I’m not diagnosing anyone, rather pointing out that how we frame the stories we tell is conditioned by various factors and interests. These “frames” (in sociologist-speak) shift over time and cultures. A 17-year-old and a 37-year-old together in bed now appals; a few generations ago, the play Tea and Sympathy – which concludes with the sexual propositioning of a prep school student by his headmaster’s wife – was a sentimental Broadway hit.
Of course, there are also certain timeless themes, and one of them is the fear of sexual mother-monsters, the subtext peeking out from between the week’s headlines. Argento once played Bennett’s mother onscreen. Hence some of the vitriol, no doubt. Movie mum and son in bed – it’s a little close to incest, right? Ronell too, according to Reitman’s lawsuit, was the mother of all nasty sexed-up mothers: gross, “geriatric”, forcing him into her bed, joining him in his, stroking and besieging him with her bottomless needs. Ronell has been found guilty by her university of sexual harassment; she has denied all Reitman’s allegations. In the frame of the lawsuit or campus tribunals, neediness can only be construed as sexual. I’m less convinced that sex is the key that entirely unlocks this story.