Fine, I'll Admit It. James Franco Was Right About Something
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Fine, I'll Admit It. James Franco Was Right About Something

By Vivian Kane | Miscellaneous | April 23, 2014 | Comments ()


Last week James Franco made the bold career choice of calling NY Times critic Ben Brantley “a little bitch” who “should be working for”


Now, this was, without question, a totally unprofessional move. Franco came off as a whiny kid bitching on Instagram, which is the fastest way to get your thoughts completely dismissed by any adult with a brain and the mildest sense of propriety. But it’s time to face the douche facts and admit that Franco was right about something.

Ben Brantley is a little bitch.

I’m guessing that most of you, like myself, didn’t actually read the full review (which can be found here), we were just happy to (rightfully) giggle at the scathing pull-quote. And if you don’t follow the New York theatre scene (and why would you if you don’t live there?), you probably only saw Franco railing against a bad review like a tantrumy child, and you don’t know that Franco’s actually kind of right. No one respects Brantley. The other person taking the critic publicly to task lately is Alec Baldwin, and having him on your side isn’t the best endorsement of your validity. But Tony award-winning actress and theatre blogger Daisy Eagan has come out with a response to the same review, specifically targeting Brantley’s observations on Leighton Meester’s portrayal of Curly’s wife. The piece is titled “Ben Brantley Is Asking For It,” and it is so cutting and eloquent that you should read it in its entirety. I only wish that Franco, with his built-in audience of nearly 2 million Twitter followers, could have crafted something of this caliber, instead of just whining like a… well, like a little Ben Brantley.

In his review of Of Mice And Men in Wednesday, April 16th’s edition of The New York Times, Ben Brantley says Curley’s wife, portrayed by Leighton Meister, “provides no evidence” of being either “slatternly” or “provocative” which, “[G]iven the grim events that eventually befall her character… may have been a conscious choice. We don’t want to be left thinking, ‘Well, she was asking for it.’”

When we talk about a “culture of rape” in this country, we are referring to a culture in which, “She was asking for it” is a common, acceptable defense for criminal behavior. The only time a woman is “asking for it” is when she is literally asking for it. As in, “Let’s have sex”, or, “Will you have sex with me”, or, “I’d like to have sex with you”, or some variation thereof, either explicitly or implicitly with another consenting adult with whom sexual contact has been mutually agreed to by both parties. “Rape culture” is a culture in which an educated, prolific theater critic would assume that anyone would ever think “she was asking for it”.

Furthermore, Mr. Brantley, I’m confused. What, exactly is Curley’s wife asking for? (Spoiler alert) Is she asking to have her neck broken? If Ms. Meester’s portrayal were more slatternly and provocative, would we really be left thinking she was asking to be murdered? What she does ask for is for Lennie to stroke her hair. That’s it. This is not an invitation for intercourse.

As a member of the media and someone who has a public forum, I hope, in the future, you will consider what such a statement says about what is and isn’t acceptable in our culture. I won’t go so far as to suggest the paper let you go. Though, frankly, you are kind of asking for it.

You really should read the entire thing over on Daisy’s blog, because it is terrific.

Vivian Kane has a lot of feelings to resolve surrounding her kind-of-siding with James Franco and Alec Baldwin. She plans to resolve them with wine.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • annie

    Okay, that part is gross. But Franco really is just boring and kind of abysmal in the play.

  • RocksEaglesHats

    Ben Brantley IS universally hated. Critics are often the subject of scorn (Frank Rich got plenty of heat during his stint as the Times legit critic), but this goes beyond butthurt theater producers and sensitive actors. His name is- without exception- greeted with heavy sighs and rolling of eyes in the theater community.

