John Oliver’s grilling of Dustin Hoffman over sexual harassment allegations at a Monday night anniversary screening of Wag the Dog continues to generate chatter and controversy, much of it currently coming in the form of criticism against Mr. Oliver by (you may need to sit down, you’ll never believe this) other male actors.
You could catch a whiff of the form this criticism would take right from the beginning, when notoriously industry-chummy Deadline reported the tense conversation by noting that the “well-heeled audience” had “paid hefty ticket prices” and were “looking forward to a breezier night.” That concern – of the “proper” time and place for such a discussion – was subsequently echoed by industry observers like Movie City News’ David Poland, who tweeted:
And then the actors hopped on board. You have Michael Rapaport, best remembered as that one guy in True Romance and that one boyfriend of Phoebe’s on Friends, who had this to say:
So yes, the self-anointed “MVP of Talking Trash” is furious that you didn’t call him “Mr. Hoffman” while ruining “paying customers evening out in Manhattan.” But more to the point, there’s that question of timing again – “you came to moderate a discussion about a movie” – which was echoed by Ron “We Thought You Were One of the Good Ones” Perlman:
But no ill-informed discussion by privileged rich dudes would be complete without smug blowhard Alec Baldwin wading in to vomit up some nonsense. We can’t view Mr. Baldwin’s tweets because he blocked our site after this, but thanks to the AV Club, we can tell you that Mr. Baldwin had this to say about the matter:
What’s fun about Alec Baldwin is that he not only has bad opinions, but bad opinions based on in accurate information. So just as he lashed out against Decider on the basis of a non-existent connection to Gawker, here he seems to think that Oliver interrogated Hoffman on his talk show, except he didn’t (and also it’s not a talk show, and he rarely if ever interviews guests). Nevertheless! The friend and collaborator of James Toback, accused of harassing and assaulting literally hundreds of women, would like us all to take a chill pill:
The problem with this “it was a different time” business, of course, is that it’s part and parcel of the thinking that enables the more “malicious” behavior, and if you’re going to fix a problem, you have to attack it at its root. The revelations that have come forth over the previous weeks are clearly, based on not only their volume but the staggering periods of time in which they were allowed to occur and the vast numbers of people who allowed and enabled their perpetrators, not the actions of a handful of “felons,” but the result of a widespread rape culture that begins with a dab of “harmless” harassment in the workplace and progresses accordingly. You can’t gingerly pluck this rotten fruit from the branch. You’ve got to dig the fucking trees up and plant new ones.
That’s also why the pearl-clutching by Baldwin, Perlman, Rapaport, and the rest over the inappropriateness of the time and place must be dismissed with the same bad faith they’re applying to the entire conversation. Of course this was not the “appropriate venue” for that conversation – because this industry in particular and this culture in general is constructed in such a way that there is never an “appropriate venue” in which to “fight it out” with powerful men. So you have to take your shot, and ask your questions, whenever you get the opportunity. Oliver did that. Good on him.
And for that matter, if we’re so obsessed with these rules of polite society, chew on this: the workplace is not the proper time and place to scam on women, and yet Hoffman had no problem doing so – from the very first set he walked on, by his own admission. So maybe his fans and fellow actors shouldn’t worry so much about the proper time and place to call him on it. Just a thought.