Things I Hate on the Internet: Sex Panic Edition (Dec. 11–15, 2017)
As a way of making myself feel better about reading notably hateful stories on the internet when I should have been doing something more useful, I’ve decided to also round up these stories and write about them, as a way of draining that infected boil we call “the urge to argue with strangers on the internet.” I hope you find the links and my accompanying commentary informative and/or interesting, or at the very least enjoy warming yourself by the glow of my impotent fury.
(“Thanks” to Jerome Sable and Erin Moriarty, who pointed a few of the following hateful links in my direction.)
Link: What I Learned After Lorin Stein Published My Story (The Cut / NY Magazine)
Alexandra Kleeman’s thoughts on Paris Review editor Lorin Stein’s resignation reminded me that I was privy, second-hand, to what I suppose would be considered a “whisper network” rumor about Stein earlier this year. In the spirit of such rumors, I’ll retell it as vaguely as possible: a friend of mine hoping to publish her first story was told by another woman — a published author and friend of Stein — that she should definitely meet the man next time he was in Los Angeles. “He’ll love you,” she suggested — and you must hear this uttered in a lewd tone, with a eye lingering over my friend’s svelte figure and tattoos.
Which was all quite disappointing to hear, of course (the Paris Review is a beacon for those of us in Hollywood who like to imagine that integrity and literacy are still “a thing”) and so obviously it’s good that Stein has left. But I find Kleeman’s take on the broader issues so eye-rollingly millennial — as if the real evil is what your college classmates might think about the mere appearance of favoritism. To which I would say: you’re the published author now, so fuck them — but maybe that’s because I’m old and hate a lot of people and don’t use Instagram (much).
If you’ll allow me to venture into deeper waters of cynicism, I would suggest that without “sexual favoritism” or the distinction between what Kleeman calls “the knife and the melon,” there would be no Paris Review, no Lorin Stein, no Alexandra Kleeman — and no fiction, either. This is sort of the messy stuff of being human. Otherwise we would all be shapeless eunuchs sitting around in our sweatpants, arguing about what to watch on Netflix.
It occurs to me that the disappointments of the millennial and the wild fantasies of the utopian alike stem from a faith in the ideal, unsullied, unselfish institution — which, of course, has never existed on the earth.
(I should, however, point out that I very much like Kleeman’s story, “Fairy Tale.”)
Link: Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction №21 (Paris Review)
Speaking of the Paris Review and insufferable men, the internet is oddly obsessed with this old Hemingway interview, which begins as if it were a parody of a Hemingway story:
You go to the races?
This is a terrible interview, and even Hemingway could tell that he was being more of an obstreperous prick than usual. But if you’re looking for a more enlightening example of the genre, this is a great opportunity for me to point you in the direction of this interview with P.D. James, or this one with William Gibson, or the always magisterial J.L. Borges, or literally any other interview they’ve published since.
Link: Morgan Spurlock Confesses Indiscretions: “I Am Part Of The Problem” (Deadline Hollywood)
In what the kids would call “an epic self-own,” Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame) posts an inexplicable, entirely unnecessary confession about unpleasant things he’s done to women. Writing instructors often say that the rule to achieving universality in memoir is to write with specificity, but they fail to mention the exception to that rule — which is that one should be vague when the specifics are singularly gross and weird.
It makes me imagine an alternate version of a certain iconic movie scene, in which Spartacus stands up to the Romans and says, “I am Spartacus! Also I’ve cheated on all my girlfriends and I paid my intern a large settlement for calling her ‘sex pants!’” And then no one else stands up, because they’re too uncomfortable.
Link: James Franco Can Relate to Tommy Wiseau (The Carpetbagger / NY Times)
Can he, though? Can he really?
Few things annoy me more than glib, self-serving interviews with James Franco — but this one in particular confirms my feelings about his new turducken The Disaster Artist, a funny but frustratingly shallow film about a far more interesting phenomenon: the public obsession with “bad movie” extraordinaire The Room.
I’ve enjoyed watching The Room with an appreciative audience, but when that appreciation tilts into cult adulation for its creator Tommy Wiseau, I begin to feel a little uncomfortable about the whole thing. Let us be clear: Wiseau is not a performance artist, but a man in the public throes of a pathological delusion. Putting him on talk shows and buying his T-shirts strikes me as a kind of cruel inside-joke of Truman Show proportions.
All of this also confirms for me the underlying ugliness of the obsession with The Room in Hollywood: it’s how those of us in “The Business” inoculate ourselves against our fear of mockery and failure. If we can all agree that this film and these B-movie actors are bad and painfully deluded, we can also assure ourselves that we are safely outside their circle — and certainly not members of that sad fraternity of wannabes who haunt the non-union castings for unpaid vanity features and student films.
In one of the more despicable moments in The Disaster Artist, an actor who has just been abused by Wiseau insists, astride an inspirational swell on the soundtrack, that “even the worst day on a movie set is better than the best day anywhere else,” which is a line spoken by a well-paid working actor playing a badly-paid actor who never landed another role after this one. The line perversely echoes (unintentionally, I would guess) a memorable bit from the Odyssey, in which Odysseus meets the shade of Achilles in the underworld, and insists that Achilles shouldn’t feel bad about being dead because he’s famous. To which Achilles replies:
Say not a word in death’s favor. I would rather be a paid servant in a poor man’s house, and be above ground, than king of kings among the dead. (trans. Butler)
Which is not a funny or inspirational sentiment exactly, but at least I buy it.
(Bonus bitchy insider’s note: in the Carpetbagger interview, James Franco drops a line about comedy being “candy coating around a pill” as if he’s just come up with it — but as anyone who’s attended USC’s film school knows, this is one of the classic aphorisms coined by infamous lecturer Dr. Drew Casper. It’s far more likely that Franco, who for a time haunted the halls of that august institution, may have been chasing a comely undergraduate through Dr. Casper’s “Post-War Hollywood” class and overheard the line in passing.)
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —