Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times published a roundtable video featuring various actresses from Oscar-buzzy films. One moment from that session has been making the rounds on the internet. In the video, Kate Winslet, the star of Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel, was asked about the “outsized” tone of the film and took the opportunity to gush about Allen.
A tweet capturing the seemingly muted horror of Winslet’s co-panelists—including Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening, and Jessica Chastain— went viral. But it’s worth examining the clip more closely.
Woody Allen is an extraordinary writer and he’s obviously known for having created extraordinary roles, very powerful, complicated roles for women for many, many, many years and to join that lineage of incredible actresses made me feel terrified and also immensely privileged, and it was a responsibility as well.
She went on to talk about Allen’s “effervescence” and “enthusiasm” as the five other white women politely glared at her. As dismaying it is to hear people continue to rave about a famed alleged sexual predator, it’s not shocking to hear from Kate Winslet, who has been singing Allen’s praises since she joined the cast of Wonder Wheel.
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Not only has Winslet discussed the process of ignoring sexual abuse allegations in order to work with Allen and tried to claim that “on some level, Woody is a woman,” but she has also randomly and inexplicably commended Roman Polanski as well—all while condemning Harvey Weinstein, whose real sin appears to be acting “rude” and not being “well-behaved.” So sure, it’s crazy and gross and extremely hypocritical that Winslet is still out here trying to defend Allen and his art.
But there are two other real problems with the clip. The first, obviously, is that the questioner is asking inane things about the “tone” of Wonder Wheel as if Woody Allen is just another director. It’s hard to find a better example of media complicity. The second is the fact that none of the other people on the panel actually call Winslet out.
It’s an interestingly and hilariously transparent moment of paralysis, one that has earned the other white women and their funny faces praise on the internet. Clearly the rest of the women are skeptical of Winslet’s claims—they might even be maddened at the assertion that Allen has “obviously” created great roles for women considering his past abuse. They clearly don’t want to go down this road with Winslet, but Winslet continues to drag them to hell, unfazed. (Poor Jessica Chastain gets singled out when Winslet refers to working with Aaron Sorkin, who wrote and directed the movie Chastain is currently promoting.)
But these women are also not doing shit about it. They’re just sitting there not visually affirming her. No one is actually questioning Winslet (that we know of, since the clip is only a four minute excerpt). And it’s that silence that’s the most damaging, a symbol of the intricate system that allows sexual harassment to be so rooted in Hollywood.
Calling Winslet out would have obviously been controversial, and difficult. But this is a moment that requires difficult decisions. All we see here are five white women desperate to be seen as not complicit in the praise of an alleged sexual predator, making funny faces at Kate Winslet but ultimately doing nothing about it. Just a lot of tense air with nothing to actually show for it. But I’m sure they will all look great in black, the official color of protesting sexual harassment in Hollywood, at the Golden Globes.