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Down With Matt Damon And All Other Men Like Him

Matt Damon spoke on ABC News last week about the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, who produced Damon’s breakout film “Goodwill Hunting,” Louis CK, who he calls himself a “fan” of, and the recently resigned senator Al Franken. This interview should be the beginning of the end of Damon’s career.

In a conversation with Peter Travers, Damon reacted at length to the recent outpouring of sexual harassment accusations leveled at famous men. Damon spoke about the “watershed moment” of “women who are empowered to tell their stories” for exactly fifteen seconds (I counted.) For the next fifteen minutes and 46 seconds, Damon said the following things:

On the “spectrum of behavior” within sexual assault: “You know, here’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?”

On the fact that nobody’s “perfect”: “And we live in this culture of outrage and injury, and, you know, that we’re going to have to correct enough to kind of go, ‘Wait a minute. None of us came here perfect.’”

On how he’s positive “nobody knew”: “Nobody who made movies for [Harvey Weinstein] knew [about the rape allegations.]”

On reading nothing about the Louis CK allegations other than the comedian’s statement: “The Louis C.K. thing, I don’t know all the details. I don’t do deep dives on this, but I did see his statement … When he came out and said, ‘I did this. I did these things. These women are all telling the truth.’ And I just remember thinking, “Well, that’s the sign of somebody who — well, we can work with that.”

On touching a sleeping woman’s breasts as a “joke”:
“When you see Al Franken taking a picture putting his hands on that woman’s flak jacket and mugging for the camera, going like that, you know, that is just like a terrible joke, and it’s not funny.”

On the actions Damon would take if he were accused of sexual assault: “I’d go, ‘I don’t care if it costs $10 million to fight this in court with you for 10 years, you are not taking my name from me. You are not taking my name and my reputation from me. I’ve worked too hard for it. And I earned it. You can’t just blow me up like that.’”

Damon brought up a few great points during the interview. He said that every woman he knows could tell a personal story about sexual harassment. He voiced a very real concern that the message being sent to men accused of harassment is “deny it, because if you take responsibility for what you did, your life’s going to get ruined. But if you deny it, you can be in the White House, you can be the president.” But mostly, Damon constantly deflected the idea that sexual assault is enmeshed in our culture and raged against women who are angry that they will be the constant targets of assault and harassment because of that culture.

The actor defended, sympathized with, or distanced himself from every prominent man who has been accused of sexual crimes in the past few months. Weinstein? “Nobody knew”. C.K.? Unfairly punished. Franken? Just joking. Spacey? Cut out of movies as a “business decision;” still a great actor. A hypothetical sexist colleague? “as long nobody’s committing a crime — well, that’s your life, and you go live it.” Women angry about assault? “Let’s all grow together and move on.”

Nobody, not even the angry feminist writing this article, wants their dad or brother or husband’s life to be ruined by an untrue or true sexual assault allegation. Nobody thinks pinching a woman’s butt should have the same consequence as rape. Nobody wants to live in a world where sexual assault is trial by rumor, instead of by jury. Nobody. But the men who are now taking it upon themselves to explain away accusations, deny blame and generally hurry us through this historical moment while covering their tracks by presenting themselves as general “good guys” must stop. Men presenting themselves as voices of reason while tacitly supporting assaulters are standing in the way of a movement.

Many of Matt Damon’s assertions are true and legitimate. But Damon’s main argument in this interview was that accused assaulters are not that bad, social and professional punishments for accused assaulters are unfair, and that women are hysterical. Why are Damon and so many other powerful, likable white men, suddenly such fonts of righteous opinions about the unfair nature of sexual assault accusations?

I don’t remember Matt Damon dedicating the other 47 years of his life to bringing attention to the sexual assaults that happen every 98 seconds in America.

I don’t remember the men I know who are suddenly spewing complaints about due process complaining about the fact that for every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free.

It’s not enough to say down with Harvey Weinstein.

Down with Matt Damon. Down with all men like Matt Damon, who have never been accused of sexual assault or harassment but use their platforms to keep men safe and women too ashamed to speak out.

Down with men who recognize our culture of “outrage and injury” but not our culture of rape.

Down with men who read harassers’ apologies but not their alleged victims’ accusations.

Down with men who are more worried about other men being unfairly accused than they have ever, ever been about women being attacked.

Down with men who make movies starring only one woman and work almost exclusively with male creatives.

Down with men who talk about “due process” as if the criminal justice system is built to handle rape cases.

