In 2017, Claire Dederer published an essay in The Paris Review : "What do we do with the art of terrible people? and went viral. Less than two months after the first Harvey Weinstein revelations were published, a critic examined the work of Roman Polanski, Woody Allen and Bill Cosby (among others) through the lens of their transgression. "They did or said something terrible, and they did something great," he wrote. "The terrible interrupts a great job." As the essay went viral online and on social media, Dederer became the focus of an entire book on the subject, which was done years before the #MeToo movement in Hollywood.
"It sounds interesting, but the essay has a lot of ambiguity and nuance, and people have responded very well to it," the author told The Hollywood Reporter . “That's exciting for me as a writer, but also for me as a citizen. to see that not everything has to be black and white thinking or reduction."
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The culmination of Dederer's years of work on Monster. A Fan's Dilemma will be released on April 25. Ahead of her book's release, Dederer spoke to THR about her own fans who inspired the book and how society views the work of men and women. and how it should be used.
Many of us started to think a lot about the artist-art dilemma after Harvey Weinstein's investigative writings; Years before the movement on the subject, what attracted you?
I wrote a memoir called Love and Trouble about the sexual predatory nature of the 1970s and examined my own experiences as a child before that time. Part of it contains an open letter to Roman Polanski; I love her work and I realized I could still watch her movies and I was like, 'Wow, that's really interesting. All my books are about how to be kind and what kindness is, so it all comes together. And the good thing about being a senior writer is that when something really interesting comes along, you realize you have a few more years to think about it.
Can you tell us more about your first internal dialogue about Polanction?
Not only does he think what he's doing is wrong, which is super cool, not too hypothetical, but that's a great way to put it. There is a far more terrifying experience in this story that is my own experience of sexual harassment. This is how I got into business with the incredibly complex emotions of my own biographical story. The other side is the emotional response to your work. It wasn't just me sitting there on the jury and saying with dignity that Rosemary's Baby was a great film. In many ways, he is the person I am not only closest to professionally, but embodies the idea of “good art, bad people” to perfection.
The book doesn't pretend to be an exhaustive list of every bad or terrible artist, but it's interesting that Kanye West, for example, came back a few times, and I assume you wrote that before his recent anti-Semitic comments. …
It was originally meant to have an epilogue, called The Litany, and to list everyone who has been accused of anything since I started writing the book. But the book's plan has always been to appeal to the audience's experience, only to add that it's into a catalog of monsters it was never intended to be.
Lately I've noticed that the online conversation about the art we use has shifted from “this person did something wrong” to “this person probably has a bad opinion” where the harm they do is harder to measure. Donald Glover's and Drake's tweets and opinions on potential misogyny and misogyny come to mind. Do you think there's a difference in how we use the art of bad actors versus bad thinkers?
I totally understand what you're saying and I don't know if there's a recipe for that. I have a son who is in his twenties and is very attached. Your experience of engaging in this type of dialogue is completely different from mine. I think it all comes down to what I'm interested in, which is how the work turns out for the individual viewer, for what they know. In terms of the anger engine, what's interesting is that the audience spends more time with it and thinking about how it affects their work experience, rather than just participating in the anger and not really questioning their own experience. : This is a valuable form of critical and independent thinking.
Personally, I can feel a bit powerless when discussing a person or conversation that upsets a fringe group, which I wasn't aware of until the group pointed it out. As an insider, I want to pay more attention to the experience of listening to others and get inspiration from those involved, but sometimes I wonder where it ends when you open that door.
I think I can differentiate myself from others because I get so excited when these discussions happen. I love to see how everyone thinks about ethical issues in art. I understand the issues with the scandal engine I just mentioned, but this discussion provides room for opening up many voices that are traditionally unknown. As a 50 year old man who hangs out with a lot of young people, I try to approach him rather than shake my head if that makes any sense.
What made you decide to work on the warning elements in this book?
Voice memory and writing of my own experiences are necessary to achieve a perceived experience from the audience's memory. It is also important for me to undermine critical authority. Often what art critics call "objective" is the white person's point of view. They're white people who work for white people and then get checked out by white people.
You carry some memories of working as a film critic with you, how would you summarize the experience?
I'm a little guy throwing stones at giant Hollywood cameras because I'm a weekly alternative film critic. I can say whatever I want, I can think about my subjectivity without thinking about what it means to the artist. And then I became a book reviewer, and books were less influential, and that was a person, so I had to start thinking about what it would be like to be a generous reviewer. Another thing that reviewers care about is what other reviewers have to say. Many critics lack confidence. I remember writing about Grosse Point Blank and really liking it and wanting to improve it but felt it was too girly. Is it especially reckless?
Another part of the book that really struck me is you mentioned that men who are abusive are terrible and women who leave their families are often terrible and the way women and their wives are. women give way to men. Making art, but often not the other way around. That's an oversimplification of her thesis, but the morning after the third episode of Succession , I reread most of it, and she starts talking about the mothers who created the space to bring in Jesse Armstrong, Jeremy Strong, and to allow others to make these great ones. art . . .
There was a window in my life, maybe 20 years, where I was thinking mostly about parenting. I am on the other side now and even more shocked and angry at the illegality of this facility. Since I finished working on this book, I have been thinking about gendered notions of what nursing is and who does it. I talk about cheating mothers in the book, but I think there's a positive way to talk about it, which is to broaden the idea of who cares about other people beyond the idea that they have to be women. In the book, I present it as artist versus mother, but I think it's more about you than anyone else. But at the same time, who wants to give up this episode of TV for something better? I'm glad they made this event. (Laugh.)
Has becoming a professional critic changed the way you consume? I'm mostly referring to continuity shows made by good people.
Isn't that great? His speed and way of leaving tension all over the body. But I did have a brief time leaving film reviews where I wasn't able to see the film, but I think that was partly due to the unrelenting violence at the time. It was in the middle of the Tarantino era, very bloody. One of the things I try to do with my life is find joy in everything I use. I try not to let the idea of authority affect my relationship with art, and I think you'll be a better critic if you can come back to art as a member of society rather than an authority.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Monster: A Fan's Dilemma will be released on April 25.
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