I don’t like the films of Quentin Tarantino. I think Woody Allen’s work is rubbish, and Brett Easton Ellis’ books suck. Am I allowed to admit to this now?
For so long, I’ve been held back by the sexist male genius paradox, which decrees that any failure to appreciate the genius of a sexist male artist must be down to one’s own failure to rise above the sexism. It’s a problem many women have, though we’re only finding out about it today.
Since Uma Thurman’s New York Times interview, in which she outlined awful experiences not just with Harvey Weinstein, but with Tarantino, more and more women are coming forward to admit they never liked Pulp Fiction anyway. We’re witnessing similar things in relation to Allen’s films.
While this may not be the primary aim of the #metoo and #timesup movements – and not liking a film is hardly comparable to experiencing assault – I think this matters. One of the many ways in which abusive men get away with terrible things is because we’re supposed to respect their genius (and assume that misogyny is somehow a necessary part of it). Right now we’re calling time on the misogyny, but why can’t we call time on the perception of genius too?
I know that to some this will sound terribly unsophisticated, but there is a relationship between misogyny in art and misogyny in real life. It’s a complex one, as female writers have been outlining in recent discussions around thrillers and true crime, and it’s obviously not the case that artistic description equates to real-life prescription. Nonetheless, when male artists produce works which consistently prioritise the inner lives and / or fantasies of men, something has gone wrong. There’s a limit to how much women should have to transpose art in order to see a world in which they, too, are human. How good is a book or film when it demands so much on-the-spot correction from the reader or viewer?