Why Were We All So Upset About Jason Bateman?

Mitchell Hurwitz, Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, and Will Arnett at ceremony honoring Bateman with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

NPR’s Linda Holmes wrote about last week’s painful New York Times interview with the cast of “Arrested Development.” Why, in a time of constantly horrifying news about how men treat women, did this story — which is “only” about verbal abuse — strike a nerve?

But maybe it was this interview because the disrespect felt so benign in the delivery and so destructive in the effect. How can you have “zero complaints” about a workplace someone else remembers as containing the worst verbal abuse of her career? Is that not, itself, a complaint? Why is it important that over and above forgiveness, Tambor receives absolution from the utterly unaffected men in the cast, right in front of the woman who initially told the Hollywood Reporter she didn’t even want to talk about her history with him in the first place? Tambor brought all this up, put all of it out in public, just so everyone else could explain why it didn’t matter? Is this reverse roast, this closing argument by a self-appointed defense attorney — is this supposed to be his reckoning?

Many of us — yes, women, but humans in general — prepare for conflict by trying to toughen up. We build leathery skins and metal bones, and we learn how to fight back without being blamed for the force we used. Come at us throwing rocks, and we cross our forearms and hope they bounce off. Come at us in secret, we run for light. Come at us harder, we at least try to get away. But there is something about these gentle poisoned touches, where someone puts a hand on your shoulder and says, “I understand, but after all,” and an audience cheers, and something bad seeps underneath your skin and up your neck.

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