It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Amy Schumer. Just as her first book, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, was being released, a writer on Inside Amy Schumer, Kurt Metzger, went off on social media about rape survivors and rape culture. Schumer, as Metzger’s high-profile employer—or one of them—was bombarded with demands that she “do something” about Metzger. Her response has not been as strong or definitive as many would like. Indeed, it doesn’t seem anything at all has changed. Except, maybe, our perception of Amy Schumer. There’s a lot going on, though, so let’s break it down.
It all started with the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, and a comedian named Aaron Glaser. He was accused by several women of sexual assault and harassment, and UCB, after looking into it on their own—there was no formal criminal investigation, which will be a point dragged up later—decided to ban Glaser. UCB handled the matter internally, prioritized their community and the safety of its members, and that should have been the end of it.
Enter Kurt Metzger. To the general public, he’s most visible as a writer and occasional performer on Inside Amy Schumer, but he also had a recurring role on Horace & Pete earlier this year (where I singled him out as the worst part of the worst part of the show). His Facebook is an absolute sh*tshow, but the gist of it is that if you don’t go to the police, your allegations of assault don’t count, and he spent a lot of time mansplaining how women should react in the wake of an assault. He also added the good ole “some women lie about rape” jingle. He deleted a lot of his posts—to promote his podcast—but Nikki Black caught one of the real gems before it was gone:
So that’s a mess.
People started tweeting at Schumer pretty much immediately. (No one called out Louis CK, another high profile comedian who employs Metzger.) And Schumer, in return, started blocking people tweeting at her, including Roxane Gay. That’s when things started getting REALLY crazy, and Schumer’s feminist credentials were suddenly being audited. When she finally did respond, it didn’t help much.
I am so saddened and disappointed in Kurt Metzger. He is my friend and a great writer and I couldn't be more against his recent actions.— Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) August 17, 2016
I didn't fire Kurt. He isn't a writer for my show because we aren't making the show anymore. There are no writers for it.— Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) August 18, 2016
And then she had to clarify that Inside Amy Schumer wasn’t cancelled, just on hiatus as she pursues other projects. (Inside head writer Jessi Klein is also promoting a book right now.) Then she talked about Metzger on Charlie Rose, and I’m not sure these comments really help all that much either. She continues to defend employing Metzger—remember, all this started when a comedy theater banned someone in order to create a safer community.
Amy Schumer doesn’t “check all the boxes" as Lainey says, but she checks some of them. She checks more of them than a lot of comedians. And she shouldn’t have to be perfect, because demanding perfection is the first step to undermining. But women are still so underrepresented that someone with a profile like Schumer’s has to be all things to all women, because there’s no other comparable female voice to act as an alternative. That’s an untenable position to hold forever—eventually, you disappoint people because you CAN’T be all those things.
But I wish that the safety of women and respect for their stories and experiences compelled her to action, and not just complacency. Because nothing has changed. She didn’t fire Metzger, and it’s not clear whether or not he’ll still be part of her writing staff whenever Inside returns. She basically just said, “Oh well, I told him to knock it off.” But telling a friend to knock it off is not the same thing as holding someone accountable for reprehensible language aimed at a vulnerable population.
With position comes power, and with power comes responsibility. At a certain point, that responsibility becomes paramount. No one is saying Schumer has to stop being friends with Metzger. But her audience, who has given her the position and power, doesn’t want to support him, even by proxy of supporting her. We shouldn’t demand perfectionism, but we should demand that she should use her position and power responsibly. And the question is, then, how responsible is it to defend Metzger’s voice while silencing the women criticizing him?
Things just keep coming up with Amy Schumer. Last year it was plagiarism, this year it’s bad feminism, and the weirdness with Tig Notaro. The thing that sticks with me, time and again, is that Schumer’s problems are with other women. She’ll defend Kurt Metzger as a “great writer” whose voice is indispensable in her writer’s room, but she won’t defend the women he’s denigrating and demeaning. “I do believe feminists are in good hands with me,” she says. Are we, though?
Attached - Schumer promoting her book in New York this week.