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