    Brantley's erogenous zones and blind spots as a critic are painfully obvious at this point, to the degree that his review of any particular piece of theater could probably be outlined and summarized prior to publishing. He's a gorgeous, talented writer- nobody could ever deny that. But he evidently takes no joy in the artform he's been charged to police, and bitterly wields the enormous cudgel of his market influence (for Broadway, The Times is still the Alpha and the Omega of tastemakers) with sneering flippancy. His junior counterpart, Charles Isherwood, is not as great a writerly talent, but is a much, much better critic. Ben should hang it up and give the younger critic (or another person entirely) a shot in the big chair. Sadly, even though he's already been the Chief Theater Critic at NYT for 18 years, he's just 59, and will likely grow more hackish as the years go on.

  • Tammy

    "he evidently takes no joy in the artform he's been charged to police" <-- EXACTLY this.
    Considering how hard those of us in the business work to convince skeptics that theater can have value to them and it's worth their time/money to take a chance on an unfamiliar show, the generalized disdain that the Ben Brantleys of the world [and there are plenty critics of his ilk in other markets] is particularly galling.

    How do you convince a potential audience that plays are relevant to their lives, or could provide someone with a meaningful experience, when the critic himself seems to resent having to see the plays he's charged with reviewing??

  • Pictured: Ben Brantley

  • $99571230

    It's been a really long time since I read Of Mice and Men, but from what I remember, Steinbeck wrote Curley's wife as a somewhat "provocative" woman.

    Isn't Brantly suggesting Meister chose to downplay that characteristic to avoid making the audience feel like "she asked for it." (And, by the way, I don't like the language he used; he could have expressed it without the lightening rod phrases).

    But Daisy seems to be saying that Brantly, himself, thinks Curley's wife was asking for it. Frankly, I don't see it, but I'm open to be proved wrong.

    I think the real question is, why did Steinbeck write Curley's wife that way?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I had more of an eyebrow raise at "desirable wench," frankly. My thought on Curley's wife is that she seemed open to others sexually, but goes to Lenny looking for innocent comfort, it heightens the tragedy for her while also coloring how other men will view Lenny's actions.

  • e jerry powell

    Wasn't Daisy Eagan a child star herself? Like, she played Mandy Patinkin's niece in something about a bajillion and a half years ago.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    She was. She was the youngest to win a Tony. She was also on, I think it was called The It Factor about actors trying to make it.

  • e jerry powell

    Oh, yeah, the Jeremy Renner Show. From his Jeffrey Dahmer period, I believe.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I didn't realize he was in that as well! Nice to see someone on the list actually HAD the It Factor.

    Btw, she was the youngest GIRL to win a Tony (apparently some brat from Mame was younger than her by a few months when he won).

  • e jerry powell

    Both seasons, NY and LA.

    (Oh, and LisaRaye would like to have a word...)

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I don't know who that is so....sorry, LisaRaye (if that is your real name)

  • e jerry powell

    Aside from co-starring with Renner in both seasons? She's done bit parts in some B-movies and had a starring role in that Will & Jada sitcom on the network that very few people over thirty watch.

    She played the Not-Jada to Elise Neal's faux-Jada.

    Oh, and a sucky dramedy that Queen Latifah produces for VH1.

    I guess we could say that she's a "niche" performer, which is a concept I hate, but there it is.

  • googergieger

    Yeah but also fuck Franco? Yeah. Yup, that sounds right guys. Good point Bender.

  • Brantley is an extremely influential critic because his pull quotes get shared so much. It doesn't matter if he actually paid attention to the show or not, he clearly spends far more time crafting the perfect witty remark than actually evaluating the show. If you know a show is going to be bad and Brantley gets the review, you can predict what elements will be eviscerated and even nail down some of the exact puns and metaphors weeks before the show opens. He's nothing if not predictable.

    He also has a bad habit of reviewing shows out of town and then insisting on reviewing the Broadway transfer, but only if he raved about the out of town production. The second review of the same production (even if it was significantly altered) would be considered plagiarism if anyone else's name appeared on the review. Carbon copies.

    And he also tends to really go after any Hollywood actor who dares to appear on Broadway regardless of the quality of the performance. That explains the hostility toward Leighton Meester and James Franco in the review.

