But at the heart of the matter were these two stories. Until very recently, audiences preferred one that allowed Allen to continue making films, films in which comparatively helpless young women willingly entered into relationships with older, more powerful men.
This summer and last fall, when my marriage imploded very quietly, I spent the little free time I had jogging in the park near my Brooklyn apartment, trying, I guess, to understand my own story, 3.3 miles at a time. While I was running I listened to “You’re Wrong About,” an irreverent and sharp podcast that often talks about maligned women from the 80s, 90s and 00s – Anna Nicole Smith, Tonya Harding, Janet Jackson, Monica Lewinsky, a half – dozen more.
These stories have a wide variety of hairs in terms of individual guilt, but in any case, popular culture has found a way to blame the woman, often to excuse a more blameworthy man. Take, for example, Janet Jackson’s Nipplegate, a scandal that never touched Justin Timberlake. Or Monica Lewinsky, described as a slut, as if it somehow reverses the outrageous imbalance of power in Bill Clinton’s relationship with her. It is reminiscent of another lesson I learned from the media of the ’80s and’ 90s: the only good victim is a perfect victim. Otherwise, it was probably his fault.
This particular narrative reappears in the recent documentary “Framing Britney Spears”. This film shows the turn-of-the-century media panting to tell the story of a star acting inappropriately, a party girl going wild when she should have been at home. “Britney: Out of Control,” read a cover of Us Weekly. Who is in control? Ideally, the tabloid framing poses the Spears spiral to its own bare feet. It avoids attacking the people who hold real power, magazine editors and record label executives who shaped, monitored and profited from its image.
I asked Sarah Marshall, journalist and host of “You’re wrong”, why popular culture likes to portray women as accomplices and deserving of contempt. “It justifies subjugating them,” she said. “If women are randomly slaughtered for possessing what we consider to be an alarming degree of power, even if they don’t, then maybe they will be more afraid of the way they are. ‘exercise.