Lady Problems: Ah, The Old Butter-Rape Controversy

Also: Got a commercially and critically successful show but it’s only watched by women? Cancel it!

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: Last Tango in Paris, an X-rated 1972 French film about a young woman (Maria Schneider) and an old man (Marlon Brando) fucking their heads off that is somehow extremely boring, is back in the news this week after a disturbing clip from an interview with director Bernardo Bertolucci resurfaced. Speaking about the film’s infamous rape scene, in which Brando’s character uses a stick of butter as lubricant before assaulting Schneider’s character, Bertolucci admitted during a 2013 event, “The sequence of the butter is an idea that I had with Marlon in the morning before shooting” — one they didn't bother to forewarn Schneider about. Though he said he felt “horrible” for his treatment of Schneider, he justified his actions by explaining that he “wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress.” “I wanted her to react humiliated,” he added. “I think she hated me and also Marlon because we didn’t tell her. ... To obtain something I think you have to be completely free. I didn’t want Maria to act her humiliation, her rage. I wanted Maria to feel — not to act — the rage and the humiliation. Then she hated me for all of her life.”

In a statement released Monday morning, Bertolucci “clarified” the quote:

“I would like, for the last time, to clear up a ridiculous misunderstanding that continues to generate press reports about Last Tango in Paris around the world. Several years ago at the Cinemathèque Française someone asked me for details on the famous butter scene. I specified, but perhaps I was not clear, that I decided with Marlon Brando not to inform Maria that we would have used butter. We wanted her spontaneous reaction to that improper use [of the butter]. That is where the misunderstanding lies. Somebody thought, and thinks, that Maria had not been informed about the violence on her. That is false! Maria knew everything because she had read the script, where it was all described. The only novelty was the idea of the butter.”

Ah, that old “idea of the butter” defense! In other words, Bertolucci’s like, “She knew we were going to rape her, she just didn’t know it would be with butter, u get me?”

It’s unfortunate that Schneider, who died in 2011, isn’t around to chime in and share her side of the story. Oh, wait. She did share her side, all the way back in 2007, it’s just that nobody gave a shit. In an interview with The Daily Mail about the film’s 35th anniversary, Schneider said, “That scene wasn’t in the original script. The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea. They only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry. I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can’t force someone to do something that isn’t in the script, but at the time, I didn’t know that.”

Schneider, who struggled with depression and drug addiction after the fast fame brought upon her by the film, added that Brando felt no remorse about what he did. “Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie,’ but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears. I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize.”

The Solution: It’s kind of incredible how Bertolucci is unapologetically turning a story about him assaulting a woman into a story about him being “misunderstood.” It’s an important reminder that no limit exists vis-à-vis the narcissistic male mind. But the real story here is that Maria Schneider told The Daily Mail she “felt a little raped” almost a decade ago and everyone was like, “Cool, do you wanna go see Knocked Up this weekend?”

The first thing we all need to do is summon Maria Schneider’s ghost and apologize profusely to her for being total fucking assholes. If anyone knows how to summon a specific ghost without accidentally summoning legions of demon ghosts, please @ me.

Next, we will travel to Italy and summon the living embodiment of Bernardo Bertolucci to a location of our choosing via an invitation from the Butter Council of Italy. We’ll meet him at an indoor basketball court that is completely coated in butter. We will lock him inside and not allow him to leave the premises until he has made 1,972 sick dunks. (Spoiler alert: He will live out the remainder of his days on this butter court.)

Lastly, we will summon the ghost of Marlon Brando to the butter court via the same demon-avoiding methods. When he arrives, we will exclusively ask him questions about his salad-dressing empire. When he angrily explains that he is not Paul Newman, we will laugh at him until he weeps. We will blend his ghost tears with butter, turn this mixture into salad dressing, and sell it to Newman’s Own.

The Lady Problem: Good Girls Revolt is an above-average TV show about women in the ’60s joining forces to combat sexism and discrimination in the workplace, a solid effort at capturing some of Mad Men’s ineffable magic by mixing it with undiluted feminist outrage and selling it to Amazon’s masses. It isn’t the Best Show Ever Made, but it’s good, and entertaining, and particularly resonant in Trump’s America, where women will soon be giving each other coat-hanger abortions at the office.

It’s also, according to Deadline, one of Amazon’s biggest series ever among female viewers, which made up 67 percent of its audience. Writes Nellie Andreeva, “I hear in Women 18–49, Good Girls Revolt delivered the second biggest debut season for an Amazon original series, only behind flagship drama Man in the High Castle, and its completion rate in the female demo was 80 percent.”

It’s also, bafflingly, canceled.

Deadline was the first to report the news late last week, after which BuzzFeed’s Kate Aurthur followed up with executive producer Dana Calvo to get further context. Calvo told Aurthur, “Based on data provided to us from Sony, Symphony Advanced Media reported our show was a hit, and we have loyal viewers. Eighty percent of people who watched the first few minutes of the pilot stayed until the last minutes of the finale. We had twice Transparent’s audience. We were stunned by Amazon’s decision, but heartened and encouraged by Sony’s devotion to the project.”

Later, Calvo told The Hollywood Reporter that the cancellation was largely a result of the whims of Amazon Studios head Roy Price. “What we hadn’t factored in is that Roy Price just doesn’t care for the show,” said Calvo. “He’s representative of the Amazon culture in that he’s just impenetrable. ... All I know is that in the [Season 2] pitch, he asked us to refer to the characters by the actors’ names because he didn’t know the characters’ names.” “Insiders” added that “Price largely was uninvolved with the series — he didn’t attend the premiere or provide episode notes — and didn’t think Good Girls would be an awards contender.”

Meanwhile, guess whose shows have recently been green-lit by Roy Price? David O. Russell, Matthew Weiner, and none other than Lady Problems’s recurring Nightmare Douche, Woody Allen.

The Solution: Lest you think this is merely a classically ruthless move on behalf of Amazon Studios, please recall that Amazon Studios gave a second season to Bosch, for fuck’s sake. Bosch. BOSCH.

The fact that Good Girls Revolt was canceled after bringing in hordes of new female viewers for Amazon is nothing less than your basic Dude In Charge Of Stuff Doesn’t Fucking Get It. It’s sort of a dark microcosm of the election, really: A popular show about women trying to break the glass ceiling gets canceled a few weeks after America is like, “No thanks! We’re good with our glass ceiling, which is really a glass floor for those of us who swung the vote. Easier to see the depths of Hades this way.”

Good Girls Revolt’s leads — Anna Camp, Genevieve Angelson, and Erin Darke — have spent the past week tweeting at fans to help them save the show, and according to THR, several networks are interested. So there’s still hope that the non–Roy Prices of the world will recognize that it’s valuable to have programming that women enjoy, because women are people, even though we look like sexy hood ornaments. It’s a common mistake!

The clear solution here is to only allow Roy Price to stream Bosch on repeat for the rest of his life, interspersed with episodes of Kevin Can Wait and home videos of Woody Allen clipping his toenails into a towel on the edge of the toilet seat.