Following no fewer than five women coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, Ain’t It Cool News blogger Harry Knowles has announced that he will be taking a leave of absence from the site for ‘therapy, detox, and getting to a better place.’ Knowles now says his sister will take over the day-to-day running of the site, although rumors persist that Knowles is still the one pulling the strings, just under a different name.
After the news of Devin Faraci’s quick and brief return to employment under the Alamo Drafthouse banner following allegations made against him, it was revealed that Knowles would not be attending this year’s Fantastic Fest, possibly hoping to preemptively plug the hole of controversy that soon followed. That obviously didn’t work, and IndieWire’s reporting on this has been exemplary. I heartily recommend you check that out.
Many have talked openly in recent days of the reputation Knowles had in the Austin film community, and of the open secret that was his treatment of women. I cannot speak to the veracity of those points simply because that’s not my community and I have no experience with it. What I can talk about is Knowles’s decades’ long misogyny and leering attitudes towards women in his written work. Over the past couple of days, certain reviews of his have re-emerged as reminders of his unnervingly sexualized approach to everything, from giddily accounting how Claire’s healing abilities in Heroes would make her a perpetual virgin, to comparing Guillermo del Toro’s directorial skills in Blade 2 to cunnilingus. There are more examples out there — all of them too easy to find — so I won’t link to all of them, but the message has been clear for a long time: Harry Knowles is a creep, and the film/review/geek community fostered that for many years for reasons we can only speculate on.
Knowles wielded a lot of power in his circles, something that seems to have been a driving force in his decision making. He knew how to get people to listen to him. He got big name directors to acknowledge his existence. He turned his birthday party into an exclusive event where people would beg to attend. Too many people were willing to sideline obvious concerns and glowing red warning signs because the perception was that Harry Knowles was someone you didn’t want to mess with. He targeted women trying to get a foothold in the industry who feared a negative effect on their careers if they came forward with their stories. Even in 2017, when Ain’t It Cool News held a mere sliver of its previous power, Knowles still benefitted from that ‘king of the geeks’ bullshit. Deifying people never ends well, but in the context of the so-called geek community and its systemic problems with misogyny and cult-like mentalities, it’s proven especially toxic.
Following all of this, Tim League released a statement saying that the company is ‘striving to better respond to allegations of sexual assault and harassment, and will take actions so those who work at the theater or attend as a guest are not made to feel unsafe.’