Is it OK to wear clothes made by Harvey Weinstein’s wife?
With the sexual harassment scandal hitting the fashion world now, whose work should we no longer enjoy?
Jonathan, by email
Let’s start with this, the artist-v-the-art question, one that now seems necessary to ask on a daily basis, as the Weinstein tsunami continues to sweep through the celebrity world, either destroying all in its wake or else throwing into relief various abuses that were simply shrugged away for too long, depending on your perspective.
Most sensible people, despite what rightwing commentators claim, understand there are various degrees of abuse being alleged, and Dustin Hoffman allegedly saying gross stuff to women in the 80s is obviously not the same as Harvey Weinstein allegedly raping women and threatening to destroy their careers (claims he denies). But, hey, guess what, guys? Both are unacceptable, and it is unnerving when men generally considered good guys are accused of predatory behaviour. So the only surprise about Condé Nast International’s announcement last month that they would no longer work with Terry Richardson, after years and years of rumours, was that it took so long for them to make that announcement.
But Louis CK’s admission on Friday that he had exposed himself to women, after years and years of rumours (you might be spotting a pattern here), was a little different. Yes, many women knew about the rumours, but it was easy to put them out of mind when Louis CK would do his feminist skit about how men are “the worst thing to happen to women”. Well, more fool us, I guess, because all the time we knew – we knew that women were saying Louis CK exposed himself to them. And that Louis CK dismissed those as rumours for so long proves that he assumed that being a powerful white man would protect him from any eventual comeuppance. Welcome to a new dawn, guys.
Look, I am all for evaluating art on its own artistic merits – I do, after all, still count Radio Days and The Purple Rose of Cairo (directed by one W Allen) as among my favourite movies. But when the art is so clearly flaunting or minimising the artist’s abuses, the question becomes moot. Louis CK’s long-awaited movie, the creepily titled I Love You, Daddy, is about sexual ethics and celebrities who abuse them, so it’s not exactly a surprise that the distributor pulled the film.
I have spent more money than I want to think about going to see Louis CK’s standup routine, but forgive me if I’m really not in the mood right now to watch Louie, his sitcom about a sexual loser who is often horrible to women. Similarly, Woody Allen’s near pathological insistence on making movies about how irresistible old men are to much younger women is at least as off-putting now as the movies themselves. Incidentally, the much-acclaimed-in-its-time-and-now-next-to-forgotten film, American Beauty, really is quite a watch these days, given that it includes one storyline in which Kevin Spacey’s character is accused of having a relationship with a teenage boy, another in which he is sexually obsessed with his child’s best friend, and a third about how being closeted drives a man to insanity. Fun Friday night movie for all!
I have written often over the years that it is inexcusable for a magazine to employ Terry Richardson, whose highly sexualised photographs are inextricable from the stories of his alleged abuse, and for a celebrity – who has the power to choose any photographer they want – to be photographed by him, given the long-running rumours about his alleged abuse of models (which he denies). (On a sidenote, one of the biggest political mysteries of all time must be how the hell Barack Obama agreed to be photographed by Richardson. Do Obama’s people not know how to Google? Does he?) It is frankly obscene that Condé Nast International waited this long to make a stand, having presumably just bided their time until Richardson’s much-copied style was starting to become passe, so they felt they could drop him without incurring any damage to their all-important artistic credibility. Apologies for the crudeness, but duck those people, as autocorrect would put it.
More and doubtless worse stories about others will come out soon, but the really interesting issue regards a label run by two women who haven’t abused anyone.
Marchesa, designed by Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, presents a tricky proposition, as Chapman is the soon-to-be ex-wife of one Harvey Weinstein. Now, I would never argue that a woman should suffer because of the sins of a man in her life. But Marchesa is different because the success of this label was dependent on Chapman’s relationship with Weinstein. It first found fame when Renée Zellweger wore a Marchesa dress to the 2004 premiere of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, an amazing coup for a near-unknown label, and the fact that the film happened to be co-produced by Miramax which was then run by one H Weinstein, then Chapman’s boyfriend, was, of course, mere coincidence. I covered Marchesa’s first show in 2006, where celebrities such as Sarah Michelle Gellar and Mischa Barton sat in the front row, while Weinstein prowled through the audience, literally checking a list to see who had turned up to his girlfriend’s show. It was long rumoured that Weinstein ordered the women in his movies to wear Marchesa to premieres and, according to the Hollywood Reporter, once threatened not to promote a movie if its star failed to oblige. Actresses in Weinstein movies, such as Blake Lively, obligingly gave quotes about how lovely the label is.
And Marchesa clothes are lovely, no question. But their success is inextricable from Weinstein and, in particular, Weinstein’s bullying tactics. These clothes obviously are not minimising or flaunting Weinstein’s alleged crimes, in the way Louis CK’s movie flaunts his own misdemeanors, but their success was helped by his aggression. And frankly, it’s a little hard not to feel, well, live by the Weinstein, die by the Weinstein.
Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.