Album Review: Morrissey – Low in High School

On the November 16th episode of Sarah Silverman’s new Hulu show, I Love You, America, the actress and comedian inserted a monologue prior to the opening that addressed her friend, and fellow comedian, Louis C.K’s career-long string of masturbatory assaults. Why is this fact opening a Morrissey review, you ask? Well, because during Silverman’s monologue, she posed the question: “Can you love someone who did bad things?” And we’re now in a position to ask ourselves that same question when it comes to Morrissey, who, in a recent interview with Germany’s Spiegel Online, defended Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein by basically laying blame for their own recent assaults against women and men on the victims.

“Anyone who has ever said to someone else, ‘I like you,’ is suddenly being charged with sexual harassment,” says Morrissey in this interview the very week his new album, Low in High School, is released. The timing here is, uh, bad, and it forces us to ask ourselves if we can love a body of work while separating it from the apparent shit head who made it. In the case of this new release, which marks the 11th of his solo career, it’s not of any sort of caliber in which to aide in the forgiveness of prior transgressions, that’s for sure. It might actually be the, Okay, We’ve Had Enough Album. But it’s also pretty damn good. Almost regrettably so.

It’s hard to look down one’s nose at Morrissey because, for the most part, the music he’s put out during his days with The Smiths, and under his own name, has been superior. The problem that ended up kicking off a wide variety of other problems, is that he very much knows this and has developed a way of behaving over the years that makes his music less easy to enjoy. It’s often a point of debate in art criticism as to whether or not the artist’s personal life should be so closely tied to reviews of their work and, for me, I just don’t see how it can’t be. How can you consume a thing without taking into consideration the person who made it? It’s a huge factor.

Over the years, Morrissey has made a reputation for himself as being a pompous canceler of shows, a stink slinger to fellow musicians, and now a victim blamer. For Christ’s sake, he even found a way to blame Beyoncé for the near-extinction of the rhinoceros. Face it, Morrissey is a dick, and there was a time that his music made us forgive him for that, but it seems those days are over. They’re over for a lot of people. It’s been a long time coming, which once again, begs the big ol’ question: Do we still love his albums? That’s a difficult question.

If you were never a fan of Morrissey, then, yeah, fuck this album, and fuck him too. But, if you’ve loved his music since The Smiths, and their music actually brings you joy, well, then there are things to be found on Low in High School that could possibly, maybe, present a solid argument for attempting to find a way to suck the goodness from this album … while spitting out the pulp that is Morrissey himself. After all, he’s a huge butthole, but maybe we can be satisfied with his rose-smelling shit, if only because we deserve our small pleasures despite their origins. Or, we could just flush it all, if that’s what feels right to you. Hey, 2017 has a whole new set of standards and practices now that we’re, on a daily basis, made to grapple with the fact that everyone we love is an actual monster. Shit. It’s all shit. We’re doomed.

As he’s wont to do, Morrissey is fantastic at a lot of things and yet also lazy and careless AF. Case in point: “Spent the Day in Bed”. The first single off Low in High School is an overcooked clump of wet noodles, covering up a few actually tasty meatballs (sorry, tofu balls) smothered beneath. This isn’t the track that should have been picked to launch this album cycle. Besides, how excited can a person possibly get by hearing a 58-year old man sing about how he loves his bed while warning us to stop watching the news?

Judging by that song alone, mixed with his latest foot in mouth parade, it would be more than easy to throw this album in the trash and be done with him forever. But then you get to “Home Is a Question Mark”, which soars like Morrissey of days long gone, a truly full and beautiful number, showcasing his ability to sing like the hell he’d gladly usher us all towards. When he croons, “I have seen many shores/ I hug the land but nothing more/ Because I haven’t met you/ I have wined and I have dined/ With everybody bogus music mogul/ No sign of you,” real life, and real emotion, comes forward. You can hear it in his voice. It’s songs like this that make Morrissey so hard not to love. Kinda like your drunk uncle on Thanksgiving who makes racist/sexist/homophobic jokes, but then surprises you with a case of your favorite wine and turns on Uncle Buck just for you.

