Sunday, September 29, 2019

“Me Too” and the Arts

Like so many concepts, ideas and even laws, good intentions often have unintended repercussions.  The idea was or is that if enough people (95% women) say they were sexually harassed then it would call attention to the issue.

The principle that people should not take advantage of others is undeniable but there are always people who do so be it for money, real estate or sex.  The issue is the fact that the humans are built to be attracted to each other for the perpetuation of the species and one must initiate the interaction making the other the victim, if you will.  Of course, in the modern age, we expect the overture not be pursued if unrequited. 

Where that boundary is, is not my concern here. What I find a tragedy is that we are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The situation has become so toxic that we have lost too much talent as organizations are frightened to continue association with any accused individual.

 I am sure that the sex drive has something to do with ambition, success and the sense of power.  We have a perfect example of this in our president, --you know what he has said about and done to women but with no repercussions.  He is certainly not the first and won’t be the last.  One of my heroes, President John F. Kennedy, was a famous womanizer as well.  In fact, I knew one woman whose apartment in New York he stayed at regularly, who complained that every time he came to stay in the apartment, he had a different woman with him!

But look at all the good people we have lost in this frenzy to change others’ behavior. One of the saddest “Me Too” victims was James Levine, Music Director at the Metropolitan Opera for 40 years.  Levine was fired as Music Director Emeritus the day after the New York Times published allegations of his sexually harassing several performers early in their careers, male by the way.  Am I saying that is OK? Of course not, but this came out in 2017 about events that happened from the 60’s to the 80’s. It seems trial and punishment with the trial missing.  Banishment from music as orchestras elsewhere have followed suit? That is not only a life sentence for the performer but also punishment for all who enjoyed his talent. Levine sued the Met for defamation and breach of contract and a settlement was recently reached but I resent the fact that Levine was not allowed to continue to conduct.

James Levine still conducting from his wheel chair

On January 2, 2018 Senator Al Franken resigned from the House after allegations of sexual harassment.  He denied that one of these accusations ever happened but was obviously complicit in a photo of him on a military transport coming from a USO tour during his earlier career as a comedian.  He posed as if about to put his hands on a woman’s breasts when she is clearly asleep but wearing at least three  layers of clothing, including what seems to be a life vest There is no question that this photo is in bad taste but  is in keeping with his humor as a contributor to Saturday Night Live where he often pushed the boundaries of taste.  I do not believe it was justification for the Democrats to force out one of their most dedicated and effective colleagues in the Senate.

Just this past week one of “The Three Tenors”, Placido Domingo, arguably the three most famous opera singers of our time has left the Metropolitan Opera.  The New York Times reported “The star singer, accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, dropped out of Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’ and indicated he would not return to the Met”.  An excerpt from Domingo’s statement “I strongly dispute recent allegations made about me, and I am concerned about a climate in which people are condemned without due process” echoes my concern.

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