TV & Movies

Dear Jason Bateman, Please Stop Talking

Because the message you're *really* sending is that complaining about abuse is somehow worse than being abusive

The actor Jason Bateman shown against a red background. He is shown from the shoulders up and is wearing a black vinyl bomber jacket and slate blue shirt.

(Photo: Rex)

Jason Bateman, I have a dramatic scenario for you.

Imagine you’re an industry veteran stuck in a room full of flippant, insincere and utterly indifferent colleagues, all of whom are so hyper-anxious to defend the right of a self-confessed bully to harass you that you can’t get a word in edgewise. Conjure those demons for a moment, would you? Because then you might understand how your Arrested Development co-star Jessica Walter felt during that now-notorious cast interview with the New York Times.

Now consider how the millions of women who’ve been in Jessica’s shoes felt watching this transpire, and you might get why so many of your female fans would like to cancel you. (For the record, I just want to watch Jeffrey Tambor lose his shit on you and see how grateful you feel afterwards.)

But enough about you, let’s talk about Walter. Because she didn’t get much of a chance to talk. In fact, when reporter Sopan Deb asked her about the verbal abuse she suffered at the hands of Jeffrey Tambor—an incident that Tambor confessed to in a prior interview to deflect from the allegations of sexual harassment that got him turfed from Transparent—everybody started laughing.

But you know what made matters worse, Jason? You started talking. You joked that everybody has yelled at Walter, so haha! To her credit, Walter didn’t take the bait, but called out the falseness of your joke immediately, replying, “You’ve never yelled at me like that.”

But that didn’t chasten you, did it?

“This is a family,” you declared, seemingly appointing yourself the 77-year-old Walter’s Daddy, “and families, you know, have love, laughter, arguments, again not to belittle it, but a lot of stuff happens in 15 years.”

What does Walter think about that? We’ll never know, because that’s when Will Arnett and David Cross swooped in to defend Tambor, in some perverse parody of the Three Musketeers. Arnett made a crack about keying your car, and Cross decided to praise Tambor, saying, “You know what Jeffrey has said a number of times that I think is important… is that he learned from the experience and he’s listening and learning and growing. That’s important to remember.”

To be fair, Tambor does seem to be listening. Too bad he’s listening to you and Cross and Arnett shrug off his admittedly horrible behaviour at the expense of Walter. I wonder what he’s learning from that?

Of course, that this might have been the time to listen to Walter and the other woman in the room, Alia Shawkat, didn’t dawn on any of the men of Arrested Development. That’s because they were too busy reminding the ladies that this is the way it is, without stopping to wonder why they’re so anxious to keep it that way.

“I can say that no matter what anybody in this room has ever done… I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I have zero complaints,” you said.

I’m going to conjure my inner In Touch writer and speculate that the primary reason you, Jason Bateman, don’t have any complaints is because Jeffrey Tambor knows that if he made you cry there would be consequences. That blowing up at Walter was a safe gamble reveals the bully’s canny estimation of the status quo. And, Jason? You may not be aware of it, but when you tell a woman to be grateful and to have “zero complaints”—even when she has a very valid complaint, actually—the message you’re really sending is that complaining about abuse is somehow worse than being abusive.

The most upsetting part of the interview to me, though, wasn’t your persistent jerky chatter or the mindless complicity of your male co-stars. It was the moment when a defeated Walters looked to New York Times reporter, Sopan Deb for help. Concerned that the interview was being derailed by the men in the room, Walter tried to put the focus back on the issue of workplace abuse by asking, “What was your point about that, though?”

That’s a great question. What’s the point of this whole conversation about Tambor? And the issues of abuse it brings up, particularly within the workplace? Unbidden (again) you raised your hand, Jason. Your answer in a nutshell? The industry breeds bad behaviour. That’s just the way it is.

The only one who had the nerve to take issue with your logic was 29-year-old Shawkat. “But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. And the point is that things are changing, and people need to respect each other differently.”

Is that the point? God, I hope so. I’ll even add, I hope it’s not different but equal respect. But you didn’t seem convinced, Jason. Neither did Arnett or Cross. Instead, like a lot of men, you all seemed irritated and bored by the female experience and the female point of view. You even seem a bit angry about it. And that’s part of the problem—you all appeared to care about the wrong thing (protecting Tambor’s right to do whatever the hell he wants as part of his “process”) and not enough about the right thing (Walter’s right to be respected and to feel safe at work).

I will give you one thing, though, Jason. That really is the status quo. I just wouldn’t defend it.

What’s worse, you’re still talking. This morning, you tweeted out a lengthy apology for “mansplaining” and trying to “fix” the situation. But to my ears, you still don’t know what you’re trying to fix or why. Because I don’t think you’re invested in Tambor’s unprofessionalism and abusiveness as much as you are in the power dynamic that lets him go too far, not because he’s a “difficult” artist or product of a dysfunctional star system, but simply because he’s a man. And that’s because you benefit from those embarrassingly low standards yourself. No wonder you have “zero complaints.”

Time to grow up, Jason (and Will, and David). Your development, has thus far been arrested. And just like the series you’re promoting, it isn’t funny anymore.


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