Yay, drunk uncle! Viva La Morrissey!

But, lest we forget “My Love, I’d Do Anything for You”. The opening track starts strong with rattling drums and intriguing horns, only it sounds phoned in. You’ll notice this all throughout the album, as though Morrissey inserted as many new bells and whistles as possible so he could simply lean against the railing. Sure, it all sounds Morrissey-esque … yet like a Morrissey album that came from a producer pushing a big red button marked, “MORRISSEY ALBUM EFFECT,” on a sound board.

Fortunately, our Ibuprofen kicks in as “I Bury the Living” gets the blood pumping in a pretty clear “Fuck All Government” kind of way. “And with the grace of God/ I will die in my own bed/ If you wonder what’s in my head/ It’s just the hatred for all human life,” Morrissey sings, reminding us that in our heart of hearts we always knew that Morrissey was a douche bag, and we’ve loved him anyway up until now, if we loved him at all. Is that all going to change? Should that change? Probably. And yet … we can’t help but keep listening.

“All the Young People”, a hand-clappy sing-a-long edges towards the end of the album and is good to end with here, if we’re in the market to root for a happy ending for Morrissey, which we’re still not sure if we are, but here we are. We’re asked a question here in the lyrics: “Presidents come, presidents go/ And oh look at the damage they do/ All the young people they must fall in love/ So what do you want to do?/ It’s up to you.”

Well, what are we gonna do?

Essential Tracks: “Home Is a Question Mark”, “I Bury the Living”, and “All the Young People Must Fall in Love”

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Charles Manson has died at the age of 83

Cult leader and convicted mass murderer Charles Manson has died at the age of 83, according to TMZ.

Debra Tate, the sister of actress Sharon Tate, was informed of Manson’s death on Sunday evening.

Manson was previously hospitalized in January for severe intestinal bleeding. Doctors deemed him too weak for the necessary surgery and sent him back to prison, TMZ adds.

In 1971, the notorious leader of the Manson Family Cult was found guilty of orchestrating the murders of seven people, including actress Sharon Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski. A failed musician, Manson sought to incite a race war he dubbed, “Helter Skelter”, taken from The Beatles song of the same name. He was originally sentenced to death, but his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment when California discontinued the state’s death penalty statute.

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The trailer for Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time is here, and it’s glorious: Watch

Disney has unveiled the full-length trailer for its forthcoming adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic fantasy novel, A Wrinkle in Time. Set to hit theaters on March 9th, 2018, the film is directed by Ava DuVernay (Selma) and stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, and Chris Pine, alongside newcomer Storm Reid. Watch the trailer above.

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A Guide to Björk in 10 Songs

Ever felt overwhelmed by an artist’s extensive back catalog? Been meaning to check out a band, but you just don’t know where to begin? In 10 Songs is here to help, offering a crash course and entry point into the daunting discographies of iconic artists of all genres. This is your first step toward fandom. Take it.

With nine explosive records (plus a 10th on its way), two movie soundtracks, countless self-produced remixes, a collection of cinematically jarring music videos, and a wardrobe that exists beyond the realms of avant-garde, Björk is hard to ignore. She has remained a mainstay in music for over 20 years, led by unceasing experimentation that doesn’t allowed her to settle into a pop star omnipresence. Björk doesn’t make easily digestible radio candy. She crafts storybooks that explore the inner workings of her mind, her body, her relationships. Every part of a Björk album — the cover art, the videos, the production — exists within a larger narrative that she’s making the listener work to unravel. Her music exemplifies what much of pop music lacks: a real human experience.

Whether you’ve consciously listened to her music or not, you’ve heard her; traces of Björkian sound permeate the music industry (consider: Grimes, Radiohead, The Knife). But if you didn’t grow up on Björk, you’re more than likely of the “never really listened to her” camp or the “didn’t she wear that swan dress?” persuasion. Indeed, an entry-way into Björk is hard to gauge. The minute you think you understand, you don’t. To listen to Björk is to accept disillusionment; you could spend weeks with her body of work and still be discovering new gems.

