David Edelstein is a longtime film critic. He’s been featured as a contributor on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ for years. Tuesday, NPR fired the writer after a Facebook post, now deleted, where he makes a “joke” about a movie rape scene in apparent homage to the award-winning but often denounced director Bernardo Bertolucci, who died Monday at 77.
The post had him recalling the violent sexual assault scene in Bertolucci’s controversial 1972 film ‘Last Tango in Paris.’
Within 10 minutes of his post, actress Martha Plimpton tweeted a call for him to be fired. Immediately. That call was soon echoed and amplified.
Tuesday, Edelstein apologized.
NPR said it appreciated his willingness to take responsibility, but said that, in any event, was not enough.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. David Edelstein Took to Facebook to Grieve Italian Film Director Bernardo Bertolucci’s Death. He Used an Image of a Rape Scene From ‘Last Tango in Paris’
‘Even grief is better with butter,’ Edelstein captioned a still of the rape scene in the still-controversial film from 46 years ago.
Actress Martha Plimpton tweeted Edlestein’s now-deleted Facebook post with this caption:
“*warning: rape JFC, David Edelstein. All day I’ve avoided noting this mans death precisely because of this moment in which a sexual assault of an actress was intentionally captured on film. And this asshole makes it into this joke. Fire him. Immediately.”
2. Then-19-Year-Old Actress Maria Schneider Was Not Told by Marlon Brando & Director Bertolucci Butter Would be Used as a Lubricant for a Simulated Violent Anal Rape
Actress Maria Schneider died in Paris in 2011, but in a 2007 interview said she was not only never told by her co-star Marlon Brando and the film’s director what they were up to, but that she felt as if she’d been raped after the scene and that the tears she cried and her screams were real.
In the film, actor Marlon Brando’s character, Paul, is a middle-aged man and Schneider’s character, Jeanne, is a decade’s younger woman. They carry on a sexually toxic affair. Already a polemical movie, sans the rape scene for the content and context, it was, however, that scene of rape by sodomy not in the original script was violent and disturbing. And Bertolucci meant it to be just that, he said in 2013.
Bertolucci admitted in an interview that he and Brando did not tell her and the rape scene was not consensual. He said he felt “very guilty for that” but said he did not regret it. He said he wanted her humiliation to be real: “I wanted Maria to feel, not to act.”
Schneider said Brando didn’t actually penetrate her but the shock, and sexual humiliation was very real. Bertolucci said he knows she was angry with him.
Schneider told The Daily Mail the scene was not in the script and that she should have called her agent but at 19, she was unsophisticated about those matters.
“That scene wasn’t in the original script. The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea. They only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry. I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can’t force someone to do something that isn’t in the script, but at the time, I didn’t know that. Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie,’ but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears. I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologise. Thankfully, there was just one take.”
3. NPR Fired Edelstein Wednesday
A post from Fresh Air, which is journalist Terry Gross’ longtime interview program from station WHYY in Philadelphia, said Edelstein’s post was “offensive and unacceptable, especially given actress Maria Schneider’s experience during the filming” of Bertolucci’s film in 1971.
NPR said his post “does not meet the standards that we expect from Fresh Air contributors, or from journalists associated with WHYY or NPR. We appreciate the apology David posted, but we have decided to and Fresh Air’s association with him, and have informed David accordingly.”
4. Edelstein, a Decades-Long Movie Critic & Writer for New York Magazine, Claimed to Not Have Known That Schneider Said She Felt ‘Raped.’ Some Suggested that Was Unlikely
In a statement that was issued by New York magazine, Edelstein was reported to have said, “To my embarrassment, I was not aware of Maria Schneider’s comments about the making of ‘Last Tango in Paris.’ I now realize the joke was in poor taste and have removed it, and apologize for the remark.”
“David Edelstein has been a sexist asshole for many years. Why he still is employed by any institution is beyond me, but the good news is that he lost his @nprfreshair gig. And it’s bullshit he didn’t know about Maria Schenider’s comments. Good riddance,” tweeted Melissa Silverstein, founder, and publisher of Women and Hollywood.
Edelstein is a writer for New York magazine.
Numerous posts on social suggest they’re dubious that the writer who makes movies his business did not ever hear about the controversy surrounding the rape scene and Schneider’s allegations which were widely reported over the last decade.
“Just wanted to talk about how Fresh Air film critic David Edelstein did NOT know the backstory? Really? REALLY?! You’ve seen the movie at the very least.”
5. Edelstein Has a History of Alleged Mysogonistic & Racist Commentary in HIs Movie Reviews. He Also Has a History of Apologies For Alleged Mysogonistic & Racist Commentary in His Movie Reviews
Earlier this month, Edelstein issued a mea cupla for his review of the movie “Green Book,” starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen.
“The movie taps into a kind of nostalgia for when everything — even racism — seemed simpler, and ready to be legislated out of existence,” he wrote. Then, issued an apology saying, “I find to my horror that my closing line reads as if I have nostalgia for a time when racism was even more pervasive and deadly than it is today. I don’t… I apologize unreservedly for expressing myself so insensitively.”
And as was pointed out by Huffington Post reporter Marina Fang in a tweet, Edelstein said that “prepubescent” 11-year-old Emma Watson in Harry Potter was “…absurdly alluring to those of us who always went for bossy girls.”
He was roundly criticized for his un-apology for a review of Wonder Woman where he said, “The only grace note in the generally clunky Wonder Woman is its star, the five-foot-ten-inch Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot, who is somehow the perfect blend of superbabe-in-the-woods innocence and mouthiness.”