Ain’t It Cool…No It Ain’t

So, about a year ago, a semi-popular geek movie critic named Devin Faraci was accused of some pretty serious sexual harassment.  He had some deep ties in the Austin Film Community and was a pretty big part of the Alamo Drafthouse.  This stung for a lot of people, as Faraci did tend to express progressive ideals.  He disassociated from his duties with the Alamo Drafthouse and stepped away from the film community.  While he stated he had no memory of the incident, he did not deny it could be true and did not call his accuser a liar.  It seemed like the resolution would be peaceable.

A couple months ago, it was revealed that Faraci had actually started quietly working for the Alamo Drafthouse again.  Tim League spoke a lot about second chances, but this was all coming a bit late and frankly felt a bit dishonest.  It appeared that he had started back rather soon after his public departure. And then this week?

The Austin Film Scene and Geek Movies lovers were given another shock.  Indiewire uploaded this article detailing sexual harassment and assault by Harry Knowles by Kate Erbland and Dana Harris.  If you are wondering exactly who Knowles is…well, for that we need to go a little farther back.

picture by Gage Skidmore

Harry started Ain’t It Cool News back in the late 90’s.  It was a geek website focused mainly on movies.  They trafficked in rumors, news and reviews.  They got so big, Knowles was courted by studios for approval (even getting cameos in movies) and even appeared on Roger Ebert’s shows.  His writers went on to be popular in their own right.  Harry had a film festival called Buttnumb-a-thon which was a weekend people would pay to get to sit and watch a bunch of highly anticipated films.  Harry was seen as a guy who could help or hinder your career.  You can see where this might be leading right?

Throughout this time, young women have quietly told friends of experiences with Harry.  He could be, to be generous, “handsy”.  And often, he would get a benefit of the doubt, maybe it was an accident.  I suspect most women can tell an accidental brushing of their butt or a breast, women will often give it a benefit of the doubt.  And there are guys more than willing to take advantage of this.  And in the geek community, there is a heavy reliance on the idea of the “Socially Awkward Geek.”  He just does not know any better.  He is awkward with women.  He means well.  Film writer The Blair Bitch shared this text she received from Harry:
Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 10.33.41 PM

Look at the time stamp.  That was this year.  Harry is 46 years old and should be more than old enough to have learned that this is not “proper” interaction.  That is not socially awkward.  It is creepy.

Now, to be honest, I knew who Harry was…but I never read much of the AICN site.  I tried…but I found it painfully hard on the eyes.  I thought the design was just terrible.  So I rarely read a lot of it.  If I did go, I was looking for something specific, not to wander the site.  One thing I really had never done? Read Harry’s reviews.  Film blogger and critic Scott Weinberg took a pretty firm stand with the women Knowles assaulted and harassed. He has started looking back at Harry’s reviews.  And they are…well…telling.

There were more creepy reviews.  How did this guy get on people’s radar?  His writing is terrible.  Someone claimed that at least it is not boring.  But his work is actually really dull.  Contemplating why mutant Hillbillies don’t rape the pretty actress is not interesting writing!

Between the multiple women, the creepy reviews and the creepy texts, it all paints a pretty disturbing picture.  The reviews alone should have kept him from the mainstream.

My main hope here is that the the fallout is women not feeling they have to accept mistreatment to get ahead.  That harassment and assault are not things they must just put on a brave face for if they want to advance in the film geek world.  But judging from some folks rush to stand behind people like Harry (and Victor Salva, a child rapist whose latest film is about to hit theaters) this is still something a ways off.


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