A #MeToo Memoir

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Jackie Richardson ’21

Assistant Arts Editor

The Me Too movement blew away, at least in part, the air of inherent dignity and importance of The Great Male Artist. Before the movement, the perceived brilliance of their movies, books or television shows would blind a public already willing to look away from wrongdoings — alleged or buried. Now, an unforgiving light shines on some of the men themselves: their excited breathing over the phone, the sets in which they cornered people and the hotel rooms where they, wormy, potbellied and jerky, revealed their true selves to those they had temporarily silenced.

One could read J.K. Stein’s memoir The Director as an attempt to reveal a powerful man’s perverse nature. It would be perfectly correct to do so. By the end of the first chapter, The Director’s identity is obvious; lines detailing his sexcapades, thoughts on Jewish identity and unsavory quirks (in the middle of a conversation, he spits on the floor) comprise a clean bulk of the book. But beyond the initial prurient interest this character inspires in the reader, he is far from the most interesting person in this book. Most fascinating — and the character who raises the most pressing questions — is the diarist herself.

Although Stein set The Director into chapters, the book is actually a series of unedited journal entries. Chapters 0, 15, and 16, as well as the Foreword and the Epilogue, gaze in hindsight at her experience. Chapters 1–14 detail the experience itself. After meeting Stein at a Starbucks, The Director claims he needs her for his next film. Although wary of his motives, she does want to be in one of his movies, and begins a relationship with him which while never fully consummated, is always lewdly sexual.

Before exploring what this book accomplishes, there are a few stones to clear from my shoe. As advertised, this book is a series of unedited journal entries, and reads as such. Because of this, her language can veer both confusingly (she describes feeling like a “wet dog” after her first session with a new therapist) and dangerously (she calls the Me Too movement a “frenzy”) into the realm of imprecision. The occasional typo gnarled her prose (“it’s” instead of “its,” “ancestors” when she meant “descendants”). And finally, though this may speak more to how the absurd can quickly become mundane, I felt that too much of the book was devoted to the logistics of their meetings, and some editing could have trimmed away the tedium.

But the flaws in the book do fade somewhat in light of what it does — probing at the gray areas of consent. Where less honest writers may have tried to simplify the complex, Stein looks squarely at her own conflicting feelings. She feels contempt for The Director but fears him too; she finds his presence unbearable yet initiates meetings with him. She enjoys the way her sexuality arouses him but feels profound disgust towards it as well.

None of this seemingly paradoxical behavior seems to conflict, however, because of Stein’s portrayal of what I think is the most important aspect of this book: her own self-hatred. She continues her relationship with The Director not in spite of her disgust towards him but because of the contempt she feels for herself; indeed, for every unspoken insult she lodges at The Director, there is a time in which she purges, blames herself for her boyfriend’s abuse, and goes back to The Director. This isn’t to say The Director doesn’t manipulate her. If she refuses to perform a sex act, he says early in their relationship, innocently exploring a hypothetical, then he has failed as a director. But being both physically larger and more powerful than she, he almost doesn’t need to charge her possible refusal with guilt. “No” is not really an option. However, The Director’s sway over Stein stems not solely from his power as an individual, but from a world that taught Stein to hate herself so profoundly that when a man like The Director entered her life, he just needed to exert the slightest pressure to walk right over her.

But where each story voiced in the Me Too movement usually ends in phone calls, corners, hotel rooms or, at best, in courtrooms, The Director offers its reader a quieter, perhaps more hopeful end. In the epilogue, she writes about her inability to set firm boundaries, her shame, the ways the Director made her feel deficient and the work she needed to do to heal after this and other destructive relationships. She concludes the book with a reflection on the word Karuna, which means both sadness and compassion — both the sadness with which this experience left her and the self-compassion it took to heal. It was a good note to end on.

HODL: “Hollywood Hits Smith College—Reese Witherspoon pays Special Visit”

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Patience Kayira ’20 Associate Editor/Arts Editor

On Thursday, April 12, Hollywood actor Reese Witherspoon will pay a special visit to Smith College. Why? Why not! In all seriousness, Witherspoon’s appearance is part of a visiting actors and creatives series organized by the theatre, music, and dance departments. “Mending Mendenhall,” the name of this interdepartmental effort, is the brainchild of a series of professors, students, and community members. Its goal is to “trendify” the performing arts scene on campus.