  • Jezzer

    Can't Brantley be a little bitch without giving smug shithead Franco credit?

  • Kala

    This. Yes.

  • BlackRabbit

    The more important question is-how tall is Mr. Brantley? We can't just throw insults around without proof.

  • emmalita

    Also, I don't think he's canine or female. Let's get some accuracy in our insults people!

  • Adrienne Marie

    Before I moved away from the city, I was an avid theater-goer. Everyone in the community thinks Brantley is a hack.

  • Kenny G.

    I love those last two lines in her response...

  • foolsage

    Please do not post the entirety of someone else's work within your own. To be blunt, it's theft. Pajiba just had this discussion a couple of months ago.

    Fair use allows you to post excerpts from someone else's work. By using the entirety (as opposed to just an excerpt), you're stealing page views from the author, which in turn might literally result in stealing income from the author. It's neither lawful nor ethical to do so.

  • Ben

    Didn't courtney do the same thing a while back with an article about paparazi?

    Man Pajiba really needs to get better at making sure this shit doesn't happen in the first place rather then just editing it out when they get called on it.

  • foolsage

    Vivian's new, and I'm sure won't do it again.

  • vivkane

    Absolutely. I will only say that, knowing how few people actually click the links, and how fantastic Eagan's piece is, my intention was only to make sure as many people as possible would be exposed to the full text. But I totally agree with you all and I appreciate everyone speaking up while simultaneously not being assholes. That's why this site is better than other sites.

  • foolsage

    Just wanted to say that I've been quite enjoying your work here.

    I always click through if I find a piece at all intriguing. I want to support the content creator, and, hey, there might be other interesting stuff on their site. It's worth spending a little time to look. I appreciate being exposed to interesting and/or funny stuff, which is one of several reasons I come so often to Pajiba. In this case, clicking through led to amusement in the form of this short piece:

  • vivkane

    Oh dear lord, that piece is both hilarious (on her part) and so upsetting (government what the hell).

    And thank you so much. I really appreciate that.

  • pajiba

    Noted, and appropriately corrected. Also, go visit Daisy's full piece. It's really good.

    As for the D&D list, I don't know much about D&D, manting, but I do know a lot about Steven (who wrote the post), and I assure you that Steven would literally pull out his own intestines and strangle himself with them before he lifted anything from anywhere else. It's a list. Lists on the same topic very often align (look at any year-end movie list on any site, for instance, and there are probably many titles that overlap from one list to another).

  • foolsage

    Thanks, Dustin. I only pointed the Fair Use issue out because I enjoy Pajiba and don't want you guys to get in any trouble.

  • manting

    Here is something weird, like a month or so ago there was a pajiba piece on 10 monsters from D&D. Here it is.

    The weird part is that the site io9 put out a very similar list a few months before the pajiba list. (here it is ) The weirder part is that 4 of the 10 monsters are the same on both lists. Seems pretty Shia Lebeuf to me though I could be wrong.

  • Hi there! I'm the writer that you just accused of plagiarism. Nice to meet you!

    I did spend a few nostalgic hours perusing my old Monster Manuals to write that list, but neglected to take any photos of myself doing so, so sadly there is no evidence of my assertion. That the two articles have no overlap in conversation other than the fact that some things are listed on both is likewise insufficient defense once LaBeouf (and I even spelled his name correctly, on account of plagiarizing it from him) is dropped into the debate.

    Of course of the four monsters that overlap between the two lists, those are also the four that would likely appear on just about any list involving "List of [x] Monsters from D&D".

    For a similar phenomenon, please feel free to peruse any of our "Best Films of [year]" lists which we viciously plagiarized from other websites with good taste, before doing the easy part of writing about each of them ourselves.

