There are times when I’m just done. This is one of those times.
It was reported this week that Mel Gibson is co-writing and directing a reboot of The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah’s revolutionary 1969 Western. Leaving aside whether we need this movie (we don’t) or whether Gibson is a good director (he’s not), this is going to kick up the whole "Can we separate the art from the artist?" conversation. And you know what? For me, that conversation is over. My answer is no.
The list of men — always men — we’re supposed to separate from their art seems to never stop, whether you’re going forward or backward in history. And asking viewers — especially women — to separate the man from his movies is to negate a host of women’s experiences. It’s telling us, again, that what we see and what we feel somehow doesn’t count, that what we feel isn’t true.
I have never liked Woody Allen’s films, because his depiction of women is often creepy and gross. When I’ve brought that up in the past, I was told that I simply didn’t "get" them, that they were an expression of male experience. I got them just fine, thank you, because I have the sense every woman has when something or someone is creepy and gross. It’s the superpower we all have thanks to existing in the world.
I steer clear of Roman Polanski films because I simply can’t watch them without thinking that the man who made them has been convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl. "But she has forgiven him!" people — usually men — say. And yes, his victim has. Her forgiveness does not change the fact that he RAPED a CHILD.
I won’t see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald later this year because I cannot watch Johnny Depp without thinking of the bruises on his ex-wife Amber Heard’s face. And I will not see Gibson’s Wild Bunch because I cannot sit through a movie and forget that he told the mother of one of his children it will be her fault if she gets "raped by a pack of (n-words)."
Women have been told to brush it off, to keep it quiet, that it’s all in our heads, that it didn’t happen that way or it didn’t happen at all — and the "it" can be anything from a catcall (it’s a compliment!) to rape (we all know what thousands of gaslighting excuses belong in these parentheses). Telling women that it’s our fault that we can’t or won’t separate the character of a man from his work places the burden on us, and we didn’t do anything to deserve it.
I don’t entirely know where my line falls. Do I never watch a Hitchcock film again because of his notorious mistreatment of actresses? What about my job — would I turn down an interview with Casey Affleck? What if he’s in a really big movie? What if he’s an Oscar contender? Journalists write about bad people and their actions all the time. Do I have the stomach for it?
One thing I am sure of is I am not going to watch movies made by men who hurt women. No, it doesn’t matter if they’ve been convicted of a crime or not; I’m not a judge, so I don’t demand a burden of proof. All I demand is the experience of watching a movie knowing that no one who’s associated with it is a despicable human who has been told, again and again, that how he does at the box office is more important than who he is as a person.