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.