The entertainment industry leads the way in turning exploitation into money by adding another layer of exploitation. This sounds like the worst television show idea ever.
Disgraced CBS anchor Charlie Rose is being slated to star in a show where he’ll interview other high-profile men who have also been toppled by #MeToo scandals.
Among the people Rose would interview are Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., and Mario Batali. They intend to use their own notoriety as harassers to drive an “entertainment” program where they’ll schmooze with each other and talk about how unjustly they were treated and how they ought to be given a second chance. I suspect their accusers will not get a moment in the limelight, and that their accusations won’t even be discussed.
There’s a really good piece by Lindsay Zoladz on these efforts to reward very bad men with an unearned redemption, as if they haven’t been soaking in their ill-gotten rewards already.
But in what felt like some sort of quota for needlessly sympathetic stories about odious men, the very same issue of The Hollywood Reporter in which Miller’s C.K. story was published also contained a lengthy, much-criticized feature that asks, in the gently curious tone usually used when one wonders where a beloved child star is now, “What Happened to Charlie Rose?” (What happened to Charlie Rose, you’ll remember, was that 17 women said he’d committed sexual harassment and misconduct, including groping, making unwanted sexual advances, and “walking around naked in front of colleagues who were required to work at one of his New York homes.”) In the months since the accounts, if you were wondering, Rose has mostly spent his time reading and ordering takeout in Bellport, Long Island, where he owns a waterfront home valued somewhere between $4 million and $6 million. In case you would like more information about the other multimillion-dollar homes the accused sexual predator owns, in Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina, The Hollywood Reporter printed fawningly descriptive blurbs about each of them at the end of the story.
So brace yourself. These nasty men are plotting their comebacks, and there are plenty of enablers in the upper echelons who want to give it to them.
“The consensus is that while his behavior was clearly wrong it was not at the level of a Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, or Bill Cosby,” Miller wrote in his piece about Louis C.K., before quoting a flippant and painfully unfunny joke that the comic Gilbert Gottfried made about the “different levels of misbehavior” enacted by these men. Sure. I am not denying that there are different levels of sexual misconduct — and, like the New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino, I am sick of people assuming that feminists are inherently denying or unable to see that. As Tolentino wrote in January in an excellent piece about the inevitability of the #MeToo backlash, it is incredibly frustrating when people are more willing to see nuance on the side of the accused than the vocally critical. And yet it is crucial that we also see the way that the forgiveness of a “lesser” predator paves the way for one “at the level” of Weinstein, Toback, or Cosby to be redeemed. To welcome someone like C.K. or Batali back into the fold not six months after these accusations broke is to intimidate other victims from speaking out, because it will make them think their stories don’t matter, or that the power granted to them by the #MeToo movement was just a temporary spell. To write about them sympathetically, to give them more ink than the names and achievements of their accusers, to run headlines suggesting a “likely” comeback, is to participate in the very culture that allowed these men to behave badly in the first place. It is a failure to imagine a different story, a better world.
C.K., Batali, Lauer, and Rose are all rich, having profited for years off a system that protected them from accusations leveled by people with less money and power. They don’t need to rush back to work. They can afford early retirement or lengthy public hiatuses ensconced in one of their multiple properties. And fans who miss their work and are eager for a “comeback” can buck up and let themselves be sated by many alternatives: In the streaming age, women who create the kind of dark, self-loathing, confessional comedy preferred by C.K. are currently thriving; lord knows people can find other recipes for marinara sauce or cinnamon rolls. But to demand that these men return to the spotlight too early, or in some cases at all, is to risk a cascading effect that will undo the necessary work of the #MeToo movement and to intimidate victims back into silence. Be warned: After Louis, le déluge.