Terry Gilliam Rudely Insists Upon Ruining Terry Gilliam For All Of Us, Probably Forever
Terry Gilliam, as a person, is not entirely unlike his most notorious box office flop, "The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen." You want to like it, it has good people in it, you like the overall premise, but as soon as it starts, you just want it to stop, because it's bad and embarrassing and honestly pretty boring. Also it's about a guy who makes up a bunch of bullshit in hopes of getting people to pity him.
In an interview published today at The Independent about his new film, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," Gilliam sounded not entirely unlike every garbage man we have ever profiled here:
By his own admission, Terry Gilliam is offensive. But it's not his fault, it's yours. "People work so hard to be offended now," he says with a grin. "I don't know why I'm doing it. It's not fun anymore." He seems to be enjoying himself today, though. The more incendiary his opinion – that the #MeToo movement is a witch hunt; that white men are the real victims; that actually, it's women who hold all the power – the bigger that smile.
I mean, it's not even original. At the very least, you would think Terry Gilliam would be able to find a creative and unique way of sounding like a racist, sexist bag of dicks, but no. I'm not "offended," I'm just bored. I can't tell you how many times I've read a missive from an angry white dude complaining about how no one will let him be "offensive" or complaining about the #MeToo movement, or wanting to know when White Men's History Month is, or going on about how actually, it's white men who are oppressed. It's so, so boring. It's tiresome.
Behold, the classic "NO ONE WILL LET ME BE MANLY" trope:
"Don Quixote is a mad man," says Gilliam, who has reluctantly deigned to talk about the film for a moment, "but his view of the world is a noble one. It's about chivalry. It's about rescuing maidens. All these wonderful ideas." The film flits between the 17th century and the 21st. Is it about the clash between modern masculinity and old-fashioned ideals of manhood?
"There's no room for modern masculinity, I'm told," says Gilliam. "'The male gaze is over,'" he adds, letting his derisive air quotes hover for a moment.
His invention of a cool girl character of the type who would be too weak to be responsible for opening her own doors (because chivalry!), but strong enough to "stiff upper lip" a sexual assault, I guess:
He was trying to make a point with Angelica, though. Played by Joana Ribeiro, Angelica is a young woman who was in Toby's film when she was 15. He told her she could be a star, but hasn't spoken to her in the years since, and her attempts to make good on his prediction have failed. Now, she works as a model and an escort.
"In the age of #MeToo, here's a girl who takes responsibility for her state," says Gilliam. "Whatever happened in this character's life, she's not accusing anybody. We're living in a time where there's always somebody responsible for your failures, and I don't like this. I want people to take responsibility and not just constantly point a finger at somebody else, saying, 'You've ruined my life.'"
Of course, as far as we know, this Angelica character — unlike the women speaking out with the #MeToo — was not sexually assaulted. There is something pretty sinister in comparing a girl who was "told she'd be a star" one time and did not end up being one to people who were actually raped.
Speaking of which, guess who Terry Gilliam doesn't think needs to take any responsibility for his actions?
Isn't it a bigger problem that men are refusing to take responsibility for abusing women, and abusing their power? "No. When you have power, you don't take responsibility for abusing others. You enjoy the power. That's the way it works in reality."
And then that phrase comes up. Witch hunt. "Yeah, I said #MeToo is a witch hunt," he says. There's a silence. "I really feel there were a lot of people, decent people, or mildly irritating people, who were getting hammered. That's wrong. I don't like mob mentality. These were ambitious adults."
You will notice that he does not name names.
Now, if I thought that there was someone who got #MeToo'd simply for being "mildly irritating" rather than sexually harassing or assaulting someone, I think I'd say who that person was! It's pretty crappy of Terry Gilliam to keep this to himself, don't you think? He should be working to clear that "mildly irritating" person's name. I know I would hate it if we accidentally compared someone who hummed all of the time to someone who chased women around his office with his dick out.
But wait, it gets worse. Gilliam then tries to "relate" to the #MeToo movement by noting that one time... he worked with a female director who was "a neurotic bitch."
"There are many victims in Harvey's life," he adds, "and I feel sympathy for them, but then, Hollywood is full of very ambitious people who are adults and they make choices. We all make choices, and I could tell you who did make the choice and who didn't. I hate Harvey. I had to work with him and I know the abuse, but I don't want people saying that all men… Because on [the 1991 film] Fisher King, two producers were women. One was a really good producer, and the other was a neurotic bitch. It wasn't about their sex. It was about the position of power and how people use it."
Being neurotic and being an alleged rapist are not the same thing, though. Many women have made very legitimate accusations against many powerful men. "And those are true. But the idea that this is such an important subject you cannot find anything humorous about it? Wrong!"
The fact that interviewer Alexandra Pollard made it even to this point in the interview without leaping across the table and slapping him ought to garner her a medal of some kind.
Somehow, he continues, relating an anecdote in which he assumed that an actress was offering him sexual favors in order to get a part in one of his movies, and how it's just really hard on him being "blamed for everything" because he's a white male:
"I can tell you about a very well-known actress coming up to me and saying, 'What do I have to do to get in your film, Terry?' I don't understand why people behave as if this hasn't been going on as long as there've been powerful people. I understand that men have had more power longer, but I'm tired, as a white male, of being blamed for everything that is wrong with the world." He holds up his hands. "I didn't do it!"
I am going to say that being a "white male" is pretty far down the list in terms of criticisms that one might have about Terry Gilliam. Yikes.
If you're thinking to yourself "So it's gonna turn racist now, huh?," you win the centerpiece:
"It's been so simplified is what I don't like. When I announce that I'm a black lesbian in transition, people take offence at that. Why?"
Because you're not.
"Why am I not? How are you saying that I'm not?"
"You've judged me and decided that I was making a joke."
You can't identify as black, though.
"OK, here it is. Go on Google. Type in the name Gilliam. Watch what comes up."
What's going to come up?
"The majority are black people. So maybe I'm half black. I just don't look it."
But earlier, he described himself as a white male.
"I don't like the term black or white. I'm now referring to myself as a melanin-light male. I can't stand the simplistic, tribalistic behaviour that we're going through at the moment." He smiles. "I'm getting myself in deeper water, so I have to trust you." I'm not sure what he's trusting me to do.
"I'm talking about being a man accused of all the wrong in the world because I'm white-skinned. So I better not be a man. I better not be white. OK, since I don't find men sexually attractive, I've got to be a lesbian. What else can I be? I like girls. These are just logical steps." They don't seem logical. "I'm just trying to make you start thinking. You see, this is the world I grew up in, and with Python, we could do this stuff, and we weren't offending people. We were giving people a lot of laughter."
I grew up loving Monty Python movies. Monty Python was funny. If the entire Monty Python troupe had, instead of being funny, chosen to get up and whine about how they can't be manly anymore and how hard white men have it and why can't ladies be more chill about getting raped, I can guarantee you that I would not have liked them nearly as much.
You know, every time some asshole who made some good movies says a terrible thing, we get all of these jerks coming out of the woodwork going "These politically correct SJWs won't let us have anything! Aren't we allowed to like anyone? It's not fair."
But really, the unfair thing is that people like Terry Gilliam have to go and say these asshole things and ruin themselves for everyone. I mean, I'm not going to say "And now I hate Brazil!" or write off every Python movie I ever loved, but it does make those things that I loved feel a little... dirtier, somehow. And that sucks.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse