Film Criticism Doesn’t Need Devin Faraci

silence
Taken from The Art of Dismantling – Amiris Brown
Sometimes I still think about Devin’s review of Spider-Man 2. Yeah, we’re going there.

I was about 16 when Spider-Man 2 came out. Something about it touched me deeply. I’ve actually, until now, never taken the time to interrogate what it was that moved me so. My sense is that it was simply one of those formative pop cultural experiences. It came along at the right time, at the right age; it hit all the right teenage angst notes and contained a therapeutic kind of pathos.

I remember dealing with a lot at that time, and movies were a place of deep, comforting refuge. My father was in and out of my life, and verbally and physically abusive on top of that. Sixteen was the age at which he first hit me, so I was luckier than many. That was also the year my mother and I were evicted from our apartment. We’d gotten a three-bedroom place to accommodate my sister and her children. My sister, then and now, was consumed by a fairly monstrous drug addiction. When she didn’t get a job to help out, my mom fell behind on the rent and we were kicked out.

So I suppose, maybe, I really identified with Peter. Spider-Man 2 was probably the first comic book movie to get that the person behind the mask needed to be just as compelling. In that film, nothing seemed to go right for Peter. He’d lost his powers and his friends. He seemed to almost fall apart, burdened as he was by everything in his life, and by his own guilt. There’s a scene where Peter sits down with Aunt May, and he has to explain to her that he is partly responsible for Uncle Ben’s death. She can’t even respond. She gets up from the table and walks away from him. I was so struck by this scene, this display of what seemed to be genuine human emotion. In his review, Devin pointed this scene out. He called it brave. As I said, I still think about this review. I’m not ashamed to say that this small moment has probably informed how I approach movies, and how I write about them.

If you don’t know by now, Devin Faraci was accused of sexual assault a few days ago. Here are some relevant tweets:

https://twitter.com/devincf/status/784553150925664256?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

@devincf quick question: do you remember grabbing me by the pussy and bragging to our friends about it, telling them to smell your fingers?

— INVISIGOTH (@spacecrone) October 9, 2016

In case you missed that, Devin was called out for Trump-style pussy-grabbing and subsequent braggadocio *in the process of him calling out Trump for the same thing*. This is a work of art. His response was to feign ignorance, but also to apologize immediately. He stepped down as EIC of BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH and his career in criticism seems very much in doubt. I’m not interested so much in rehashing, at length, the circumstances around the particular assault, or @spacecrone’s accusation. It seems abundantly clear that he did it, and that it wasn’t the first time. I genuinely hope that @spacecrone finds some measure of relief and peace in all of this.

What I am interested in is the culture that let Devin Faraci be Devin Faraci for so long. Because Devin isn’t just a sexual predator, he’s a vicious bully par excellence. He is a virulent shithead. I say this as someone who has appreciated and respected his work, but has long noticed how cruel and callous he could be. Sometimes that kind of cruelty can be seductive, especially when you’re young. I mean, here’s this guy who is smart, insightful, and who shuts down all of the idiots. You see this kind of attitude at BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH, where Devin would repeatedly dunk on DC Comics stans in the comments. In other moments, however, that unbridled cruelty was not quite as welcome, and these moments seem to outweigh the former. You only need to look at the man’s Twitter.

So how did this happen? If you read Sasha Stone’s article here, you begin to get a sense of the kind of culture that is able to turn a blind eye. Stone’s argument is essentially that Devin’s downfall is a loss to online film critics, and particularly to women online, because he was a fanboy who took on the mysogynistic fanboy trolls; now, there’s no one left to do this very important work.

This argument is stupid, at best. At worst, it is utterly repugnant. Even if you put aside the allegations of sexual assault (which, why would you?), the man was absolutely toxic. He tore people down. He told them to kill themselves. He became needlessly, joyously hateful to anyone who disagreed with him. What is the argument here? It’s ok to treat people like garbage as long as you write some blog posts about movies and feminism? That his feminist lip service somehow outweighs actual sexual assault and the overall toxicity that he adds to the already-toxic online discourse? What is the point?

That said, these questions give Stone’s argument too much credit. If you had any doubt that the entire article wasn’t suffused with apologetics, pay close attention to the atom bomb that Stone drops at the end:

I wish the women involved all the healing and respect they deserve. Perhaps Devin’s loss of his site, an ouster from the Los Angeles Film Critics and the end of the Canon podcast (or at least a hiatus) will make her feel better.