Björk stretches and challenges the possibilities of music. Jazz, electronic, rock, and classical are just a few of the styles she blends to create her genre-defying sound. She embraces different perspectives with a wide collaborative reach that spans from Thom Yorke to Timbaland. Like her music, Björk is complex and ever-evolving. Changing relationships and locations inspire new sounds and ideas. Autobiographical records channel her questions about identity, sexual desire, love, and desperation. Costumed performances and otherworldly videos complement and further her multifaceted artistry. Björk is a mastermind curator, a producer, a DJ, an actress, an icon, an artist; but above all, Björk is a musician. What follows is the fruit of her genius.

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Shirley Manson blasts Morrissey’s defense of Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein: “Fuck YOU”

In a recent interview, Morrissey came to the defense of Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein amidst allegations of sexual misconduct. Specifically, Morrissey questioned why a 14-year-old boy would put himself in such a situation as to be alone in Kevin Spacey’s bedroom and not be “aware of where that can lead to.” Regarding Weinstein, Morrissey said his multitude of accusers are at fault because “they play[ed] along. But if everything had gone well and had it given them a great career, they would not talk about it.”

Understandably, Morrissey has received quite a lot of flack for his comments. Garbage frontman Shirley Manson didn’t hold back her outrage, writing on Twitter, “Morrissey has lost the fucking plot. Weinstein + Spacey unfairly attacked? For rape, sexual abuse+coercion etc. Fuck U Morrissey! Fuck YOU.”

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What she said.

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Film Review: Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

Was Jim Carrey a jerk or a genius? Let’s back up on that question a bit.

It’s insane to consider that Carrey basically guaranteed he’d never have to leave Hollywood after 1994. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber: all mega hits. It didn’t matter that they were critically poo-pooed. The man was overnight gold, with enough cachet to last him practically the rest of his career.  

But the weirder, and frankly, more fascinating story on that? Carrey says that he met a palm reader in L.A. shortly before those films were released, and the reader told Carrey – no joke – that he would release three huge movies in succession. It’s the kind of thing Carrey’s agents might have told him not to share in 1994, as he’d be looked at like a kook. This is the guy who made a name on talking out of his own butt, but that’s his style of comedy, and it’d make him far less discomforting than a Sunset Boulevard, hippie crystals, far-out sort of kook. Maybe he really is crazy. But I’m no shrink – just a curious viewer of Carrey’s new documentary about the time he broke bad while playing Andy Kaufman.

That palm reader story is just one of many fascinating, flummoxing anecdotes that piece together Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton. It makes sense that it would take nearly 20 years for Carrey and Universal to let the cat out of the bag on the crap he pulled while filming Man on the Moon. To be certain, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond is an eye-opener of a documentary. Blurring the line between giving people what they want, and hiding the fact that it was a hellacious road in getting there, Carrey and director Chris Smith’s (American Movie) new documentary for Netflix and Vice recounts the manic “magic” that drove the 1999 movie. One man’s method becomes an entire production’s mayhem, and what a conflicting watch it makes for. Was Carrey’s process an homage to Kaufman, or just an excuse? Is this documentary something that may have been better suited for special features on a Blu-ray, or is it reaching for the stars with its unfiltered creative strife? It’s a testament to Carrey’s still-polarizing stardom that this film gains its manic mileage.

About that Andy Kaufman. Here was the godfather of alt-comedy, a cringe genius and manic absurdist who made his name goading Jerry Lawler, singing Mighty Mouse on SNL, and doing a wacky European accent as a man named Latka (oy) on James Brooks’ TAXI. His antics leaned into the uncomfortable, and his work blurred the lines of reality in a way that left audiences asking, “is this real?” He wasn’t afraid to commit, we’ll say – the guy would read The Great Gatsby in full to audiences while onstage because, well, why not? He passed away in the mid-‘80s, and his legacy continued to surface in the works of Mr. Show, ABSO LUTELY TV shows, and of course, Jim Carrey.

Jim. The man of a thousand faces was asked to portray Kaufman in Milos Forman’s 1999 biopic Man on the Moon. The reviews were mixed. The movie struggled commercially. And yet Carrey won a Golden Globe, which has always been easier for him than being recognized by the Academy. But the most interesting development to come from that film is the fact that Carrey remained in character the whole time. Or, characters, rather. He went method as Kaufman, and as Kaufman’s alter ego, the asshole lounge singer Tony Clifton (a role shared between Kaufman and his writing partner, Bob Zmuda in the ‘80s). To say the least, it’s really fucking weird to watch the footage of Carrey in the roles, and Smith gets full access to the EPK materials that Universal shrewdly chose to hide. Smith even convinces a shaggy, wistful, and admittedly rambling Carrey to comment on the footage.

To be clear, the footage is insane. Even hilarious at points. This isn’t some prank job, it’s real footage from the set, unleashed for 2017 and fit into a reflective outline about Carrey’s struggles with fame, creativity, artistry, and how he wanted to parallel Kaufman’s own absurdism.

Danny DeVito bemuses, “he’s exactly like Andy.” Warts and all, apparently. Carrey was difficult, showing up in a red Pontiac convertible and denting it in a backlot. He screams in character, as Kaufman’s Latka, that he wants more takes. And as Tony Clifton, when Carrey’s told the movie is taking a sound check, Clifton starts blah-blah’ing and warbling while hitting on extras. Riding the line between amusing and off-putting, the process is fascinating, and even Carrey seems thrown at times when looking back. If Jim & Andy sounds like the Inception of performance, fear not; it’s a little easier to follow than it sounds. It’s just that Carrey’s whims and dime-turn choices baffle the production, because they didn’t realize how frustratingly he’d commit.

The best excuse and logic Carrey offers up? “I have a Hyde inside me that shows up, when there are people, watching, you know? When there’s a thousand people, with their eyes on me, and they hand me a microphone, Jim goes away. And Hyde comes out. You know, but it’s a good Hyde! It’s not a hateful Hyde. It’s a loving Hyde, that just wants everybody to party and have a good time. But it’s a Hyde, nonetheless. And sometimes, afterwards, I feel like, ‘damn, I lost control again!’ To him.”

It’s fascinating when Smith chronicles Carrey’s stunt in tandem with gags he tested on late night shows, like pretending to be drunk on Arsenio and calling the host a “black bastard,” then passing out – or becoming the drunk uncle on In Living Color modeled after his grandfather. Some of it is impressive, and you want to reluctantly applaud Carrey’s wormhole of characters. Some of this stuff makes him look mean, or like a failure of performative acting. It’s hard to put a stamp on it.

Jim & Andy is hard to recommend, or to not. How about this? If you’re a Carrey enthusiast (like me and many others), the video vault alone is worth a watch, and at points, the film might be a pinnacle of creative genius, the struggle with fame, and how performers must mediate their onscreen lives with their real ones. If your patience for Carrey ran out in 1994, or at any time since then (and it has for many), the footage may come across like a cruel prank, and the doc’s approach like an act of half-hearted mea culpa for selfish acts only coming to light as a star’s career has finally begun to simmer. All righty then.

Trailer:

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Family Comes Last in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The Sunday Matinee takes a look at a classic or beloved film each weekend. This week, we’re looking back to a time when alien contact could be made in just five distinct tones, as Close Encounters of the Third Kind observes its 40th anniversary.

On a November weekend in 1977, Steven Spielberg released one of the best American science fiction films ever made. It’s not often that one can make such a definitive statement about a piece of art, subjective and ever-mutable with time as they so often are. But Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the rare film that warrants any and every laurel it could possibly receive, a film that was considered exceptional in its time and now, 40 years later, stands as a testament to Spielberg at the very heights of his powers as a filmmaker, and to what film as a medium can achieve at its most wide-eyed and ambitious. Today, in the Internet era of criticism, a lot of movies garner hype and acclaim and fail to stand the tests of time and memory. Close Encounters does something that’s rare even by the standards of the all-time greats: it only continues to appreciate with time.

