First, some background: James Toback is a B-list writer/director who’s managed to maintain a high profile thanks in part to the high quality of his early work (which includes The Gambler and Fingers), but mostly due to his friendships with several high-powered Hollywood figures, including Warren Beatty, Robert Downey Jr., and Alec Baldwin. And last weekend, as the Weinstein-powered dominoes continue to fall, the Los Angeles Times published a harrowing account of his decades of sexual harassment, initially spotlighting the accusations of 38 women, later supplemented by the corroborating accounts of (this is not a typo) 200 more, including Oscar-winner Julianne Moore, Today show anchor Natalie Morales, and Veruca Salt’s Louise Post.
Now. Back in 2013, Toback and Baldwin collaborated on an HBO documentary called Seduced and Abandoned, an account of their attempts to raise money for a mid-budget Last Tango in Paris-style erotic drama, but one that was mostly conceived to be the subject for a documentary about the current economic woes of adult-minded movie-makers. It’s still streaming on HBO GO, so on Tuesday, TV critic Kayla Cobb published a piece about it over at Decider, the New York Post’s streaming-guide vertical.
Cobb posits that the movie is a bit of a discomforting watch at the moment, not only because of what we know about Toback, but the general manner in which the “open secrets” of shitty Hollywood men are coming to the fore. (She also notes, correctly that the chummy interviews with Roman Polanski and Bernardo Bertolucci don’t help.) Of Baldwin, Cobb writes:
Rewatching the documentary also turns that judgmental spotlight on Alec Baldwin. After the allegations of Toback surfaced, many celebrities were quick to condemn the director, but Baldwin has remained silent. This is especially remarkable as Baldwin is typically quick to voice his opinions about social justice-related controversies either through Twitter or on his podcast. Baldwin is set to star in Toback’s upcoming The Private Life of a Modern Woman alongside Sienna Miller. Miller has also not spoken up about the director.
Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here.
1) Mr. Baldwin seems to be under the impression that Decider is somehow affiliated with Gawker. It is not. Approximately four seconds on Google would clear that up. (Our best guess is he’s conflating Decider and Gawker’s old sister site Defamer?)
2) Even if it were, is Mr. Baldwin even remotely aware of the background and fallout of the Gawker-Hogan lawsuit? Of its chilling implications for freedom of the press under a president who has threatened to “loosen libel laws” and take down outlets critical of him and his administration? That the suit was financed by Peter Thiel, a loathsome Trump acolyte and toxic libertarian, for the sole purpose of settling a personal score? And that by announcing that he “cheered” Gawker’s loss in that suit, presumably due to their unflattering coverage of, um, things he did, he’s prioritizing his own pettiness over the First frigging Amendment? And that in doing so, he’s basically, y’know, Peter Thiel?
3) Cobb is right – she merely notes in the article that he hasn’t commented on Toback. (He continues not to.) Claiming he won’t respond to her request because she’s “such a dishonest, awful writer” is a bullshit cop-out, and he knows it.
We’re seeing two things here. First of all, Baldwin will gladly believe sexual harassment and assault allegations when they’re aimed against an enemy like Harvey Weinstein – or, at the very least, deflect them to his nemeses at Fox News. But when it comes to a friend and collaborator, and the guy who directed a not-yet-released movie starring Alec Baldwin, the actor will look at over 200 allegations and immediately revert to a “let’s see this thing through, innocent until proven guilty” pose. So he believes women, as long as they’re accusing the right men.
And that “stick to divorces and plastic surgery” line is sexist trash, the same kind of nonsense we rolled our collective eyes at when Tucker Carlson advised Lauren Duca to “stick to the thigh-high boots”; he’s even using the same terminology. Aside from Baldwin’s aforementioned, easily remedied confusion re: Decider and Gawker, it would be interesting to hear if Baldwin would advise a male writer to “stick to divorces and plastic surgery.”
So, yeah, in conclusion: Glengarry Glen Ross was twenty-five years ago, 30 Rock has been off the air for four years, and it’s time to stop giving Alec Baldwin a pass for being the same kind of rancid Twitter bully and general garbage person that he plays (badly) on SNL.