• Fri, Jul 5 2013

Do We Forgive Misogyny In Geniuses?

marlon brando misogyny This morning I came across a rather disturbing quote. I will quote it for you now, as I know you are not psychic.

“The career of a star begins when she can not get into her bra and end when it can not get into her skirt.”

When I saw who had said such a comment, I was shocked. Not only did it have the actor’s name, but it had something else written after it. It read like this: Orson Welles, misogynistic genius. I had no idea that we were putting those two words in the same sentence! I feel as though the second word is supposed to cancel out the first word, then all is good and we can move on with our day knowing this to be fact, and somehow allowing our brains to accept it.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about Welles. I love Citizen Kane, and I’ve watched his portrayal in The Long, Hot Summer a hundred times (mostly for Paul Newman), but thoroughly enjoyed him as Clara’s (Joanne Woodward) dad. But that quote made me sad, and now I wonder if I go back and watch Citizen Cane if I’ll see something that I may have never seen before as, honestly, I haven’t watched it in probably a decade.

As I tried to find some more information about Welles the “misogynistic genius,” I came across other information that Marlon Brando, too, wasn’t exactly down with the ladies — respect wise.

Brando had “contempt for the feminine side of life,” steered clear of strong women, and later in his career, “avoided having to measure up to women who were in any way his equal.”

Whether in erecting his defences he was anticipating some threat to male hegemony stirring on the feminist front, or he was simply a genius whose peculiar psychological make-up was an irresistible influence, he set the tone for a new kind of male star and movie scenario in which women were rendered marginal, scorned, degraded and ignored. Anti-social meant anti-women, anti-literate, witty exchanges – the hallmark of earlier genres and pairings.

Again, we see that word “genius” in there. Is it easier to forgive misogyny if the person in question is a genius? If we discovered that the greatest minds throughout history, the ones that were at the helm of propelling us forward in every way, were actually downright, women-hating, misogynist pricks, could we forgive them?

I’m not sure I’ll run home and throw out my copy of Citizen Kane. I also don’t think I’ll stop delighting in Brando’s portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in A Street Car Named Desire, The Godfather, or the hundreds of other movies on which I was raised.

I fear that some part of me will let this new discovery fall under some superficial guise of, Oh, that’s just how things were back then. But considering the words ”feminism” and “feminist” date as far back as 1872, I don’t think my excuse holds much water. And frankly, I’d be really disappointed in myself if that’s how my brain and heart starts processing things. What’s next? Celebrating the wage gap? Not cool, Chatel.

Photo: Warner Bros.

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  • Sean

    If there’s one saying my father has that rings true, it’s “genius and insanity go hand-in-hand”. I find over the years it’s true. Welles, Einstein, Michael Jackson…brilliant people often have some sort of eccentricity that we ignore because they produce or do great things.

    At the same time, if an insane person yelled “FUCK BITCHES EVERYWHERE” would that be misogynistic? Yes, but we’d ignore it because we’d write it off as crazy-talk.

    If a genius does it, we similarly tend to push it aside because they’ve produced other things that far outshadow that statement or belief.

    Should we? No of course not, but the trend is to ignore it just as we do with a crazy person. It’s all so fascinating when you put it out there. Thanks Amanda, still really loving “Amanda Fridays” on the Gloss. It’s the best part of my week. :-)

    • Amanda Chatel

      Thanks, Sean! (
      And thank you for not mentioning for completely embarrassing typo. Brain. Is. Fried.)

    • Sean

      Cane. Kane. I wasn’t focusing on the typo, and besides, I have better things to do than bitch about typos on the internet.

      Like writing the script for Citizen Cane. In the end, “Rosebud” turns out to be Melissa Doll’s clitoris.

  • Sean

    If there’s one saying my father has that rings true, it’s “genius and insanity go hand-in-hand”. I find over the years it’s true. Welles, Einstein, Michael Jackson…brilliant people often have some sort of eccentricity that we ignore because they produce or do great things.

    At the same time, if an insane person yelled “FUCK BITCHES EVERYWHERE” would that be misogynistic? Yes, but we’d ignore it because we’d write it off as crazy-talk.

    If a genius does it, we similarly tend to push it aside because they’ve produced other things that far outshadow that statement or belief.

    Should we? No of course not, but the trend is to ignore it just as we do with a crazy person. It’s all so fascinating when you put it out there. Thanks Amanda, still really loving “Amanda Fridays” on the Gloss. It’s the best part of my week. :-)

  • Eileen

    *Citizen Kane

    I think it depends on what he’s talking about/why you like him. Schubert was a misogynist? Whatever, I’m not going to stop listening to his chamber music. Hitchens was a misogynist? Maybe I’m going to take his philosophical opinions less seriously. Misogyny doesn’t get in the way of doing some jobs well, but it does get in the way of others. A genius in the first category, I don’t “forgive” but I can look past. In the second, I stop bothering.

    • Amanda Chatel

      Ugh. So embarrassing. I’m dealing with jet lag and I’m seeing double. Forgive me,
      Eileen, for my fuck up. Kane. Kane. Kane.

      But I totally agree on the Hitchens front, too.

    • Eileen

      Haha it happens. Catch me at the right moment and I’ll misspell my own name. (look at all those f’ing “E”s…)

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      Should we? No of course not, but the trend is to ignore it just as we
      do with a crazy person. It’s all so fascinating when you put it out
      there. Thanks Amanda, still really loving “Amanda Fridays” on the Gloss.
      It’s the best part of my week. :-)

  • S.

    Good God. Citizen *Kane*.

    Citizen “Cane” sounds faintly pornographic. Perhaps you saw a parody of Citizen Kane?

    Your love for this movie is SO apparent.

  • kj

    Nope, nope, nopity nope nope.

    Because there were lots of geniuses that *weren’t/aren’t* misogynistic.

    Although I find it more forgivable in “artists” than in philosophers. Like, dude, your job is to think about stuff, and you still think women have no soul? Really?!

    Also, I don’t understand that quote at all. She cannot get into her bra? And what is the “it” to which the quote refers? Why should it be in her pants? What is wrong with her bra? Is she unable to locate quality bra fitting service? Too many questions.