In the tale of Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), a Midwestern man who experiences one of the titular bouts of alien contact, Spielberg managed to distill so many of what would become his core recurrent themes into a single character, and story. From the moment that Roy’s face is sunburnt as the result of an alien landing on a country road in Indiana, he’s crossed a rubicon. There’s no going back to his polite life with his wife Ronnie (Teri Garr) and their two children, a life of discussing movie times over the din of the television and the perpetually arguing kids. There’s no going back to his job as an electrical engineer. He’s experienced something that is, in the truest possible sense, beyond human comprehension, and whatever form his life takes from that moment onward will be dictated by it. And if other people are sucked into the vacuum that moment creates in his life, they’re doomed to become collateral damage.

Damage is critical to Close Encounters, which for all of its magic and mirth remains one of the more melancholic Hollywood films to ever break into the mainstream lexicon. Many recall the G, A, F, (down octave) F, C progression with ease, or the triumphant final appearance of the alien mothership, but fewer likely remember just how much of the film is devoted to Roy’s devastating spiral into obsession. This is a Spielberg movie where the happy ending is dubious at best; while there’s an argument to be made for the cathartic power of the film’s ending, and Roy’s ultimate validation, it also comes at the expense of his entire life on Earth. Ronnie is pushed so far beyond the point of any reasonable tolerance that she ultimately takes the family away, and crucially, Close Encounters ends with her never returning. Roy may be right all along, but the pursuit of that truth ultimately tears him, and his life as he’d always known it, apart.

It’s perhaps Spielberg’s best commentary on the creative process, as much as it’s a truly great film about obsessive fixation. Perhaps more than any other of the director’s protagonists, Roy functions as something of an avatar for the filmmaker, whose devotion to his craft above all things has long been a matter of Hollywood record. Roy may be in the right in the most explicit sense, as aliens do in fact exist and are exploring the backroads of middle America, but he’s also a man driven to the brink of madness by his need to have that belief validated, to justify his increasing selfishness as a matter of total necessity. He stops being a father long before his family leaves, consumed by the need to see his self-styled prophecy through to its logical conclusion. Whether the glory of Roy’s true encounter atop Devil’s Tower is worth the sacrifice is a question left to the audience, even if Spielberg would seem to concur with Dreyfuss’ existential wanderer.

The film simply observes Roy, rather than condoning or condemning, and perhaps the best illustration of how far he’s moved beyond humanity can be found in his parting farewell from Jillian (Melinda Dillon), whose son’s temporary abduction sets much of the film in motion. Where Roy will chase his obsession to anywhere it may take him, Jillian isn’t ready yet. She simply wants to take her boy home, and return to some semblance of normalcy. But not everybody can open the door and choose to close it again; Spielberg understands well that if UFOs truly existed, a fact which the film treats with absolutely no doubt, then there would invariably be people who wouldn’t be able to live beyond that truth. It would reshape lives. While much of the alien panic of the ’70s was met with the mocking derision that Roy and the other truthers encounter from the film’s government panel, Close Encounters escalates a theory into the realm of full-blown national conspiracy. Not only are Roy and Jillian correct, but the fervor to hide the truth is just as unbelievable as the presence of extraterrestrial life itself.

Spielberg directs the film with a remarkable simplicity, treating an alien invasion as less of the Independence Day-esque nightmare that so many later sci-fi movies would than as a moment of absolute majesty. Humanity receives the confirmation of alien life with fear, but also with immense curiosity, and with a kind of openness to which we might all hope to aspire. But it also poses the threat of destruction in a more internal way; it’s every bit as plausible as the reality of alien life that a man like Roy would be pushed to the brink, and would terrify his family with trembling fits in the bathtub. There’s beauty in arrival, but there’s the equivalent tragedy of what must then be abandoned to pursue it. Perhaps that’s the nature of obsession, though. The more aware you are of the truth that’s out there, the less able you are to function in the world you once knew.

