Lady Problems is a weekly column that looks at how the entertainment industry — and its corresponding culture and constituents — is treating women in a given week. (Hint: It will almost always be “poorly.”) Every Thursday we’ll review the week's most significant woman-centric conflicts, then provide a brilliant solution to each problem that nobody in Hollywood will ever listen to or enforce.
The Lady Problem: We talk about Woody Allen a lot in Lady Problems, and that’s because he’s continuing to enjoy a beautiful life of making dumb-ass films for millions of dollars and boning his de facto daughter despite the fact that he is almost supernaturally monstrous. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into Woody Allen.
This week, joining the long line of reverent Woody Allen apologists — a disorderly queue that includes Blake Lively, Kristen Stewart, Miley Cyrus, every man in Hollywood, The Guardian, and your grandfather — is sentient block of Colby Jack Justin Timberlake. In an embarrassingly self-congratulatory interview with Variety (appropriately filed under “Justin Timberlake, Trolls, Woody Allen”), Timberlake tells a story ’bout the call that changed his destiny, namely, when probable child molester Woody Allen picked up the phone and inexplicably asked Timberlake (he of Trolls soundtrack fame) to star in his latest masturbatory episode masquerading as cinema.
Here are some of the things Timberlake says about Allen in the piece, all while chugging Vesper martinis and acting like Trolls was not extremely rude:
• “I was terrified all day today, dude. All day I’m thinking about what Woody was going to say to me on set, like, ‘Man, he’s gonna annihilate me.’ I think we all have a level of anxiety. I have it. I’ve had panic attacks.”
• On being offered a part by Allen: “Literally, it’s embarrassing.” (I think this is an attempt at the quality humans recognize as “humble.”)
• “Woody, Jonathan ... I’m literally working with all my heroes. It’s leading me to drinking.”
• Timberlake refuses to talk about the project in any detail “in the interest of keeping my job until the end of principal photography.”
Oh, Justin Timberlake. How deeply I used to love you. Another thing Timberlake says is ... this: “I wouldn’t say [my new material] is the antithesis of 20/20 but it does sound more singular. If 20/20 sounded like it literally surrounds your entire head, this stuff feels more like it just punches you between the eyes.”
Timberlake also adds that he’s grown as a man over the years because he’s now able to admit when he doesn’t know something. “You’ll notice I say ‘I don’t know’ a lot. And you know the reason why? Because I don’t fucking know! I’ve realized that I don’t really know anything, and when you realize that, you realize a lot.”
The Solution: O RLY? DO YOU REALIZE A LOT, BRO? Did you realize that you’re aggressively propping up an accused sexual predator and also that your hair used to look like this in real life?
You know who else has had panic attacks, JT? Dylan Farrow, who wrote in the New York Times that “each time I saw my abuser’s face — on a poster, on a t-shirt, on television — I could only hide my panic until I found a place to be alone and fall apart.” She also wrote that she’s “stricken with nausea at the mention of his name” in a “world that celebrates [my] tormentor.”
You know who Allen drove to self-destructive behavior, JT? Dylan Farrow, who was “stricken with guilt that I had allowed [Allen] to be near other little girls,” who became “terrified of being touched by men,” “developed an eating disorder,” and “began cutting myself.”
The only solution here — outside of impatiently waiting for Woody Allen to choke on his own dick — is to literally surround Timberlake’s entire head with Troll dolls designed in his image. Once he is deeply ensconced inside a veritable helmet made of bejeweled plastic Timbermen, each of them will spring to life and, one by one, begin punching him between the eyes. When he emerges, the bridge of his nose purple and the rotini texture of his late-’90s hair permanently restored, he will be shown to the door of Au Fudge, Jessica Biel’s fancy restaurant for rich kids. He will live out the rest of his days alone at a tiny table for two (children), eating pan-roasted blue lake haricot verts and paying full price ($8) each time.
The Lady Problem: This week, the New York Post previewed actress Tippi Hedren’s new memoir, Tippi, in which she describes some seriously horrifying behavior on the part of her longtime director Alfred Hitchcock. After discovering Hedren in a meal-replacement-shake commercial in the early 1960s, Hitchcock famously tracked her down and signed her for a five-year movie contract, which included The Birds and Marnie. But Hitchcock’s interest in Hedren quickly veered out of the realm of the professional and into the (much-frequented, especially in ’60s Hollywood) realm of sexual harassment.
According to the Post’s summary of Hedren’s writing, it began when “Hitchcock would drive past her home, had her handwriting analyzed, and asked her to touch him.” Before filming on The Birds even began, “the director warned Hedren’s castmates, particularly the handsome Rod Taylor, not to socialize with or ‘touch The Girl,’” and “on set, every time Hitch saw Hedren laughing or talking with a man, he would turn ‘icy’ and ‘petulant’ and fix her with an ‘expressionless, unwavering stare ... even if he was talking to a group of people on the other side of the soundstage.’”
While directing a scene between Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief, Hitchcock allegedly told Hedren “about getting an erection,” and later, Hitchcock “threw himself on top of” Hedren and tried to kiss her while the two were in the back of his limo. While filming Marnie, Hitchcock “installed a secret door that connected his office with her dressing room and had the makeup department create a life mask of her face — not as a prop for the movie, but just for him to own.”
Finally, writes Hedren, Hitchcock showed up in her dressing room and “put his hands on me. It was sexual, it was perverse. The harder I fought him, the more aggressive he became.”
As Jezebel reports, Hedren has spoken out in the past about Hitchcock’s sexual harassment, though never with this level of detail; a few years ago, she told the audience at a Television Critics Association event, “I had not talked about this issue with Alfred Hitchcock to anyone. Because all those years ago, it was still the studio kind of situation. Studios were the power. And I was at the end of that, and there was absolutely nothing I could do legally whatsoever. There were no laws about this kind of a situation. If this had happened today, I would be a very rich woman.”
The Solution: Seeing as Hitchcock is dead as fuck, this particular Lady Problem cannot be solved in the manner of Timberlake, Allen, et al. What can be addressed, though, is the fact that this sort of twisted director/muse relationship — and by “relationship,” I mean “that thing where a man in a position of power wields said power over women in disturbing ways” — isn’t just a relic of the past. I’m talking to you, Michael Bay. And you, David O. Russell. And you, John Hughes! Wait, no, you’re dead too.
The “tortured, brilliant male whose sexual aggression and general mindfuckery is accepted as part and parcel of his genius” is a tired trope that Hollywood has entertained for far too long. I think it’s high time we turn the tables, at least temporarily, just to make our point. On Kathryn Bigelow’s next set, she will glue herself to Jeremy Renner’s back for the duration of filming. On the set of A Wrinkle in Time, Ava DuVernay will commission a to-scale animatronic figurine of Zach Galifianakis and, between takes, she will mount it and ride it to craft services. Sofia Coppola will travel back in time to the filming of A Very Murray Christmas and, every time Bill Murray speaks to Miley Cyrus off camera, she will blow up a Christmas tree.