Culture Feature

Matt Lauer vs. Ronan Farrow, and the Pushback Against the MeToo Movement

The former "Today Show" host seems to think nitpicking Ronan Farrow's book will relaunch his career

In a new opinion piece published in Mediaite, former Today Show host and alleged rapist Matt Lauer claims that Ronan Farrow abandoned journalistic integrity in pursuit of book sales.

Farrow's book Catch and Kill, which came out last October, details allegations of sexual misconduct against Matt Lauer in two of its nearly sixty chapters—the rest being devoted to Harvey Weinstein and other prominent sexual predators—and the particular challenges involved in reporting on these crimes.

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Culture News

Woody Allen's Memoir Will No Longer Be Published

Hachette employees walked out on Thursday in protest of Woody Allen's no-longer-forthcoming memoir.

Update: Woody Allen's memoir will no longer be published.

This news came after a public outcry against the book. On Thursday, over 100 protesters gathered in Rockefeller Plaza outside of the publishing company Hachette's offices.

They were there to make three demands of Michael Pietsch, the chief executive: First, that he rescind his decision to publish Woody Allen's memoir, second that he apologize for approving its publication in the first place, and third that he "recognize that Hachette employees have the ability to speak up about books they disagree with without fear of reprisal," as The New York Times reported.

"This afternoon, Grand Central Publishing employees are walking out of the Hachette New York office in protest of the publication of Woody Allen's memoir," said employees in an email. "We stand in solidarity with Ronan Farrow, Dylan Farrow, and survivors of sexual assault."

Woody Allen has been the subject of multiple sexual misconduct allegations, and most notably he was accused of molesting his daughter Dylan Farrow in the 1990s. Though Allen has denied the accusations and was never convicted, Farrow has stood by her statements and has been supported by her brother, Ronan. On Tuesday, the two released passionate statements in protest to news of the book's release.

Allen's memoir, Apropos of Nothing, was slated to come out on April 7. In response to the protest, a Hachette spokeswoman wrote in a Thursday evening email, "We respect and understand the perspective of our employees who have decided to express their concern over the publication of this book. We will engage our staff in a fuller discussion about this at the earliest opportunity."

"At HBG we take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly," she said on Friday. "We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books," she continued, but last minute listening sessions had led "to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible".

While of course these employees all had the right to protest, there is some debate over whether or not the memoir should've been published.

According to Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive of PEN America, "We believe everyone — including authors and publishing employees — has the right to express their opinions and raise their voices in protest. That said," she noted, "we also are concerned about the trend of pressuring the withdrawal of books from publication and circulation, depriving readers of the chance to make their own judgments and disincentivizing publishers from taking on contentious topics. While we don't take a position on the editorial judgments in question, we think that once a book is slated for publication, it should not be withdrawn just because it's controversial or gives rise to vociferous objections."

It all comes back to the classic question: Can you separate the art from the artist, and at what point are they inextricable? When does a critique based in social solidarity or ideology become censorship? And aren't the biases inherent in the publishing industry their own forms of censorship as these biases tend to favor certain voices and faces (namely, established voices who will make money) above others? Perhaps this will all lead to a deeper conversation on both sides about who has the right to tell what story.

In the end, it's important to remember that although Woody Allen's memoir was pulled from the shelves, the man is still doing just fine, while abuse survivors continue to suffer even if their abusers are brought to justice.

This article was updated from an earlier version on Friday, March 6.

At its core, the #MeToo battle is a struggle for power.

In practice, the movement reflects the pain of its genesis, and it is not necessarily about helping women. This became clear yet again when Grand Central, an imprint of Hachette, announced it will be publishing Woody Allen's autobiography in April. This came after several other major publishing houses refused to publish Allen's work, believing—for good reason—that it wouldn't go over well in the #MeToo era.

Dylan Farrow, who accused her father of childhood sexual abuse in 1992, has released a several statements in reaction to the announcement.

"Hatchette's publishing of Woody Allen's memoir is deeply upsetting to me personally and an utter betrayal of my brother whose brave reporting, capitalized on by Hachette, gave voice to numerous survivors of sexual assault by powerful men," she wrote in a notes-app screenshot posted to Twitter.

"This provides yet another example of the profound privilege that power, money, and notoriety affords. Hachette's complicity in this should be called out for what it is and they should have to answer for it," she said. "Every word I have published has had to go through a gauntlet of lawyers and fact-checkers," she said. "The journalists I have worked with always reached out for comment. It is a naked double standard. The lengths to which Hachette has gone through to hide this book's existence from myself and my brother Ronan shows that money, not truth, is their motivation."

