Good lord, people. Or, should I say, dudes. Stop being creepy. It was only last October that Devin Faraci, founder of Badass Cinema and former editor of Birth. Movies. Death. was outed as a total creep who nonconsensually grabbed another female critic in a bar (and accused of other such creepy behavior).
This week, we had a double whammy of creepy behavior (almost a triple whammy, but we’ll get to that in a bit).
The first, and much larger, event was Joss Whedon was the subject of his very own Zoëpost*. Back in 2016, Joss Whedon and his ex-wife Kai Cole finalized their divorce after 20 years of marriage (including a five-year separation). These things usually happen, and few people pried into the specifics of the marriage. Over the weekend, Kai Cole wrote a shitstirring guest blog post over on The Wrap that aired their dirty laundry. More specifically, she alluded to Whedon having a series of affairs with various younger women, lying about it, then hiding behind his feminist ideals as a reason for why he did it.
There’s a lot to unpack, such as whether cheating or lying is in fact anti-feminist. But, more importantly, was Joss hiding behind his power as a producer popular among young women to justify his own weaknesses.
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.
For me, the worst part is the potential abuse of his power position to have sex with these “beautiful, needy, aggressive young women,” which I actually kind of get. Many young people are attracted to powerful figures, especially figures with whom you have developed an emotional relationship with their work. If Whedon used his position as leverage to get sex from other women, that’s creepy. If these relationships with “actresses, co-workers, fans and friends,” crossed that line to an abuse of power, that’s offensive and reinforcing the patriarchal structure he claims to be subverting.
In the wake of these allegations – to which Whedon has only issued a “she’s not totally correct, but I’m not going to challenge her version” – geek women have begun a reassessment of his body of work and Whedonesque, the first and largest Joss Whedon fansite (which Whedon occasionally leveraged for his own promotion and public thoughts), is shutting down for good. To some, Whedon has become a normal man whose work has problematic elements that can no longer be ignored and needs to be challenged.
Other than that statement, Joss Whedon has remained silent in the wake of the accusations.
The second event to happen was in regards to Los Angeles’ premiere repertory cinema, The Cinefamily. Over the weekend, an anonymous letter was sent to various people outlining sexual harassment, abuse (and even rape) at the hands of two figures in the Cinefamily management structure. Hadrian Belove, co-founder and executive director, was subject to a 2014 lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment (this lawsuit was ultimately settled out of court). Board vice president and programmer Shadie Elnashai was also accused of raping numerous women who were then shamed and scared into silence. The letter then accused the whole Cinefamily management of covering up these allegations.
24 hours after this email hit the internet, The Cinefamily issued a statement that Shadie and Hadrian had resigned from their respective positions, and that the remaining leaders of The Cinefamily had set up a police task force to look further into the allegations. But, they remained somewhat defensive saying that they had only heard of one case of harassment in the past two years and that the accusation was settled to the “satisfaction of the complainant.”
How much truth is in this response may not be reported for awhile. For now, these accusations look true and I applaud the anonymous letter writer for coming forward to protect future women who may desire to volunteer at The Cinefamily to pay their dues.
The third “case” of sexual harassment comes in the form of an interview with Tig Notaro. Tig has a second season of her Amazon series hitting the wires soon, and gave an interview to The Daily Beast that was edited to largely drag Louis C.K. into fisticuffs. Tig seems largely pissed off that Louis C.K. is slated as an “Executive Producer,” which most people understand is a position that can range from hands on producing to being nothing more than a blessing or a name attached to a project for more visibility. Tig says that Louis hasn’t had anything to say on the series other than a thumbs up and he shouldn’t even be on the credits.
She then goes on to say that Louis needs to address his sexual harassment rumors.
“I think it’s important to take care of that, to handle that, because it’s serious to be assaulted,” Notaro says in response. “It’s serious to be harassed. It’s serious, it’s serious, it’s serious.”
These allegations stem from a podcast in 2015 by Jen Kirkman who talked about an unnamed famous comedian who acted creepy towards her and that she refused to go on tour with him because of it. She dropped hints as to who it might be, and the clues seemed to lead to Louis C.K. being the creep. Jezebel dropped a blind post asking whether it was Louis C.K. locking himself in a room with women and forcing them to watch him masturbate. Roseanne Barr even jumped into the fray and said she heard all sorts of rumors about him, though it never happened to her specifically.
The thing of it is, later that year, after the furor had died down, Jen Kirkman said that she hadn’t been talking about Louis C.K. on her podcast. On an episode of The Nerdist, she explicitly states that it wasn’t Louis C.K., but some other comedian who immediately recognized his own creepy behavior and called her to discuss it in person. She also states that it wasn’t sexual harassment as extreme as being forced to watch somebody masturbate, just a male comedian who had a habit of being creepily inappropriate.
Regardless, these rumors are re-swirling Louis C.K. And, maybe he did or didn’t do the things he’d been accused of. He said he didn’t, and there’s no way to verify considering that nobody has specifically come forward about him. Nevertheless, the rumors still persist.
And there’s still the case of the male comedian who was acting creepy to Jen. Men have a diligence to not be creepsters, and we have a duty to make sure that the rumors have a basis in reality before we run with them.
*For those who don’t remember, the Zoepost was the inciting incident in the Gamergate controversy. After the Zoepost went up, a bunch of Gamers used it as proof that a female game designer used her sexual wiles to score good reviews for her game. Some extrapolated that into proof that game companies were colluding with game media for good reviews, and others used the opportunity to harass and threaten women whom they saw as threatening the male-dominated video game field.
**The above marquee has been used on Wikipedia’s entry for Cinefamily since 2012.