There are plenty of comments to be made about The Hollywood Reporter’s most recent interview with Jeffrey Tambor.
None of them necessarily positive.
From the author going out of his way to mention that Tambor is the first accused member of the #metoo movement in Hollywood to actively speak out about the claims (like he somehow deserves a medal for summoning the courage), to the three-worded “Lines Got Blurred” headline quote, it was clear early on that this profile was always going to be in favour of Tambor no matter how careful the publication was in attempting to remain non-biased.
It’s not a short read. It is however a passive profile that doesn’t take pause to ask Tambor the tough questions.
It doesn’t force the actor to confront or consider responsibility for the situation he’s found himself in, instead it allows Tambor (who is sympathetically referred to as a “veteran” actor) to seek the reader’s sympathy by going as far as mentioning the tears Tambor sheds throughout the interview (amongst other things).
— Samantha Rollins (@SamanthaRollins) May 7, 2018
The author spends time describing the actor’s shaking hands and makes note of Tambor’s post-Transparent “fugue state”, which has led him to reading books on the subject of death and mourning as a way of bidding farewell to the character he was fired from playing.
With an opening paragraph that documents Tambor’s alleged sexual misconduct claims as something that “will surely go down as the darkest chapter of his four-decade career”, it’s clear we’re meant to feel empathy for a man struggling to come to terms with a recent series of unfortunate events…
Throughout the profile, Tambor says outright that he doesn’t want to delve into the two 10-hour inquiry sessions he had with Neftlix in light of the allegations, “… I responded to the questions. And that’s pretty much what I want to say about that”.
The author of the article doesn’t poke or prod, but allows the narrative of the piece to move onto the next topic of conversation: Tambor’s suggestion that the circumstances around his firing could be part of a larger conspiracy.
This shift in perspective acts as a distraction, pulling readers away from their focus on the actual sexual misconduct allegations as well as the victims’ experiences – instead providing Tambor with a platform to play the victim himself.
The article states:
“Faith Soloway, sister to showrunner Jill Soloway, allegedly emailed Tambor shortly after his firing alleging that the show was in a “coup.” The email, according to Tambor, read: “‘We are in a coup. You are f**king fantastic. You have changed the world. We have changed the world. We will get through this. Love, love, love, Faith.” An additional source confirmed the content of the email to THR. In addition, before he was fired, Jill Solloway wrote to Tambor in a text, “They have been after Maura [Tambor’s character] from the beginning.”
This portion of the profile then leans in to Tambor insinuating that not only was he in clear sights of those who wanted him out in the first place, but that his temper and on-set mood swings were caused by the stress of playing the transgender character of Maura.
Lemme get this str8, Jeffrey Tambor believes that was a case of… cisphobia? pic.twitter.com/Ekqrs7OkL1
— Morgan M Page (@morganmpage) May 7, 2018
“I drove myself and my castmates crazy,” he says. “Lines got blurred. I was difficult. I was mean. I yelled at Jill — she told me recently she was afraid of me. I yelled at the wonderful [executive producer] Bridget Bedard in front of everybody. I made her cry. And I apologized and everything, but still, I yelled at her. The assistant directors. I was rude to my assistant. I was moody. Sometimes I didn’t talk at all.
And this is where the reader says, ‘So what?’ You know? ‘You’re coming in from the Palisades, you drive in, you get a good paycheck, you get to play one of the best roles in the world. So. What.’” He stares down at his barely touched lunch, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich propping up a pile of french fries. “But I was scared, because I was a cisgender male playing Maura Pfefferman. And my whole thing was, ‘Am I doing it right? Am I doing it right? Am I doing it right?’ To the point that I worried myself to death.”
That the author of the articles presumes to know what the reader is thinking isn’t just patronising, it’s also his way of telling us why we should care about Tambor and his mood swings.
But wait, there’s more.
While the overly sympathetic article makes a point of talking about all the time Tambor spends with his wife and young children (this is peppered throughout the piece but acts as a scene-setting tactic especially in the first paragraph and in the very last), it does nothing for Trace Lysette or Van Barnes (Tambor’s accusers) besides reducing their lives prior to Transparent to a mere few sentences that are aimed at painting a particular picture…
The (male) author sets the scene for Lysette by focusing on her looks, simultaneously objectifying her while focusing on her past as a stripper who once attempted suicide.
“A striking brunette with fair skin and aquamarine eyes, Lysette, who prefers not to disclose her age, grew up in Dayton, Ohio — she was the only male on her high school cheerleading team — then moved to New York City, where she began transitioning to female. She later found work at a Manhattan strip club, where she never let on to the clientele that she was transgender. After a bad breakup led to a suicide attempt — she slit her wrists on a side street walking home from the strip club one night — Lysette was admitted to Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward.”
for a profile about jeffrey tambor's workplace misconduct, this article includes a bizarre amount of detail about one actress's unrelated suicide attempt and former job as a stripper.
— Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (@Hello_Tailor) May 7, 2018
Barnes doesn’t fare much better either as she’s described as having a reputation for “a raunchy sense of humor”, which somehow means she’s deserving of whatever sexual advances come her way, right?
““… she’s the dirtiest f**king talker in the world,” is how one staffer puts it — Tambor’s alleged offensive talk and occasional “butt pats” made Barnes increasingly uncomfortable.”
Lysette mentions the fact that she told multiple people of Tambor’s alleged assault, both on and off the show, yet nothing was done about it.
This is glossed over in favour of discussing the ways in which Solloway and Tambor had planned to make the fifth season of the show come together in light of all the on-set and off-set drama.
“Soloway suggested that, going forward, Tambor appear in the series only in flashback, as Mort Pfefferman, Maura’s pre-transition self. It was a not ideal but potentially workable concession to those who felt Tambor’s performance was an offensive example of “transface,” as some critics referred to it.”
At the end of the day, this entire article and the handling of the Tambor situation in general has been a great example of how not to approach accusations of sexual misconduct.
The interviewer doesn’t really press Tambor about his behavior or insist he take responsibility, lots of passive voice instead of active voice like these things just happened instead of him being an active participant in his behavior, the characterization of the women involved
— roxane gay (@rgay) May 7, 2018
But is anyone really surprised? Are we shocked at the real lack of consequences?
After all, everything has worked out in Tambor’s favour.
He has a number of former cast-mates happy to defend him publicly and the debut of Season 5 of Arrested Development is just around the corner…
Sounds about right.