexist. Yup, still do. But really, so what? So am I in my own way. So is probably every man on this planet – we’re wired that way. From birth, we’re told that we’re better than over half the world’s population. We’re encouraged to try and conquer, while women are told to nurture and support – we’re hard and strong, women are soft and pliable.
Ellis said that this experience left him wounded and stunned. I’m a little surprised because really he’s become far better known as of late for being a bit of a shit than an author, so I would’ve expected him to glibly glide through this mini-fracas. The fact that he felt compelled at all to respond to his critics show that he may actually feel remorse for his words. I’ll be curious to see his next series of tweets, and whether they reflect a new-found attitude or not.