Down with men who think that Harvey Weinstein’s alleged extreme actions set a standard by which all other forms of harassment are comparatively not that bad.

Down with men who help other men by defending their “jokes.” Down with men who feel that they have the right to tell women what funny is.

Down with men who think there are just “a few rotten apples” out there.

Down with men who are telling women women “have to move on.”

Up with male allies. But down with this kind of man.

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny


Move Over, ‘Maccabeats’! These Are The Best Hanukkah Music Videos Of 2017

2010 was a happy time. The great recession was more or less over and Julia Louis-Dreyfus was getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When the then-Yeshiva University a cappella group The Maccabeats released a Hanukkah themed parody of “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz that went viral, ultimately garnering over 13 million views, the Jewish world was thrilled. An all-male Orthodox vocal group with no instruments climbing the Billboard holiday charts and accepting invitations to the WhiteHouse? It was a sign of the times! The Maccabeats became the final word in Hanukkah song parodies.

But an entire “Harry Potter” movie series has come and gone since those halcyon days. And the Maccabeats 2017 Hanukkah song, while aurally pleasing as always, is curiously devoid of references to the holiday and is instead a musical ode to the band’s many successes. Of course we wish next year in Jerusalem, or at least in YouTube stardom, for the group, but who will fill the role of Best Hanukkah Music Video, 2017?

The Maccabeats’ entry this year:

Enter: the challengers.

The clear front-runner for this year’s Best Hanukkah Song Parody is the professional a cappella group Six13, who released a throwback ’90s Hanukkah mashup that clearly aims to swipe The Maccabeats’ crown. With crystal-clear vocals and choreography lovingly ripped directly from *NSYNC, this wins Best Overall Hanukkah Music Video, 2017.

What happened to the a cappella community at Yeshiva University after The Maccabeats decamped to pursue fame full-time? The Y-Studs are now the premier Yeshiva U “elite all-male a cappella group,” and their Hanukkah music video is such a radical departure from the normal oily YouTube fare as to be a little astonishing. It’s an a cappella cover of Andra Day’s “Rise Up” over a timely fable of anti-Semitism, isolation and Jewish community. This is clearly the Most Moving Hanukkah Music Video, 2017.

Is it possible that a part-time morning radio DJ named Young Jeffrey wrote the best Hanukkah parody of the year? A great miracle can happen here, there and everywhere, and it seems to have happened recently on a Seattle-area morning talkshow, “Brooke and Jubal In The Morning,” where “Young Jeffrey” calmly laid down one of the greatest Jewish parodies I have ever heard.

“This Is How We Jew It” plays on Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It.” Favorite lines include “poppin’ bottles of Manischewitz on ice/with my fellow Semites” and “just talkin’ smack in the cul de sac.” How does this parody avoid the generic Jewish imagery and nasty Jewish stereotyping to which so many Jewish parody songs have fallen prey in the past? I do not know. It must be a miracle. All I know is that this is The Cleverest Hanukkah Parody Song, 2017.

All in all, a strong year for Hanukkah music videos. But why is the Jewish parody game such a boys’ club? Next Hanukkah, we expect to see equal representation.

You’re on notice, ladies. You have one year.

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

The Schmooze

9 Best Jewish Rage Tweets — Starting With Roy Moore’s ‘Jewish Attorney’

Biblically, Christianity is a religion of forgiveness and selfless love. Judaism? Less so. According to our oldest sacred texts we have an angry God and we are an angry people. We strike death blows on Egyptians. We gouge out the eyes of our enemies. We kill 200 Philistines and take their foreskins as spoils. Today the Jews are angrier, and funnier than ever.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of all of the Jews who were enraged this week:

The Jew lawyer in all of us:

Jews who recognize seasonal literature when they see it:

Jews who like Christmas but not scapegoating:

Friends of the Jews:

Jews who refused to let their location keep them from their tradition:

Sarcastic Jews:

Just Jews who are being Jews:

Furious Jews retreating other furious Jews

Jews who are succinct:

And finally, not rage, just rabbits:

Happy Hanukkah! May your rage burn on long after the eight nights are complete.

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

The Schmooze

Seth Rogen Isn’t An Imprisoned Terrorist In Cahoots With Miley Cyrus, Despite Rumor

Seth Rogen isn’t a terrorist who has long planned a presidential assassination along with Miley Cyrus and James Franco. If he was working with Miley Cyrus we would know — his movies would have more women in them! (I’m going for a tone of light humor that nevertheless seethes with feminist rage here. How’m I doing?) Nevertheless, today an extreme right-wing website accused “Rogan,” Cyrus, and Franco of conspiring to murder the president in a large scale terrorist attack. “Liberalism is, in fact, a mental disorder,” the writer of the article reflects sadly.

