Devin Faraci, one of the internet’s most well-known movie critics, has stepped down as editor-in-chief of Birth.Movies.Death after an incident of him sexually assaulting a woman was brought to light.
Normally, I this is not the sort of thing I would comment on, but seeing as I have written in praise of Faraci, both as a critic and recently a comic book writer, I feel that I should explain my opinions on the matter so that current and future readers of mine can make their own decisions regarding reading my own work.
Firstly, even if Faraci had denied the accusations, I would have to believe that they are 100% true, and it should go without saying that what Faraci did is incredibly heinous. If anyone had felt like I have ever endorsed him, I’m letting you know now that I rescind that endorsement. Actions like his should never be tolerated. All my sympathies go to any who have felt victimized by Faraci, not to Faraci himself.
Whatever follows, I just want to make it clear that I do not wish to defend Devin Faraci. He does not deserve it.
Unfortunately, this is another example in a long line of examples of how “great” men are not always good men. Faraci joins countless writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians, politicians, philosophers, and other men whose work is admirable, but whose character make that admiration extremely uneasy. Separating a person from their work is something that everyone has to do on their own terms, and often on a case-by-case basis. It’s a nuanced thing to believe that a text can have merit and value while also holding that the person who created it acted immorally and unethically.
And I think it’s clear from reading Faraci’s work that he was never a particularly kind person. He was quick to generalize and demonize people he disagreed with, and often enjoyed being seen as abrasive. I think he’s the type of person who thought that being called an asshole by certain people was a compliment, and would often talk or write about how he used to be an even bigger asshole in ways that couldn’t really be described as repentant.
But he also seemed like a person who actively tried to become less of an asshole than he used to be. There is a fundamental roughness to him that, it seemed like, he was trying to aim at the “right” people rather than get rid of altogether. While the recent news makes his speech regarding social justice issues hypocritical, it really didn’t come as a surprise that Faraci had done terrible things in the past, and probably still aggressed, and will continue to offend.
Again, this is not intended as a defense; but it seems to me like the dissonance between the feminist values Faraci spoke and his recently exposed actions was not born of duplicity, but of a bad person trying to recognize and change his bad behavior. He is someone that has done, and probably still does, bad things, but tied to improve.
Reading his work now, it doesn’t seem like he is trying to use social justice rhetoric as a smokescreen, but rather, he’s saying it as loud and often as possible so that he can become the person who thought those things. Like how you might repeat a name to yourself three times after learning it so you commit it to memory, Faraci’s use of social justice rhetoric was a way for him to commit those ideas to his person.
The problem was that Faraci thought he could move ahead without getting forgiveness for his past. By now I hope he realizes that you can’t decide what it takes for others to forgive you, and that you can’t ignore the consequences of bad behavior just by trying to do better in the future. And taking his last tweet at face value, it looks like he does want forgiveness.
I will not weigh in on whether or not he deserves that forgiveness, or a second chance. I am not the aggrieved party, it is completely not my place to tell them or anyone else how to move on in this issue. Also, just in general, I’m a nobody.
However, I do generally believe – and I recognize this is coming from a place of immense privilege – that everyone should be given the chance to prove that they are genuinely apologetic, that they have learned what they did wrong, why it is wrong, and promise to become a better person. I believe that, at that point, forgiveness is absolutely necessary for progress.
If Faraci never learns his lesson, and never apologizes to the people he wronged in a way they find acceptable, then of course, forgiveness is not obligatory. But if he is forgiven by the people he’s wronged, then everyone else continuing to punish him is cutting off the nose to spite the face.
Without the potential to be forgiven, bad people have no reason to try and learn from their mistakes. If we decide that anybody can be judged solely by their worst moments, and not by the steps they take to overcome their demons, then we completely remove any incentive for people to become better people, and instead encourage recidivism. And we also tell ourselves that people are only as good as their worst behavior, robbing us of any worthwhile contributions they could make in the future. And moreover, if you don’t believe that people can improve and become worthy of forgiveness, than every moralist argument becomes wasted on people that can never truly learn from them, and so what’s the point?
Again, as far as I’m concerned, Devin Faraci is not yet worthy to be forgiven. There hasn’t been enough time, and even though he’s clearly talked-the-talk for years now, it isn’t yet clear that he’s actually repentant for his past behavior.
In the meantime, I still appreciate Faraci’s work as a critic and a writer. I have separated the much better person he is from his writing than the person he happens to have been and still is. Until it’s shown that he is not trying to better himself, I will likely continue to support his work. This is more out of selfishness than anything else. But if it’s revealed that he is still behaving terribly, then I’ll have to reconsider. At that point, my enjoyment does not overcome the harm of supporting his behavior.
Whether you continue to support Faraci, or my own work, is completely up to you.
And while it sucks to have to reconsider someone I once admired, what Faraci did is many many times worse. Over the course of this piece I’ve likely given him the benefit of the doubt too many times to excuse my own selfishness in continuing to want to read his work. I’m not going to hope that he is forgiven, but I do hope that he truly learns a lesson from this experience. I hope that unlike so many other artists, I could someday read Faraci’s work without feeling like I’m aligning myself with someone completely heinous. And I hope that, should he proves that he is deserving of it, we forgive him, and anybody else who is in the process of learning to become a better person.
P.S. It should go without saying, but anybody who is using this situation in order to discredit feminism, male feminists, and/or allies in general is behaving monstrously. One man’s hypocrisy does not mean that feminism is bunk, or that any male feminists are insincere.