  • manting

    I did finish the post with the "i could be wrong." I just found it odd that there was 40% overlap in the two lists, which are only a few months apart, as I would think most people would when you are drawing from a pool of 257 monsters (I just counted them) in the Monster Manual and that is not including different varieties of monster under one heading, which would bump it closer to the 300 range. Obviously some monsters are boring, like the giant "insert whatever here," which would remove about 70 monsters from the list still leaving nearly 200 to choose from.
    My sincere apologies

  • foolsage

    The i09 article is a pretty decent summation of some of the most memorable monsters from D&D. I think if you polled 100 D&D players, the average list would include at least 8 of those 10.

    I went back and reread SLW's article. He was talking about which monsters would be best adapted to the screen, and was describing visual or behavioral qualities that make some monsters better suited to this. There's going to be some overlap between which monsters should make it to the screen, and which monsters are most memorable, naturally. They're different articles though.

  • Aaron Schulz

    thats why i asked, those are easily the 4 most popular DnD monsters, not counting orcs or whatever

  • foolsage

    Well, i09 was talking about which are memorable. SLW talked about which would be best in film. Which are most popular is yet a third list, which admittedly overlaps with the other two.

    I'd put dragons high on the list of most popular D&D monsters, personally. I'd have to say that few players enjoy mimics, but DMs tend to love them, so that's a matter of perspective.

  • Aaron Schulz

    true, i always enjoyed watching players get maimed by a candelabra

  • Aaron Schulz

    without reading the i09 list, are the 4 overlaps, beholder mindflayer, owlbear, mimic?

  • foolsage

    Those are the overlaps.

  • Jericho Smith

    I don't know if 4 out of 10 on both lists is all that telling. While there are hundreds (thousands?) of monsters for D&D, only so many of them are cool/memorable/SyFy worthy.

    It's not too dissimilar to asking people to name the ten best bands of all time.

  • foolsage

    The i09 link appears to be dead. That's suspicious though, you're quite right.

  • foolsage

    Before checking the links, I was expecting stuff like Githyanki and Yellow Musk Zombies and Sons of Kyuss the Wormgod. Note to self: don't say something is suspicious until you look into it.

  • manting

    ok that's weird here it is again. Im looking at it right now.

  • foolsage

    OK, worked that time. The monsters on that i09 list were pretty damned generic, I have to say; I'd expect most people's lists of interesting D&D monsters to have some overlap with that.

  • Well they did link to the source and I just clicked it and would not have known about it otherwise, so there's that.

  • foolsage

    Linking to the source is nice, but it's not enough. Basically, you cannot take someone else's work and reproduce all of it for your own commercial benefit.

    I cannot, for instance, republish the entire Harry Potter series on my website, even if I give J.K. Rowling full credit. It's still illegal even if I link to her website, or tell you where you could buy the books.

  • Aubenabee

    How is the above the "entirety of someone else's work"? The piece that's been linked to is much longer (~800 words) than the excerpt posted here (~300 words). Plus, the writer here REPEATEDLY directs the pajiba audience toward the original writer's blog.

    It seems like you're just trying to rile people up.

  • foolsage

    The article was edited after my post, as Dustin mentions. NOW it's just an excerpt, yes.

    I'm trying to protect the rights of content creators, and protect a site that I quite enjoy from legal problems. That's the opposite of just trying to rile people up. But thanks for caring!

  • Aubenabee

    Ah, I only saw your comment AFTER the page had been edited. My bad. Thanks for caring about the site.

    That said, I'd imaging that -- strictly speaking -- trying to calm people down is actually the opposite to trying to rile people up ;-)

  • foolsage

    Fair enough. My perspective was that riling results from trouble, which I was seeking to prevent. Anyhow, s'all good.

  • Aubenabee

    Haha. I know (and agree with your perspective). I was just trying to be a little bit of a sh*t.

  • foolsage

    I appreciate that. Carry on. :D

  • Al Borland's Beard

    So, this is like a review inside of a review inside of a review. It's like if Inception had taken place in a Leonard Maltin masturbatory fantasy.

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