Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor Abigail de Kosnik

3 September 2018, 5.15 PM - 3 September 2018, 7.30 PM

Dr Abigail de Kosnik

Mott Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Tyndall Avenue

The Weinstein Question: When Culture That We Love Is Produced by Serial Abusers

In the wake of the #metoo and #timesup movements, media users must reckon with the fact that many of the cultural works that they have loved have been produced by serial harassers and abusers. In this lecture, Dr de Kosnik considers the case of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, whose company, Miramax, revolutionized the independent film industry in the 1990s and distributed numerous critical and box-office successes between 1990 and 2010, such as Pulp Fiction, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago, and No Country for Old Men. In October 2017, over 80 women made public allegations that Weinstein had sexually harassed and/or assaulted them, sparking many other men and women in the U.S. entertainment industry to come forward on social media and in the mainstream press with similar stories about other industry power players, using #metoo as the unifying hashtag.

What attitude should fans of Miramax’s films take towards that body of cultural production today, knowing that Weinstein built his media empire while committing crimes against innumerable women? Does #metoo call upon media audiences, as individuals and/or as collectives, to formulate a new ethics of cultural consumption? The question of whether, or to what extent, an author’s (or director’s, or producer’s) biography should inform interpretations and receptions of their productions has long been debated in literary and cultural theory, and even before Weinstein, the accusations against creative workers lauded as “geniuses,” including Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, and Phil Spector, led many to ask (in the words of Claire Dederer) “What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?” In this lecture, Dr de Kosnik consider how audiences can be complicit with the crimes of the cultural industries, and if we can or should remain fans of compelling cultural works after the evildoing of their makers comes to light.

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Abigail de Kosnik