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Jeffrey Tambor quits Transparent in wake of sexual misconduct allegations

In the wake of a pair of sexual misconduct allegations made by two employees of Showtime’s Transparent, the show’s star, Jeffrey Tambor, has announced he will not return for its upcoming fifth season.

“Playing Maura Pfefferman on Transparent has been one of the greatest privileges and creative experiences of my life,” the Emmy winning actor told Deadline on Sunday. “What has become clear over the past weeks, however, is that this is no longer the job I signed up for four years ago.”

“I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue,” Tambor added. “Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don’t see how I can return to Transparent.”

 

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Foo Fighters honor Malcolm Young with rousing performance of AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock”: Watch

In a statement released ahead of Foo Fighters’ headlining appearance at Mexico City’s Corona Capital on Saturday night, Dave Grohl dedicated the performance to AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young, who passed away Saturday at the age of 64.

“Thank you, Malcolm for the songs, and the feel, and the cool, and the years of losing control to rock and roll,” Grohl wrote. “I will do just that tonight, for you.”

Right on queue, Foo Fighters kicked off their set with a rousing cover of AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock”. “We’re going to play some rock and roll for Malcolm tonight,” Grohl told the audience as a photo of Young was displayed in the background. Watch footage of the performance above.

Guns N’ Roses also paid tribute to Young during their show in Sacramento on Saturday. Frontman Axl Rose, who toured with AC/DC last summer, dedicated covers of dedicated of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” in honor of Young.

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Lena Dunham apologizes for defending Girls writer accused of sexual assault

Lena Dunham has apologized for her statement defending Girls writer Murray Miller, whom actress Aurora Periineau alleged sexually assaulted her in 2012 when she was just 17-years-old. After the initial allegations were made, Dunham and fellow Girls co-creator Jenni Konner released a statement expressing their support for Miller and accusing Periineau of “misreporting” the incident.

“While our first instinct is to listen to every woman’s story, our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3% of assault cases that are misreported every year,” the pair said in the statement. “It is a true shame to add to that number, as outside of Hollywood women still struggle to be believed. We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.”

Dunham was not done however, and went to Twitter to continue her defense, saying, “I believe in a lot of things but the first tenet of my politics is to hold up the people who have held me up, who have filled my world with love.” This, of course, was not well received on social media, where backlash was swift and fierce. Specifically, several people pointed out a past tweet from Dunham which reads, “Things women do lie about: what they ate for lunch. Things women don’t lie about: rape.”

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The widespread outrage caused Dunham and Konner to rethink their seemingly hypocritical statement, and the pair took to Twitter to apologize.

“As feminists, we live and die by our politics, and believing women is the first choice we make every single day when we wake up,” Dunham wrote. “Therefore I never thought I would issue a statement publicly supporting someone accused of sexual assault but I naively believed it was important to share my perspective on my friend’s situation as it has transpired behind the scenes over the last few months.

“I now understand that it was absolutely the wrong time to come forward with such a statement and I am so sorry,” she said. “We have been given the gift of powerful voices and by speaking out we were putting our thumb on the scale and it was wrong. We regret this decision with every fiber to our being.

“Every woman who comes forward deserves to be heard, fully and completely, and our relationship to the accused should not be part of the calculation anyone makes when examining her case,” Dunham wrote. “Every person and every feminist should be required to hear her. Under patriarchy, ‘I believe you’ is essential. Until we are all believed, none of us will be believed. We apologize to any woman who have been disappointed.”

Periineau has contacted the Los Angeles police department about the matter, while Miller and his reps have claimed the actress is seeking publicity and monetary rewards for making the accusations, which they steadfastly deny. We’ve been keeping track of the ever-growing number of men being accused of sexual misconduct, you can check that out here.

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