This is gross and petty. Real petty. She may as well have said, I hope you’re happy now or I hope you got what you wanted. Look what you’ve done. The only thing Stone has accomplished here is to argue that, somehow, the consequences Devin has faced are a bridge too far, a part of the outrage culture that her and Devin would often decry. Are the material conditions of the woman he assaulted of no concern? Shouldn’t men who garb themselves in feminist rhetoric, but have this kind of past, be forced to reckon with that past? Again, is all of this ok if you agree with someone and they’re doing something you believe to be important?

This article is slightly disconnected from reality. Film is important. Really important. Discussing film is important. Discussing identity in film and film criticism is important. I believe this so much that I’ve created a very poorly written blog to do it. I spend every day watching, thinking, and writing about movies. Yet all of this pales in comparison to the importance of holding sexual predators accountable for their actions. This pity-poor-Devin article is an affront to the very work that I know Sasha Stone cares about deeply. Devin should face consequences for what he’s done, and whatever nebulous effect he’s had on feminist film discourse is entirely secondary  to that (and likely imaginary, too). The only thing that Devin really did was to latch on to a burgeoning online discourse begun by women like Anita Sarkeesian.

For myself, I can say that absolutely nothing Devin has written re: feminism and film makes me mourn the loss of his allyship, if that’s what you want to call it. Recently, his online output was heavily weighted toward Marvel shilling, where he would excruciatingly unpack the most uninteresting minutiae. But beyond even that, there is simply nothing new or remarkable about Devin’s advocacy. Men like him are a known quantity in feminist discourse. Plenty of men have coopted the language of feminism and social justice to cloak themselves, and they will continue to do so.

A couple of years ago, another renowned feminist man had a (second) meltdown. Hugo Schwyzer was an abuser who went on to write, widely, for feminist and women-centered publications. He wrote for Jezebel. He was an instructor of gender studies. He was a self-proclaimed Male Feminist helping other men see the light. In short, his bonafides were much more legit than Devin’s. But hey, he was caught creeping on black women writers, trying to erase their writing and discredit them. This was such a big deal that it spawned the solidarity is for white women hashtag by Mikki Kendall and Flavia Dzodan. Do you know how he got away with it for so long? Because white feminists continued to support him by publishing his work and giving him power in the field. That’s how this shit happens.

That should be the real takeaway here. We are complicit whenever we are silent. When someone’s words don’t match their actions, and we say nothing, we’ve done ourselves, and each other, a great disservice. The impulse to react defensively, to defend people and their work, rather than recognize the harm they’ve caused, only reifies the structures we mean to tear down. Remember, Faraci isn’t just a sexual predator; he’s a vicious bully, too. Feminism doesn’t need men like him. Film criticism certainly doesn’t either.

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10 Comments

  1. Devin needs to be held accountable for his actions. I hope this doesn’t hurt the Alamo brand or the BMD site. There are some good writers doing good work over there.

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  2. As someone who considered Devin a huge influence, I have had a lot of conflicting emotions regarding the situation. But reading your piece, am reminded of what Caroline said, “If you’re really being very vocally cruel about Devin right now, it’s not with me in mind, just consider that.” And most of your piece revolves around using this to confirm your opinions on his personality.

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    1. Thank you for commenting, but I strongly disagree. Do I say some harsh things about Devin? Absolutely. But they’re all based on his actions. My piece doesn’t revolve at all around confirming my opinions about his personality (I didn’t need those opinions confirmed); it revolves around holding people accountable and questioning the kind of culture that reflexively defends people like him. Again, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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  3. Is it really “feign[ing] ignorance” to say that he doesn’t remember it happening? It could be, but his tweet is vague at best. You’re not the first person I’ve read equating “not remembering” with “not doing.” But people get black-out drunk, they act in ways that are callous without even thinking about it, and some people have really bad memories. I’m not trying to be cute or excuse what it seems he did–entirely the opposite, in fact. People are responsible for what they do while drunk, while acting without thinking, and whether or not they remember later.

    I don’t have a grander point than that, really, I just find it odd that multiple people took his comment as a dodge when it could be both (a) 100% honest, and (b) equally inculpating.

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    1. This is a fair point to make. I thought about this as I was writing, and considered including some language similar to what you said at the end of your comment. I’m willing to admit that saying he “feigned ignorance” is an assumption on my part, and it could easily be just as true that he simply doesn’t remember. Thanks for commenting.

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  4. Just want to say you are completely 100% accurate with everything you’ve written in this post. You nailed it. Thoughtful, intelligent counterpoints to the (indeed) repugnant article published defending this bully/harasser. Unbelievable that there is such a strong defense for this vile person, because you are so right – he has no place in film criticism, and the entire industry is better off without him. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for telling the truth.

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