"A LIE WILL GO HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD WHILE TRUTH IS PUTTING ITS BOOTS ON." - MARK TWAIN
Contrary to what is going around the media lately, Marlon Brando did not rape Maria Schneider while filming director Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris, FULL STOP. In addition, Bertolucci DID NOT admit in an interview that he and Brando conspired to rape Schneider on the film. Also, Maria Schneider herself DID NOT ever claim to be raped by Marlon Brando during the filming.
Now that we got that out of the way…I guess I should start at the beginning. Many of you may be wondering what the hell I am talking about? Well, this past weekend all hell broke loose when Elle magazine published an article with the headline, "Bertolucci Admits He Conspired to Shoot a Non-Consentual Rape Scene in 'Last Tango in Paris'. In the article Elle mis-reports that in 2013, Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci said in an interview that Maria Schneider never consented to the film's famous, butter-fueled, anal-rape scene. In response to that headline, and the poorly written and terribly misleading article below it, numerous celebrities like Jessica Chastain, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans and Jenna Fischer have all tweeted their outrage about Marlon Brando and Bernardo Bertolucci actually raping Maria Schneider. In turn, numerous media outlets, from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety to, of all places, USA Today , have posted articles with similarly misleading headlines and equally poorly written articles with the same confusing content, except this time with the added spice of celebrity tweets. Thus, with those tweets about the original Elle article, and then follow up articles from other outlets about those tweets about the original article, a circular firing squad was formed, with the truth dead center in the middle.
This story is a perfect example of the idiocy and feeble mindedness of our media and the gullibility of our populace. First Elle Magazine takes Bertolucci's quote entirely out of context and misunderstands the point he is making, then Jessica Chastain misreads the article and fails to think critically about the claims, and then Chris Evans and Anna Kendrick add their own lack of critical thinking with a sprinkle of moral preening and virtue signaling. Then the rest of the media sees celebrity tweets and scurries to add them to the already rancid shitstorm and clusterfuck of an excuse for journalism. This story is the epitome of the post-truth culture we live in that is governed by the king of Post-Truth, President-Elect Trump. Truth doesn't matter anymore, the only thing that matters are feelings and agendas. If a story is in line with how we feel or what we want to be true, then whether it is actually true or not is of no consequence.
Here is what actually, really, truly happened in regards to the rape scene in Last Tango in Paris. The scene was not in the original script, but was added later when Marlon Brando came up with it, which was not an unusual occurrence when Brando worked on a film. The scene was scripted and Bertolucci, Brando and Schneider talked about it before shooting. The most notable thing about the scene is the use of butter as a lubricant for anal sex. The use of butter was the only thing about the scene not revealed to Maria Schneider prior to shooting. In the 2013 interview referenced by Elle, that is what Bertolucci is referencing when he says that he wanted to keep Maria unaware of that element in order to get a real and genuine reaction from her. It is vital to understand this next part…Marlon Brando did not have actual sex with Maria Schneider during this scene. Marlon Brando did not penetrate Maria Schneider's anus or vagina with his fingers, penis or butter during this scene. At no point during this scene did Marlon Brando ever touch Maria Schneider's anus or vagina. It is also important to point out that Maria Schneider did indeed know ahead of time that this was an anal sex/rape scene and consented to shoot the scene. Maria Schneider obviously never consented to rape or sex of any kind, and no rape or sex of any kind took place during the filming of the scene. People claiming that Marlon Brando literally and physically raped Maria Schneider in this scene are wrong. People claiming that Marlon Brando literally and physically sexually assaulted Maria Schneider are wrong. All of the sex in the rape scene, and the rest of the entire film for that matter, is completely simulated, including the application of butter to Maria Schneider's anus. While Maria Schneider is shown naked in other parts of the film, in the rape scene there is only a glimpse of the upper and side part of her buttocks. Marlon Brando did not expose his penis in the rape scene and did not put his penis against Maria Schneider's flesh during the scene. These are the facts. Anyone claiming otherwise is either mistaken or lying. This media whirlwind and the accompanying outrage are the result of a terrible misunderstanding and nothing more. (Just this morning Bernardo Bertolucci came out and said exactly that. )
Now, to be fair, Maria Schneider, who died in 2011, did say in an interview in regards to shooting the butter-rape scene in Last Tango in Paris that she "felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci." What Maria wasn't saying was that she was literally, physically raped by Marlon Brando, what she was saying was that she felt emotionally raped by the experience and by Bertolucci's directing style. Why do I say that is what she meant? Because Marlon Brando said the same thing about his experience making the film. Bertolucci stripped away all pretenses and defenses from his actors in order to get as true a performance from them as he could. You can argue in good faith that Bertolucci's approach is emotionally or artistically harmful, or damaging or counter-productive, but what you cannot do is say that anyone was literally or physically raped.
"THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS LIE THAT CAN BE INVENTED WILL FIND BELIEVERS IF A MAN ONLY TELLS THEM WITH ALL HIS MIGHT." - MARK TWAIN
The articles about this story, across the board, are simply atrocious and abominable pieces of journalism, or non-journalism in this case. Read this Hollywood Reporter story, it is incomprehensible. Someone was actually paid money to write that article. Read the other articles, which are mostly made up of the tweet reaction to the original story. I felt like I was going mad as I read these stories because if you actually read the words and use logic, reason and intelligence, you can see what is happening and the misunderstanding taking place. Moral outrage supplants logic pretty quickly in situations like this. This story became a thing because it gave people what they wanted…a victim, a villain and a sense of moral superiority and a desecration of their delicate sensibilities. Just because a story has those elements, doesn't mean it is true…in fact, if a story has those elements it becomes even more important for journalists to dig and find the actual truth…not what the public wants to be true. ( As an example, read my Chris Kyle piece.)
An example of the sort of cognitive dissonance going on in the media around this story can be found in The Guardian newspaper, which had a news article about the claims in Elle magazine and used a similarly misleading headline, "Last Tango in Paris director suggests Maria Schneider 'butter-rape' scene not consensual", note the weasel word "suggests", yet in the article itself it clearly states that there was no sexual contact between Brando and Schneider during the infamous rape scene. That Guardian story also points out the fact that the scene was not sprung on Schneider, or improvised on set, but was scripted. While the scene wasn't in the ORIGINAL script, it was scripted and prepared ahead of time and Schneider had read it before shooting. The dissonance isn't only between The Guardian headlines and articles, but between news divisions and editorial, as columnists at the Guardian apparently don't read their own newspaper, as there were no less than three columnists who wrote about the Last Tango story as if an actual rape occurred, which is contradicted in the papers own reporting. All of the Guardian columnists used the Last Tango rape story to grind their own axes about things like "rape culture" or "male domination" or the "broken promise of the 70's sexual revolution". Those columns all ignored the actual facts of the story because those facts are inconvenient to the arguments they wanted to make.
"I LIKE SIMPLE PLEASURES, LIKE BUTTER IN MY ASS, LOLLIPOPS IN MY MOUTH." - FLOYD GONDOLLI, BOOGIE NIGHTS
Chris Evans, who is best known for his portrayal of Captain America, may very well be the dumbest person to have ever walked the earth. If he isn't the dumbest, he is certainly in the top ten….here is damning proof of that claim. Evan's tweet regarding the Last Tango controversy says "Wow. I will never look at this film, Bertolucci or Brando the same way again. This is beyond disgusting. I feel rage." If you close your eyes and sit still enough, you can hear with wind whistling through the empty caverns of Chris Evans skull. Chris then follows that tweet up by responding to Anna Kendrick's claims that this story is old news with, ""Had no idea. Would felt rage then too. They should be in jail." Poor Chris Evans. Besides this nitwit being completely erroneous regarding the facts of the situation, does anyone out there have the heart to break it to Chris Evans that Marlon Brando has been dead for well over a decade? Poor, stupid bastard. Reading his tweets make me think that Chris Evans was the kind of guy who ate a lot of paste in school. But at least he got to get his virtue signaling in and join the moral hysteria club.
