In the era of #MeToo, the entertainment industry has been under intense scrutiny. Surely, many bad people have been called out, and will continue to be, but how many times has the movement gotten it wrong? It seems the hunters of Hollywood bad guys won’t stop shooting once they have identified a target, no matter how flimsy the allegations. How many of our favorite shows and movies will be lost in battle because of the demand for social justice at any cost?
Yesterday, Sopan Deb of The New York Times interviewed the cast of Netflix’s much beloved “Arrested Development,” and it didn’t go particularly well. The interview started off casually, with Deb chatting with the cast about some favorite antics ahead of the release of a long-anticipated 5th season on May 29. The present cast members seemed jovial and forthcoming, sharing various anecdotes about life as the Bluths on and off set over the past 15 years.
Soon, however, the conversation took a grim turn. It was inevitable that Jeffery Tambor, who portrays the fictional family patriarch, would be asked to address the allegations of sexual misconduct stemming from his other hit show, Amazon’s “Transparent.” Once this subject is brought up, the tone of the interview changes in an irrevocable way.
Earlier this month, after the allegations about Tambor’s behavior on the set of “Transparent,” the actor sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to go on record about what it is actually like to work with him on set. He has always vehemently denied any sexual wrongdoing, but he did admit to The Hollywood Reporter that he was known to be unpleasant to work with. Recounting notable occurrences of his bad behavior, he confessed to yelling at “Transparent” show runner Jill Soloway, and, in an older incident, to yelling at his co-star Jessica Walter on the set of “Arrested Development.”
Deb put Tambor in the spotlight again to address the claims of misconduct, but more specifically to address his behavior toward Walter. Jason Bateman, who was not being questioned, could not resist stepping into the conversation in defense of his friend and colleague, Tambor. He implied that set life is strange and challenging, and that it doesn’t always bring out the best side of people as they pursue artistic perfection. Alia Shawkat, who plays Mayeb Funke in the series, interjected to say that Tambor’s behavior was still not excusable. No one disagreed. Tambor included further apology for his past behavior, and Walter, at some points on the verge of tears, said that she was “giving it all up” (her anger) and that she’d like to be friends with Tambor again.
They didn’t exactly get up from their seats and hug, but the cast was somewhat awkwardly able to move on into questions that related more closely to the release of a hotly anticipated cult comedy .
After the publication of the interview, the internet picked up their pitchforks in the name of social justice, and went after their target: Not Tambor, but Bateman. Because Bateman had defended a man who yelled at a female co-star, he was accused of “mansplaining” to Walter and Shawkat, and of defending harassment in the work place. He issued his own apology on Twitter the following morning, proclaiming that he had been wrong to defend his longtime friend and co-star, and that yelling in the workplace was never okay.
That’s true. Whether they are male or female, it is not acceptable or excusable to dress down and demoralize someone in the workplace, and Walter’s emotional response is well founded. However, I’m sure many of us have been in stressful professional situations that prompted yelling. I have never worked on a movie set, but after years working in high-end restaurants, I have had more than one plate thrown in my general direction, and have sent more than one employee home in tears for not carrying their weight during the shift. Is this the correct way work as a cohesive unit? Absolutely not. However, I do understand how high stress environments can most definitely bring out an ugly side of someone.
Tambor has profusely apologized for this incident, and has pledged to squelch this side of him in future endeavors. What more can you ask from him? This is hardly the first time there has been dissent between costars on set, and it will not be the last. People are fallible, and in high stress situations, sometimes they lash out. This isn’t harassment, and it isn’t a reason to boycott a show.
Bateman was simply trying to move the rapidly degenerating interview into a fun happy promotion for the upcoming release, which, despite the yelling that may have occurred on set, I’m sure they’d all like to be successful. After a seven year wait and a deeply disappointing fourth season in 2013, we’d all like to see the Bluths at their funniest again.
How will ANY movies or shows survive if every heated disagreement on set becomes a reason to walk away from production in the name of social justice? Moreover, how do women in Hollywood expect equality if their male costars are afraid to address them creatively for fear of public backlash? If every time a man addresses a woman, it is referred to as “mansplaining,” how will we ever know if we are having genuine conversations with colleagues of the opposite sex?
It will be impossible to look at the 5th season Bluths with the same softness and naivety that made us fall in love with them 15 years ago. Hopefully, the jokes and easter eggs the show is known for when it is at its best will be enough to mute the sound of this manufactured crisis.
The first eight episodes of the new season will be available to steam on Netflix on Tuesday, May 29.