Opinion

“The men of Arrested Development need to check their f**king privilege”

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Kayleigh Dray
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Now the story of three wealthy men who were willing to excuse everything, and the disgusted fans who were forced to listen to their gaslighting.

I’ve always loved Arrested Development: it’s ambitiously complex, brilliantly fast-paced and furiously funny – the sort of show you can watch over and over again, finding something new to laugh at each and every single time. Whenever I’m feeling low, I binge-watch the hell out of it on Netflix, revelling in the wordplay and the brilliant chemistry between the show’s stars. You might say it is my medicine, my happy place, my solace.

Which is why I’m so f**king furious that Jason Bateman and the show’s other male stars have absolutely ruined it for me.

Earlier this year, Jeffrey Tambor – who plays George, the patriarch of the dysfunctional Bluth family on Arrested Development – announced he would not be returning to Transparent, another show he starred in, after facing allegations of sexual harassment on set. Tambor also recently revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he’d had a “blow-up” at his Arrested Development co-star (and on-screen wife) Jessica Walter while filming the show’s most recent series.

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Naturally, this was brought up during a group interview with the Arrested Development cast, published this week in the New York Times. But, just as soon as the topic was broached, Bateman said he would point-blank refuse to do another series of Arrested Development were Tambor not brought back.

Insisting that the entire cast had lashed out at Walter at least once during filming – a point which the Lucille Bluth actress refuted – Bateman said: “This is a family and families, you know, have love, laughter, arguments…” 

Here, I feel obliged to point out that this is not a family. These are actors working alongside one another on the set of a TV show and, as such, are colleagues. Similarly, the incident between Tambor and Walter was not an argument: it was verbal abuse, and therefore a clear example of harassment in the workplace. It was the sort of behaviour that must have turned work into a fearful gauntlet for Walter to run each day, creating a level of anxiety and stress, of powerlessness, that would most likely have infiltrated her personal life.

Bateman, however, brushed past these specifics and continued: “Not to belittle it, but a lot of stuff happens in 15 years. I know nothing about Transparent but I do know a lot about Arrested Development. And I can say that no matter what anybody in this room has ever done – and we’ve all done a lot, with each other, for each other, against each other – I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I have zero complaints.

“It’s a very amorphous process, this sort of bulls**t that we do, you know, making up fake life. It’s a weird thing, and it is a breeding ground for atypical behaviour and certain people have certain processes.”

Clearly shocked by Bateman’s comments, Walter decided to interject with her own version of events.

“Yes, I have to let go of being angry at [Tambor],” she said tearfully. “He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologise. I have to let it go.

“But it’s hard because honestly – Jason says this happens all the time. In like almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set. And it’s hard to deal with, but I’m over it now.”

It felt like a good way to end the discussion. But, rather than let Walter have the last word, Tony Hale made a point of dismissing her comments, saying that they “all had their moments” while filming the show.

“But not like that, not like that,” argued Walter. “That was bad.”

He replied: “I’m saying we’ve worked together 15 years, [and] there has been other points of anger coming out.”

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It is no overstatement to say that things only got worse from this point. Bateman and David Cross both demanded the interviewer allow them to give context to the incident, claiming “it’s important to note — and it hasn’t been noted — that this kind of behaviour that’s being described, it didn’t just come out of the blue”. That Tambor’s behaviour was somehow more excusable because it was, at least, consistently awful. That “it’s a little narrow to single that one particular thing that is getting attention from our show” — a phrase which Walter seemingly interpreted as an attack on her own character, as she felt the need to defend herself.

“Only because you brought it up,” she said. “I never would have brought it up.”

Towards the end of the discussion, Bateman even uttered the line: “Not to say that, you know, [Walter] had it coming, but…”

Right. Well, as the men of Arrested Development are so keen on context, let’s have some, shall we?

Walter – aka the woman who had been hurt by Tambor – was in the same room as these men during the NYT interview. She broke down in tears as she recalled the experience. And she refuted all of their comments, so much so that the interviewer felt the need to point out that “Jason is saying that this [Tambor’s behaviour] is part of the [acting] process. But that’s not what you’re saying, Jessica”.

Yet, despite all of this, Walter’s male co-stars still felt the need to dismiss her experiences, her comments, her feelings, in order to protect and comfort Tambor. They talked over her, put words into her mouth and minimised her feelings. And, if you look at the interview as a whole, Walter is the person who speaks the least throughout — despite the fact that the conversation was about an incident which directly affected her.

Forget calling bulls**t: I call gaslighting.

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The term ‘gaslighting’, of course, refers to a tactic of coercive and controlling behaviour that aims to make a victim doubt themselves, their perception of events and even their own sanity, with devastating consequences.

This is done slowly and subtly, calling into question the victim’s memory of an incident, trivialising a victim’s thoughts or feelings, accusing the victim of lying or making things up, denying things like promises that have been made, and mocking the victim for their ‘misconceptions’. It picks apart a person’s trust in themselves, makes them second-guess themselves all the time, feel confused and find themselves always apologising. 

That this is happening throughout the Arrested Development interview is incredibly apparent: by standing by the man accused of harassment, Bateman and co have caused Walter to question her own feelings about her own experience. Indeed, she even says at one point that she “just realised in this conversation [that] I have to let go of being angry at him.”

Thank god, then, for Alia Shawkat, who was quick to shut this argument the f**k down.

“But [all of that context] doesn’t mean it’s acceptablee,” said the actress, who plays Tambor’s on-screen granddaughter Maeby. “And the point is that things are changing, and people need to respect each other differently.”

It is worth noting that Bateman has since taken to Twitter to apologise for his conduct in the interview, saying he is “incredibly embarrassed” for his behaviour.

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“There’s never any excuse for abuse, in any form, from any gender. And, the victim’s voice needs to be heard and respected,” continued Bateman.

“And, the victim’s voice needs to be heard and respected. Period. [But] I didn’t say that and instead said a bunch of other stuff and not very well.

“[For that], I deeply, and sincerely, apologise.”

Hmm. It may not be enough to make Arrested Development palatable again, but I suppose it’s a good start.

Image: Netflix