Despising De Niro: Why Do Bad Men Get A Free Pass?

Veronika Lee, Entertainment Editor

The #MeToo Movement has been sadly selective about who is punished and who isn’t. This week Netflix debuts its much anticipated “The Irishman,” after director Martin Scorsese caught heat for his pointless bashing of the Marvel cinematic universe. Male cinephiles are praising the streaming service for giving Scorcese a vehicle with which he can show his star vehicle that features much-anticipated performances from Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. However, this cinephile herself won’t be watching and isn’t impressed with Marty or Mr. De Niro.


Crowned a hero, similar to the way in which Woody Allen could do no wrong once upon a time, De Niro has been hyped lately for his anti-Trump stance. He has banned the president from his Tribeca New York restaurant and continuously spoken out against Trump’s hateful rhetoric. But Hollywood seems to have buried the stories of De Niro’s abusive behavior towards his assistants at his production company. In a profanity-laced voicemail you can listen to here:, De Niro berates his staffer Graham Chase telling her that she is “f*cking history.” 


People love De Niro and Scorsese so it seems the media has been mum about the lawsuit, and apologists say that the young production assistant is just angry and wanted money from De Niro. Regardless, she doesn’t deserve to be spoken to in such a way.


As someone who worked in the film and television industry for nine9 horrible years, I can attest that this behavior is standard. Stars are allowed to speak down to underlings, and profanity and mocking is par for the course. You won’t see an evaluation of this behavior in Variety or The Hollywood Reporter – especially when awards season is upon us. The fact is no one will be exposed unless there is a strong advocate such as Ronan Farrow who will keep presenting the facts over and over again. And let’s face it – guys like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer aren’t the sacred cows of the dominant male heterosexual cinephile. It’s not in the best interest of Netflix or any major studios or networks to admonish the behavior of their beloved stars because at the end of the day, if fans are seriously committed to a celebrity, his or her treatment of others just does not matter. Look at George Takei or Neil de Grasse Tyson. While I certainly do not condone the court of public opinion, these men basically get a free pass for anything they say or do because of their belief in science and loathing of Trump. 


When I worked in film and television production in New York, I myself was degraded on a daily basis. The emotional abuse incurred by myself and colleagues was absurd, not to mention the low pay for working 14-18 hour days. I worked in an office casting extras for one of Scorsese’s projects and much of the process of casting was degrading – finding women to do scenes with Leonardo DiCaprio with their vaginas out or their rectums being used for various “artistic images.” Is this art for art’sart sake?, I would ask myself. Who makes the rules?


Despising Donald Trump shouldn’t be a free pass for poor behavior nor should acting in films sacred to the male heterosexual canon. At this point, it’s a given, whether you are a liberal or conservative, that the president is insane. Hollywood has managed to take this popular consensus and wield it as a part of its machine – to openly hate the president builds your clout and all you need to do is tweet incessantly—which is, a lot cheaper than allocating a cut of your salary to a PR professional. Some low ranking Republicans are taking a cue from Hollywood’s book – speak up about Trump, get popular, get money. It’s confectionary capitalist kismet. 


But the victims of the entertainment industry’s abuse are still silenced, many living under the boot of a job they don’t necessarily want to escape because of all the clout assigned to it. I write this as a warning to all you lovers of the complicated, to those who appear to be shouting the loudest in #resistance – when we put individuals on pedestals, most of the time, they are destined to fall.