“I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.”
Arrested Development fans will recognize this statement as the withering dismissal given by Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter) to a waitress at Klimpy’s in the season 1 episode “Public Relations.” (Never ask a Bluth if they want a “plate or platter.”)
Unfortunately, the quote also reflects the spirit of the answers given by Arrested Development star Jason Bateman when discussing — or rather defending — Jeffrey Tambor’s past verbal abuse of Walter on set during an interview with the New York Times. “It’s a very amorphous process, this sort of bulls— that we do, you know, making up fake life,” said Bateman. “It’s a weird thing, and it is a breeding ground for atypical behavior and certain people have certain processes.” At this point, Bateman’s costar Alia Shawkat — sounding annoyed — broke in: “But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.” (You can listen to the exchange here.)
Bateman has since issued the requisite post-backlash Twitter apology. But for me — a longtime fan of Arrested Development — the ugliness of this situation, coupled with Tambor’s continued presence on the show, has left me feeling confident that giving up on Arrested will definitely not be a huge mistake.
This isn’t to say that I’m boycotting Arrested Development out of outrage at Bateman and the producers’ decision to keep Tambor on the show after he was accused of sexual misconduct on the set of Transparent. Boycotting a TV show, or any work of art, is a largely symbolic act — one that allows the boycotter an outlet for their anger at the artist — but it’s also often presented as a universal response. I’m not going to support this — and neither should you.
Bateman’s casual dismissal of Tambor’s abusive treatment of Walter — and the fact that Tambor yelled at Walter at all — is offensive enough to me that I no longer have any desire to watch the show, especially when season 4 was underwhelming and early reports on season 5 are not encouraging. Other fans may feel differently, and I’m totally okay with that.
An interesting side effect of the #MeToo era is that it’s shown how subjective the enjoyment threshold is for art once it’s revealed that the artist behind it has done something bad, terrible, or worse. Some people hate Roseanne Barr’s politics so much they refuse to watch her show, while others, like myself, hate her politics but are still able to find the show entertaining. People should feel free to avoid Roseanne or reruns of The Cosby Show or the latest Woody Allen movie or any piece of pop culture if the stars or creators have behaved in ways that offend the viewers’ moral code.
In the New York Times article, Walter says that she often is approached by fans who see her on the bus or subway in New York: “I get a lot of, ‘You know, you look a lot like that woman that plays Lucille Bluth.’ I say, ‘You know, I’ve heard that.’” Many years ago, I sat across from Walter on a crosstown 86th Street bus. She looked petite and stern, a cloth tote bag slung over her shoulder, and a New Yorker’s “don’t f— with me” look on her face. I was too afraid to speak to her. The fact that anyone could berate that formidable woman so aggressively that even the memory of it now drives her to tears — well, to me there’s just nothing funny about that.