The main thing men have lost—I mean the great mass of men who remain, as of this writing, employed and undisgraced—is any credible claim of innocence. You can see as much in the anxious eagerness to change the subject from the actual suffering of women to the imaginary discomfort of men. When we cower in fear of a witch hunt, we are refusing to acknowledge the abundant evidence of our own complicity. At the very least, a lot of us have been guilty of incuriosity, of suspecting that a boss or colleague or admired cultural figure was probably doing some bad stuff to women but choosing not to think about it. We are also guilty of supporting the cults of personality that kept those guys in power with impunity. Mario Batali’s exuberance and lack of inhibition; Lorin Stein’s mimicry of an idea of rakish style plundered from 1962; Leon Wieseltier’s swaggering imperiousness—none of those attributes are quite separable from their grossness, which means that the grossness was always implicitly part of the brand. Everyone remembers the “grab ’em by the pussy” part of the Access Hollywood tape. Less quoted is the “When you’re a star” explanation, possibly because few of us care to admit that it’s an accurate description of the workings of male entitlement. The more power you have, the more you can get away with it.
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That is a system we’ve all bought into, whether or not we have grabbed anyone. Those of us who haven’t depend on those who have to reassure us that we’re the nice guys, and also, perhaps, to turn our relative impotence into a virtue. “I would never do that” may be another way of saying, “I could never get away with it.”
A.O. Scott is the Cochief film critic at The New York Times.