The book was kept secret by Hachette for over a year, perhaps because its publishers were busy promoting another related title: Ronan Farrow's bestselling Catch and Kill.

Ronan Farrow, who is Dylan Farrow's adopted brother, broke one of the first stories about the Harvey Weinstein accusations. He told the story of his journey towards that piece in Catch and Kill, which was also peppered with details about his own family life and personal reasons for going after abusive men.

"It's wildly unprofessional in multiple obvious directions for Hachette to behave this way," he criticized. "But it also shows a lack of ethics and compassion for victims of sexual abuse, regardless of any personal connection or breach of trust here."

In an email to the publisher Michael Pietsch, Farrow wrote, "Your policy of editorial independence among your imprints does not relieve you of your moral and professional obligations as the publisher of Catch and Kill, and as the leader of a company being asked to assist in efforts by abusive men to whitewash their crimes. As you and I worked on Catch and Kill — a book in part about the damage Woody Allen did to my family," Farrow added, "you were secretly planning to publish a book by the person who committed those acts of sexual abuse. Obviously I can't in good conscience work with you any more," he concluded. "Imagine this were your sister."

When Pietsch was interviewed for The New York Times, he noted (as if it were a viable excuse) that Hachette publishes "thousands of books" every year. "Grand Central publishing believes strongly that there's a large audience that wants to hear the story of Woody Allen's life as told by Woody Allen himself," he said. "That's what they've chosen to publish." As usual, all paths lead to profit.

The #MeToo Movement, and What Comes After

Ronan Farrow has long defended his adopted sister against people who doubt her oft-questioned (but never irrefutably disproven) abuse accusations. His reporting, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize, helped generate the momentum that launched the #MeToo movement. But in the fallout from #MeToo, it's become clear that accusations are not the end of the story.

Unless proven outright and resulting in legal consequences, a #MeToo accusation almost never leads to black-and-white consequences, and it rarely ends in victorious redemption for the abused. Much of the discourse around #MeToo allegations—even if they're untrue, or questionable—tends to swivel around one fundamental question: Should abuse accusations end men's careers?

In the fray, the accuser's own life, career, and trauma are rarely considered in any meaningful way. We forget that even if abusers are punished, their actions still leave scars.

"As journalists, we tend to congratulate ourselves for our heroic role in exposing wrongdoing — the barriers we overcame, how dogged we were in getting to the truth," says Irin Carmon, the co-author of a New York Magazine article about women's lives in the aftermath of #MeToo. "But it's really the sources who put themselves on the line, who lose control over their own narrative and have to pick up the pieces of their lives after the headlines fade. That was what we wanted to get at here."

Woody Allen's career has, indeed, been damaged by #MeToo. But his life has continued, and though America lost out on A Rainy Day in New York, Allen's films have generally continued to achieve acclaim. Still, many people argue that Allen was the target of a smear campaign by a vengeful Mia Farrow and that he is the victim in all of this.

Allen, of course, doesn't have to write and release a memoir. He lives in a luxurious apartment on the Upper East Side, he is still netting opening slots at Cannes, there is already a documentary about his life, and his films will outlast him no matter how tarnished his reputation becomes.

Woody Allen is doing fine, relatively speaking, and his decision to publish a memoir—knowing full well how the public, and his son with whom he shares a publishing imprint, would react—had to be a conscious one. Whether or not it actually was, Allen and Hachette's actions feel like a willful, decisive victory lap, or at least a screw-you to the #MeToo movement. In reality, it's most likely about a profit, not a point.

Appropriately, the memoir will be called Apropos of Nothing. The term means "without any apparent reason or purpose." That Woody Allen essentially called his own memoir "purposeless" indicates either a sense of awareness or naïvete—the latter being a term that his wife, Soon-Yi, awarded him in her New York Magazine profile. "He's a poor, pathetic thing," Soon-Yi tells the reporter. "He's so naïve and trusting, he was probably putty in her hands. One thinks that he's so brilliant … and yet on certain things he's so shockingly naïve it makes your head spin and you think he's putting it on."

New York Magazine

In that profile, Soon-Yi is portrayed as a strong individual who also happens to loathe her absent-minded adoptive mother. Of course, her mother—Mia Farrow—also loathes her husband. The whole thing is mired in toxicity.