In her tweet, Anna Kendrick gets to not only be morally superior but prophetically prescient because she knew about this scandal a long time ago and it was "dudes" who didn't believe her when she'd tell them. Here's the tweet, "Ms. Schneider stated this several years ago. I used to get eye-rolls when I brought it up to people (aka dudes)". Poor, dopey, little Anna, apparently she doesn't know that a prophet is not without honor except in his (or her) hometown. Hey Anna, maybe those "dudes" didn't believe your story because it was so idiotic and obviously not true. Maybe "dudes" wouldn't roll their eyes at you if you didn't tell them horseshit stories that even the most simple of simpletons could tell was nonsense. Please be careful removing your head from your ass…you might want to try butter to help with the transition.
Jenna Fischer tweeted, "All copies of this film should be destroyed immediately. It contains an actual rape and sexual assault." Jesus Fucking Christ, you raving ignoramus. We just hit DefCon 1 of Moral Panic!! Get a grip woman. Are you that easily taken in by the most base of ludicrous statements. Are you that unsophisticated that you cannot see a shocking headline and then actually gather information about the subject and discover the truth about it? Apparently you are as brainless as Mr. Evans and Ms. Kendrick, which means you are in very, very dopey company.
Jessica Chastain is an undeniably terrific actress, the best of this sad bunch no doubt, but her reading comprehension and critical thinking abilities are woeful. Chastain's tweet shrieks, "To all the people that love this film - you're watching a 19 yr old get raped by a 48 yr old man. The director planned her attack. I feel sick." I feel sick too Jessica, although my sickness is because I am a great admirer of your work and yet have to come to terms with the fact that you are a reactionary imbecile. Does Jessica Chastain really believe that Maria Schneider is being raped in that scene? Really? Truly? Raped? Rape being define as "unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person"? Is Jessica Chastain that much of a dipshit or did she just really want to get into a moral frenzy about something and didn't want details to get in the way? With her tweet, Jessica Chastain proves she is, like her other misguided compatriots, either a fool, a liar or both.
I admit the last section was very unkind to Chastain, Evans, Kendrick and Fischer, but I only did that to try and hit home the point that a failure to think critically about any story in our media, be it about a rape forty years ago, or the case for war over a decade ago, or the claims of heroism by a Navy SEAL, is no longer just an error, but is an act of self-serving myopia and moral masturbation. It is imperative that people think critically about everything they are fed by media outlets, regardless of those outlets ideological proclivities. We must start thinking critically and stop thinking emotionally. This Last Tango rape story is powerful evidence of what happens when we think emotionally and react, instead of thinking critically and respond.
If history is any guide, one thing is for sure, none of these celebrities, or media outlets, are going to back down from this falsehood. They will most assuredly double down on the emotional thinking because that is human nature. Never admit error, only increase your cognitive dissonance to make those uncomfortable facts either go away or have no meaning. Even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence, Chastain, Evans, Kendrick and Fischer won't post apologies to Bertolucci or Brando. They won't say how foolish they were to believe such a rabid bit of foolhardy nonsense. No, these folks will prefer to rage against shadows dancing on the cave wall of their imaginations, or boogie men hiding under their beds. These people, Chastain, Evans, Kendrick, and Fischer and these media outlets, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Elle, USA Today to name but a few, are only interested in satiating their desire for outrage, and have zero desire for the Truth. It is they, and not Bernardo Bertolucci or Marlon Brando who should be ashamed of themselves and their behavior.