Although the arts scene here is modern, it is modern in a bookish-type of a way. That is, if you are unfamiliar with Martha Graham or Laban’s elements of movement and dance, it can be hard to appreciate the minimalist—but beautiful—performances put on by the dance department.

In a statement to the Sophian, the founding departments wrote that they “wanted to make the arts more recognizable to the wider community by embracing elements of popular culture.” Why pay five dollars to watch an hour and thirty minutes of wriggling and writhing on the floor to an empty soundtrack, when you can pay five dollars to watch and maybe participate in a zumba performance? The difference? It will probably be easier to sing along to the zumba songs than to mimic the obscure sounds at the dance concert.

Reese Witherspoon is the first visiting actor to participate in “Mending Mendenhall.” In addition to Witherspoon, the campaign hopes to host Misty Copeland, Rihanna and Shailene Woodley at future events. Witherspoon’s visit was arranged intentionally to coincide with the opening night of Duct Tape Productions’ 2018 spring musical, “Legally Blonde.” (In 2001, it was Witherspoon who played the character of Elle Woods in the “Legally Blonde” movie).

If you’re unfamiliar with this film, here is a brief synopsis: Elle Woods is the “classic” sorority girl. She has everything from rich parents and supportive friends to a serious boyfriend. Yet, when Elle’s boyfriend breaks up with her to attend Harvard Law School, her world turns completely upside down — that is, until she decides to follow him to Harvard. This is her solution to winning her boyfriend back.

Duct Tape Productions has been rehearsing nine hours a week since February for “Legally Blonde.” With a cast of 41 people, the show will be full of great talent. When asked about the excitement for this show, Mackenzie Dreese ’18 said, “I am looking forward to seeing the largest cast this org has ever had flawlessly execute choreography that we’ve never attempted before.”

The production will take place in Davis Ballroom, which, according to Dreese, is a “nontraditional space.” However, the cast and crew have been working hard to prepare for the performance, even taking inspiration from the film.

“I love the movie [...] it’s a personal favorite of mine,” Dreese says.

It looks like Witherspoon will be meeting many fans at Smith on the day of her April visit. The cast of “Legally Blonde” predicts that the actor will “fit in well here.”

As included in the official statement, “‘Mending Mendenhall’ also aims to give students the opportunity to network with popular professionals in the arts.” Witherspoon’s visit demonstrates this goal. In addition to attending the opening night of  “Legally Blonde,” students are encouraged to participate in a special dinner that has been scheduled at the President’s House with Witherspoon, the theatre department staff and Board members of Duct Tape Productions.

The dates for the performance will be April 12, 13 and 14 at Davis Ballroom. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact Duct Tape Productions.

The Perfect Match: A ‘Battle of the Sexes’ Review

The Perfect Match: A ‘Battle of the Sexes’ Review

Battle of the Sexes, released last September, is a biographical, sports comedy-drama film set in the 1970’s. The plot is loosely based on the famous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. The film stars Emma Stone as King and Steve Carell as Riggs, with Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Austin Stowell, Bill Pullman and Sarah Silverman in supporting roles.
    The project and its two leads were announced in 2015. Principal photography on the film began in Los Angeles in 2016, with a budget of more than $25 million. The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival last September.

“Funny, Sad and True—The Wolves Review”

“Funny, Sad and True—The Wolves Review”

The theatre department debuted a production of “The Wolves”—a new play by Sarah DeLappe on Friday, Feb. 23.

A finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize Award in Drama, “The Wolves” is taking the theatre world by storm. Directed by Daniel Elihu Kramer, “The Wolves” tells the story about high school girls on a soccer team. This might make you groan, but DeLappe’s play disturbs stereotypical notions about teenage girls.

Review: ‘How to Date a Manic Pixie Dream Girl’

If you have put yourself through “500 Days of Summer” or watched anything involving Zooey Deschanel, then you know what a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” is. The term, coined by film critic Nathan Rabin, is a trope. In the words of Lyssandra Norton MFA ’18, a “manic pixie dream girl is extremely quirky, plays the ukulele or a sport, and is weird as fuck.”