Like his memoir's title implies, Woody Allen and all the accusations that surround him, the whole juggernaut, are a feedback loop of absolutely nothing. There is no way to objectively report it. It is full of holes and lies and sensationalism. In that sense, it's about as Hollywood as they come.

It seems to all stem back to a deeply dysfunctional family situation, an upbringing that left everyone damaged. The houses where Mia Farrow raised Soon-Yi, where Dylan Farrow experienced her alleged abuse, where Mia Farrow discovered nude photos of Soon-Yi, and where Soon-Yi was living when she fell in love with Woody Allen, must have been terrible places to live, likely heavy and full of shadows.

Soon-Yi was the first adopted child of Mia Farrow. The actress would ultimately adopt ten children. Three would wind up dead. One would marry Farrow's then-boyfriend, who would later author a memoir about nothing, a memoir that will likely achieve very little except generate an insignificant profit and dredge up a lot of bad feelings.

Film News

A Dissection of the Confusing Feelings We Have About Timothée Chalamet's Mustache

The new The French Dispatch trailer has left us feeling upset and...horny.

There's a lot of expected things going on in the new trailer for the upcoming Wes Anderson film, The French Dispatch.

Bill Murray does dead pan, Saoirse Ronan has piercing blue eyes and a look of wistful consternation, Owen Wilson bafflingly continues to use his real voice while acting. It's all pretty much business as usual—until about 1:14, when an unsettling oddity presents itself.

It would appear that at around this point in the trailer, we see Timothée Chalamet with...something on his upper lip. I leaned in closer to the screen, wondering if perhaps it was just a trick of the light; surely it's not real, right? But then, as the trailer draws to a close, the truth hit me like a sledge hammer. Timothée is, indeed, sporting something like a mustache.

My first reaction was repulsion. The mustache is so thin and so unsure of itself that it's hardly a mustache at all. If anything it's a flimsy wish, a dream of facial hair to some day come. For Timmy to ruin his otherwise angelic face this way? Tragic. Whoever made this directorial choice should be put in the stocks for daring to interrupt the delicate, bird-like flow of his porcelain face. These were my first thoughts.

But soon, something else began to set in. A kind of...nostalgia. This particular 3-inch strip of fuzz is not unfamiliar to me. It's a look that has been sported by every lanky, sleepy-eyed, weed-smoking Brooklyn hipster I've ever allowed to give me a UTI. This same faint shadow of a mustache has sat above the lip of every friend's-older-brother-who-dropped-out-of-college I pined over at 15; every video game playing, Colt 45 drinking, self ascribed "free thinker" who haunted my pubescent dreams in their beanies and torn Vans sneakers. This is the face of the dirty hipster you wish wasn't hot. This is the face of the preferred type of every girl who's attracted to Timothée Chalamet's unsettling lankiness, doll-like features, and air of nonchalance. This is Timothée Chalamet: fully realized.

You can love the mustache or you can hate the mustache, but you must accept the mustache. It was inevitable. It's what we were asking for, for better or for worse.

If you haven't heard, Marriage Story exists, and the memes are abundant.

After many years lurking in the shadows, tall man Adam Driver seems to be undergoing a transformation from mid-level meme to mainstream meme, and here at Popdust, we're very happy for him (albeit still half-convinced he's just a knockoff Keanu Reeves).

Marriage Story has received glowing reviews so far, and has also been excelling in screencap format. Most likely, this is thanks to the strength, notoriety, and expressiveness of its stars. Though most people would struggle to compete with Scarlett Johansson, who is capable of playing a tree, Driver seems to be even more distraught and emotive than our resident foliage impersonator in the film's seminal fight scene.

One frame in particular has captivated our imaginations:

Yes, it's a glorious before-and-during image of Adam Driver hitting a wall. It's the depressing, dramatic, suburban norm-core version of a primal scream, and it's instantly, beautifully relatable. In 2019, a year of chaos and pent-up energy, I'd imagine most people can relate to this image for one reason or another.

Perhaps 2020 will be better, a decade of change and action. But for now, no one is okay. There are just so many questions. Can we stan ScarJo after her Woody Allen comments? Just how tall is Adam Driver, really? How tall is Adam Driver, spiritually? Do we need another film about white people getting divorced within the confines of a beige room? The climate is changing so why even get married and have children when you're going to damn them to a future of unbearable suffering?

But we human beings are resilient. Maybe we will institute a Green New Deal and Medicare For All so people can suffer through unbearable marriages on this unbearable yet shockingly magnificent planet in relative peace and harmony.

Regardless, Kylo Ren, we relate.