Rogen took to Twitter today to soothe his fans who may have been riled by this story. Rogen, who may be this generation’s Mandela (I kid,) reassures fans that his captors allow him phone-access in his cell. “Haha,” he adds, and we heartily second the sentiment.

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny


‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi,’ The Year’s Best Journalism And More To Read, Watch And Do This Weekend

Happy Hanukkah! To those who feel the best present possible would be a new, apparently very good “Star Wars” film: Mazel tov. To those who are less keen on the Force: You’ve got plenty of other options with which to celebrate. Read on for the best things to read, watch and do this weekend in New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.

1) Watch

Did we mention “Star Wars: The Last Jedi?” If you’d like a primer on the complicated meanings of the “Star Wars” franchise for Jews, look to Seth Rogovoy’s “Secret Jewish History of ‘Star Wars’” and Noah Berlatksy’s account of the series’ difficult history with Nazi influences. If you have the Christmas spirit, tune into Fox’s “A Christmas Story Live!” starring Matthew Broderick and Maya Rudolph and featuring music by Benj Pasek — a member of this year’s Forward 50 — and Justin Paul: A very Jewish Christmas, indeed. And if you’re inspired by Dan Friedman’s remembrance of Theda Bara, “the original vamp,” seek out some silent films; sadly, none of Bara’s have been preserved.

2) Read

Among the many lists of the year’s best artistic achievements, spare some time for reflections on the year’s best journalism. (Yes, I’m biased.) Longform has assembled lists of the year’s best work in a variety of genres; the ten articles they’ve deemed best of the year include The New York Times and The New Yorker’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein and Rachel Aviv’s examination in The New Yorker of a scheme to rob the elderly of their rights.

While Longreads hasn’t yet released their full best-of list, their top stories from each week of 2017 include Reeves Wiedeman’s New York Magazine profile of Brace Belden, a San Francisco Jew who joined Kurdish forces to fight ISIS, and Luke O’Brien’s profile of Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin in The Atlantic. I’ll add two stories to those lists, both moving personal essays published in The New Yorker: Stephen Greenblatt’s meditation on reading “The Merchant of Venice” as a Jew, and Kathryn Schulz’s lyrical exploration of the experience of loss.

3) New York City

Constant revelations of powerful men allegedly sexually harassing and/or assaulting women got you down? Find some complicated solace in The Brooklyn Museum’s exhibit “Roots of ‘The Dinner Party:’ History in the Making,” a dive into how Judy Chicago and her collaborators created the enormous feminist masterwork for which she’s best known. While laudatory of the artworks’ mission and creation, the new exhibit is frank about its shortcomings, including its notable sidelining of women of color. (In many mainstream feminist conversations, that issue remains contemporary.) For pure enjoyment, on Saturday stop by Housing Works Bookstore Cafe for a marathon reading of “A Christmas Carol” featuring Jami Attenberg, Maris Kreizman and Lisa Lucas. On Sunday evening, Film Forum will screen Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “Cleopatra,” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; the four-hour-long epic is always worth viewing.

4) Washington D.C.

Escapism rules in D.C. this weekend, as well: Don’t miss “An American in Paris,” choreographed and directed by the marvelous Christopher Wheeldon and featuring songs by George and Ira Gerswhin, during its run at the Kennedy Center. Also worth attending is Theater J’s “The Last Night of Ballyhoo,” Alfred Uhry’s play about Atlanta German Jews confronting their ideas about their identities at the beginning of World War II. On Monday, head to the Edlavitch DCJCC for “On My Mind/In My Heart: The Voices of Women in Public Housing;” ticket purchases will benefit Empower DC in its work to create more affordable housing in the area.

5) Chicago

Don’t miss “Beautiful: The Carol King Musical” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, where it runs through January 28. There’s also a great deal to see at the Chicago Architecture Biennial; start at the Chicago Cultural Center, the entirety of which has been given over to the event, and move out to other venues, including the Hyde Park Art Center and Dusable Museum of African American History.

6) Los Angeles

The residents of Southern California really, truly need a break. On Sunday, take one, and catch the Klezmatics at the Valley Performing Arts Center. If that’s not quite your style, head to American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre for a double feature of the Irving Berlin-scored “White Christmas” and “Holiday Inn.”

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