Tim League, you should have started each mea culpa and every single decision you made to bring on your downfall and that of the Alamo Drafthouse with one word – “woman.”
As in, “I listened to this woman..”
In every single case, had you began the decision making process, or had you started each public statement by first – before any other thought or consideration – addressing the woman, or factually, the women, that were affected directly by Devin Faraci’s actions, and then the scores of women affected indirectly by your ill-fated decision to hire him back within a matter of months, you could have saved yourself a lot of grief.
But only you and your closest friends and loyalists and bros really give any kind of damn about the grief you are going through right now thanks to misfire after misfire on the public relations front.
And in a scenario full of conflicts and well-meaning gestures and blah, blah, blah, if you had just began the entire process by thinking not about your friend that had brought his ills upon himself, or you and your company – after you had brought those ills upon yourself, if you had simply thought about the women that were victimized, that didn’t ask for any of this shit – even if you had just said that you talked to a woman or two and listened to her – then life would still be peachy for the geek bro club that is Alamo Drafthouse.
The women. The women. The women.
And here is the deal (personally), as I write this, I am still considering and reconsidering how I have reacted to and analyzed what has happened this past year. Like many people, I have thought about this a lot since the first reveal that initially caused Devin to have to step down – or fired – or however you and your PR crisis team is couching it. While not close friends, I always had a very good publicist/journalist working relationship with Devin. I liked him and I liked his writing. I knew he had blow ups with other writers and friends of mine, but I had no idea of the extent of his scorched earth behavior toward so many people. I was the classic “but he’s always been cool with me” person in this equation. And while I can genuinely plead some ignorance, that is no satisfying excuse now that I have learned so much more. It’s not. And it makes me complicit more than enough for me to be comfortable as I process this stuff. I’m on the sidelines, never was part of the Alamo Drafthouse Club, and yet I am still part of the problem. I can see that.
But Devin seemed to be taking ownership of everything when the shit hit the fan. I respected that. He seemed to be earnestly taking his own measure and starting on the path to right his own ship. And I respected that. I spoke to a female friend about it and him, and hearing her support of him (and I have the greatest respect for her), I decided to write him a personal note. That note basically said that I thought what he did was wrong, unequivocally wrong, but if he was actually genuine in his intent to forge a new path, that when the time came for him to re-enter the community, that I would be supporting him in those efforts. He didn’t respond, but it wasn’t about me, it was about letting someone that had hit bottom know that there were some people around that wouldn’t try to kick him back down the well if he managed to earn his way back out of that hole.
The intent with that note and even the words were frankly in the same ballpark as Tim League’s first admission that he had re-hired Devin to be a copywriter for Fantastic Fest. I had good intentions that had no idea that his “time in the wilderness” would last all of a couple months – in reality, and then eleven months in the botched reveal.
Two months. Eleven months. And here is the second painful admission: I “liked” that first Facebook post/statement that Tim was giving Devin a second chance because he thought he was now on the right path. In a sterile environment, in a vacuum, so to speak – yes, if you do the work, if you admit the faults, if you do everything you can to be the better person, and make amends, then I would hope we could offer that hand of forgiveness and help and hope.
But two months? Eleven months?
I was wrong and I was wrong because it is so very easy to be wrong as a male in this arena. It is so incredibly easy to think of me first. It is beyond easy to not consider everything that vitally needs to be considered simply because I have a penis. It is a painful admission to make even as I seek to correct it and do better. And here is the very first inspiration to doing it better:
I talked to my wife. We were having a conversation about this story and at a certain point, she said I was wrong in my assessment. Not directly or in a declarative way, but a matter of fact way that made no big deal of it because we were both analyzing what was happening and how it happened. And remarkably, I shut up for a moment and listened. I listen to her a lot, because she is easily the one that should be listened to the most between the two of us. And even after I started talking again, I kept thinking about the point she had just made, which was – once again – IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT EFFORTS DEVIN HAD MADE. WHAT MATTERED AND WHAT MATTERS MOST IS WHAT THE WOMEN INVOLVED THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT YOU WERE DOING OR WERE ABOUT TO DO.
That consideration of Devin’s well-being should have always remained in the backseat, while the state of mind, the recovery, the feelings of the women directly involved, those that would ever be in the same general area of an Alamo Drafthouse, and frankly, anyone that had suffered sexual assault in their past should be in the front seat driving that car, or at the least, helping navigate it toward a better place.
The woman that had his hand down her pants, Her. The other woman that reached out to Tim League only to have him ask her to not go public with her story. The ones we don’t know about, because let’s face it… The actual victims. The people potentially at risk psychologically when confronted by this.
Remarkably, Devin is still saying the right things. “Believe women. Especially if they are talking about you.” I think I’m paraphrasing that line, but that’s how he ended his most recent public statement in the aftermath of all of this. Talk about boiling it down for yourself and the rest of us…
And he is right. Couldn’t be more right. And truthfully, if he forges ahead in his efforts to repair what he possibly can out of the damage he did and hurtful bullshit he unleashed on so many, then I would not shun the guy. But there are a lot of people he needs to go to, a lot of unwelcome rooms he needs to enter and accept whatever is dished to him, a lot of hurt he needs to face head on. It will be A LOT. So much that you couldn’t possibly rebuild that in less than a year. Or two months.
Anyway, I was trying to find “a way in” to expressing myself and my myriad of thoughts on this issue when I read the following on Facebook, from my friend Mary Therese Guirgis:
“I have come to believe that there are men- gay and straight- who feel so sure of their own good hearts and political purity that when met with accusations of sexism or offensive actions they default think (and sometimes overtly state) the women speaking are crazy. They couldn’t be sexist, misogynist, tone-deaf. They campaigned for Hillary, they married a super cool woman, they’re gay and their best friends are women.
It is these men who scare me the most because they are the most deeply in denial of their privilege and their power. It is these men who think it’s just the other guys who need to do some soul-searching and check themselves. And in the meantime they will go on being their cool feminist selves telling female stories no female ever asked for and benevolently hiring back a sexual assaulter because he had clearly mended his ways in the last 10 months.”
I mean, holy crap. If I’m not in that group, then I am perilously close to slipping down into that pit. All the time. Because I have an abundance of ego and I can entertain hubris like a foolish party host as much or more than anyone else. And the only way I don’t fall into that pit is by some hard core introspection, and by shutting the fuck up (which is really hard for me to do), and listening, and soaking up what I’m hearing – from women.
And my response to Mary’s post and Facebook thread was this: “It is so incredibly easy to not get it right as men because we have to stop and then stop again to think and then put more thought into how we view this stuff and not just accept the privilege and the programming we’ve all had. As much as I actively try to open that aperture and get a fuller perspective, I’m still making those subtle mis-steps myself. And it’s vital that I DO get it right and never assume I’m on certain ground because then I’m just another guy fucking it up, regardless of how well-intentioned I am.”
But I can say that the simplest and most important thing to remember is to start the discussion, to start the consideration, to start the whole ball rolling, by leading with this:
“I was listening to what this woman had to say…”