I actually thought this was a touching piece, and maybe it was. Though the news of the day for me is extreme hypocrisy — and there’s nothing about that. Also, the author found it necessary to issue an apology.
But what does it mean to suggest that Jews didn’t have access to power? Does that square with the reality of 20th century European history?
. . . .
Harvey did something unique—no less odious, but different. Harvey performed. As we now are hearing (whether we want to or not), he allegedly made a woman watch as he masturbated into a potted plant. And if you want to understand this bizarre behavior, don’t look to Roger Ailes, or David Vitter, or Paul Crouch—look to Philip Roth.
Better than perhaps any other author, Roth captured the particular anxiety of the Jewish American man in the twentieth century, finally coming into power but, having not grown up with it, unsure of what he’s supposed to do now. All those years craving unattainable Gentiles, but never before the means to entice them. The result is Alexander Portnoy of Portnoy’s Complaint, a grown man whose emotional and sexual life is still all one big performance piece, just as it had been when he was a teenager and pleasured himself with a piece of liver.
As a boy, Portnoy fantasized about attaining a mythical shiksa goddess whom he nicknamed Thereal McCoy (get it?), who ice-skates “in her blue parka and her red earmuffs and her big white mittens—Miss America, on blades! With her mistletoe and her plum pudding (whatever that may be),” but as a grown-up he graduates to the real woman he nicknames The Monkey. And what does he do to abase her? He has her perform with an Italian whore. Yes, he eventually joins in, but not before they enact a bad movie—not Hollywood, but San Fernando Valley triple-X. And his nickname for her, The Monkey? That comes from an episode in her life, from before Portnoy met her, when a couple swingers picked her up and wanted her to eat a banana while she watched them copulate. For having a past that gets him hot, she gets degraded with an animalistic nickname. Her history as an actor is what he wants her for.
Harvey is cut from the same cloth. Growing up in Queens, he fantasized of fame and fortune, and, once he got them, he struggled to maintain them by building himself into a larger-than-life figure. He yelled at employees like he was a studio boss from the 1920s—the only thing missing was a riding crop. He ran Oscars campaigns like they used to in Old Hollywood. And he harassed women not necessarily to use them as instruments of his pleasure, but to use them as instruments of his power.
It goes without saying that nearly every one of these women—Rose McGowan, Ambra Batillana, Laura Madden, Ashley Judd, etc.—was a Gentile, all the better to feed Weinstein’s revenge-tinged fantasy of having risen above his outer-borough, bridge-and-tunnel Semitic origins. But it turns out there was a Jew(ess) in the bunch, none other than Lauren Sivan, of the potted-plant episode. In that small way, he inadvertently broke out of the Portnoy mold, performing his inadequacies not for the great all-American odeon but for a woman who could be his cousin. Harvey can run from who he is, but he can’t hide.
Yesterday I published a piece on Harvey Weinstein that many found offensive. The analysis I offered was hasty and ill-considered, especially in light of the even graver accusations that were published by the New Yorker this morning. I take this as a lesson in the importance of knowing as much as one can about a given story, and in taking the time to think and feel things completely through before opining. I apologize for not doing so in this case.
Editor’s Note: As a matter of policy, Tablet Magazine adheres to the widely-held journalistic policy of never deleting posts—even those for which apologies have been tendered or substantial corrections applied. Here is the New York Times description of the standard—even when a post is wrong, “we still do not believe that we should unpublish it and pretend it never existed”—which is doubly important for online-only sites, which don’t have paper or microfilm archives.