Actual, horrific rapes happen all the time, over a quarter of a million women are raped every year in the United States. Thousands upon thousands of woman go through the brutal trauma of being sexually assaulted and raped every year, we don't need to make up stories about phantom rapes occurring forty years ago. This hysteria and frenzy from the media and celebrities about Last Tango in Paris does rape survivors no service. When something so obviously dishonest and demonstrably false as the rape claims and accompanying witch hunt against Marlon Brando and Bernardo Bertolucci about the filming of Last Tango in Paris are used by people to advance an agenda, that agenda isn't strengthened by those lies but weakened. Woman who are actually raped or sexually assaulted, will not find solace in the faux courage shown by these nincompoops railing against Bertolucci and Brando, instead they will wonder why these people aren't fighting against real evils, not made up ones.
"MISTAKES ARE ALWAYS FORGIVABLE, IF ONE HAS THE COURAGE TO ADMIT THEM." - BRUCE LEE
If Chastain and co. are really interested in standing up against rape, why don't they speak out against Woody Allen? Or against Bryan Singer? Or stand up for Corey Feldman and encourage him to name names? Or encourage Thandie Newton to name her abuser? There is more actual evidence in those cases and against those men, including living people claiming to be their victims, than there is regarding the non-story of rape during filming of Last Tango in Paris. The reality is that Chastain et al won't make a stink about Allen or Singer or any other Hollywood heavy-hitter because it wouldn't be politically expedient or career enhancing to do so. Old man Bertolucci is irrelevant as a filmmaker now. Brando is long dead. They are innocent but they are easy targets for the mob of the indignant and uninformed. If you, Jessica Chastain, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick or Jenna Fischer had any balls, you'd take a stand against people with real power who are hurting innocent people, some of them children, to this day. But we all know that would never happen. Courage is in short supply nowadays, no doubt replaced by the easy grace of public moral outrage.
Look at me, for instance. These famous actors are potential clients of mine, but I am calling them out on their bullshit because to me, Truth is more important than potentially advancing my career or padding my bank account. Do they have the same integrity as some lowly jackass like me? Maybe I am hopelessly naive, but I am hoping they do. As an act of good will I extend an offer to any of these actors, Jessica Chastain, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick or Jenna Fischer, that if you publicly apologize to Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando, I will gladly give you two acting coaching sessions for free. That is a value of at least $250!! And that doesn't even include the cost of the butter!! I think that is a nice gesture on my part… a wee bit of goodwill toward the misguided. Now if only someone could read this article to Chris Evans, slowly, and explain the big words to him, we might be able to get the ball rolling on a magnificent working relationship.
"GO ON, TELL ME…TELL ME SOMETHING SWEET. SMILE AT ME AND SAY I JUST MISUNDERSTOOD. GO ON, TELL ME. YOU PIG-FUCKER….YOU GODDAMN , FUCKING, PIG-FUCKING LIAR." - PAUL (MARLON BRANDO), LAST TANGO IN PARIS
In all seriousness, the real crime here is not the non-existent rape of Maria Schneider, it is the fact that Last Tango in Paris is a tremendous film and that will now be lost on people with the hullabaloo surrounding this non-scandal. Marlon Brando is the Godfather of modern acting, no pun intended, and Last Tango in Paris is maybe his greatest performance. In Last Tango, Bertolucci was able to strip Marlon of all his surface performance and left him vulnerable, exposed, and authentic. Brando has never been as honest in a film as he was in Last Tango in Paris.
Maria Schneider was an unknown before Last Tango and her performance is staggeringly good. Her artistic courage resonates through every scene she inhabits. It is a terrible shame that Schneider was unable to handle the scalding glare of fame when it came for her. It was fame that destroyed her, not Bertolucci. The same can be said of Brando as well. Fame is a beast, and it eventually ate both Brando and Schneider alive.
Hopefully, when this whole episode recedes into the background, people can return and watch Last Tango in Paris and see it for what it really is, a delicate, intimate and exquisite dance between two robust, voracious, yet fragile talents who have left this world much too soon…Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando.
For Marlon and Maria, who remained friends until Brando's death in 2004.