Dear John Goodman: No Sympathy Here

Debbie says:

Let’s shed a tear for actor John Goodman (actually, I’m a huge fan of his work), who has apparently never thought about the fact that a shoe feels different on the other foot:

At a social gathering, Goodman, an admittedly huge fan of Wiig’s work, approached the “Bridesmaids” star mid-conversation and it didn’t go so well.

side by side photos of the two stars

“She was talking to somebody else, and I was just — I think she’s so great, and the social barriers broke down and I interrupted the conversation,” he explained to Stern. “And I would just hate for somebody to do that to me. And she goes, ‘Yeah, I’ll talk to you in a minute.’ [makes sound of bomb dropping] It was like the Atom. I shrunk down to Atom size. … I really like her, and it was embarrassing, so I’ll never speak to her again.”¬†

Melissa McEwen at Shakesville deconstructs this beautifully:

He saw her talking to someone else and interrupted her, which he would hate for somebody to do to him, but did it anyway. And instead of immediately dropping her conversation with someone else, which they might have considered pretty rude, she told him she would talk to him in a minute.

That actually doesn’t sound very terrible to me!

And I suspect if that had been the whole story, it wouldn’t have sounded very terrible to anyone else, either.

But Goodman went on to explain that her failure to immediately stop her conversation and give him her full and undiluted attention on his schedule made him feel small and insignificant.

You can write this off to his movie/TV star status, which means that he has way less opportunity to learn how to deal with someone blowing him off for five minutes. Or you can say, as McEwen does perfectly accurately, that this is simple misogyny and male privilege at work, that Goodman does this to people all the time without a moment’s thought to whether or not it hurts them, and then can’t tolerate it.

The third piece, however, is Goodman’s size. If he were not famous, he’d be fat enough to lose at least some of his otherwise automatic male privilege, and he’d be very familiar with conventionally beautiful women (especially ones who are movie/TV stars themselves) blowing him off, not just for five minutes, but permanently. Quite likely, he would live in constant awareness that any conversation with a conventionally beautiful woman was an insult risk, just as everyone in a one-down position lives with the constant awareness that any interaction with someone with more power or privilege is an insult risk, or worse.

When he takes this minor interaction, which could so easily be framed as, “Look, Kristen Wiig is polite enough to finish one conversation before starting the next,” as an irretrievable insult, he isn’t just setting Wiig up for dozens of articles calling her out as rude, and he isn’t just¬†revealing himself as having a pathetic need for immediate gratification, he’s also distancing himself from people who look like him, telling them that he believes in his right to expect something they can’t even imagine expecting.

John Goodman, you have experienced a Teachable Moment. I’ll write out the lessons for you:

1) she (and everyone else) has every right to finish her conversation (or her life) without talking to you;

2) if you learn how to deal with minor human interactions without drama, your life will be better;

3) if you weren’t famous, this would be an everyday occurrence. Be kind to the people who have to face much worse with their morning coffee.

P.S. to Kristen Wiig: Please don’t make a public “apology,” for doing absolutely nothing wrong.


3 thoughts on “Dear John Goodman: No Sympathy Here

  1. I loved John Goodman so much in the Rosanne TV show and have watched his other work whenever possible. So I was very excited a few years back when the founder and editor (Maureen Parke) of Ooo Baby, Baby magazine proposed that I do a telephone interview with him as I had Darlene Cates. Goodman’s staff never even bothered to reply to her request, not even to refuse it. Okay, the magazine title might have put them off, but I think its celebration of fat people was totally repugnant to Goodman and everything he aspired to. I made it a point to listen to his interviews after that and his self-hatred over being fat, being famous as part of a successful sitcom featuring fat actors and being discounted because of his body seems to have brought out a poisonous negativity in him towards his own body which is no longer that of the college athlete he once was, and towards others as well. I can see him being hypersensitive about any fancied rudeness to the point of being rude himself. So sad, particularly from the creator of the amazing Dan Connor in Roseanne.

  2. Your words about John Goodman seem to say more about you than him. I don’t particularly care about him, but, his interview seemed clear. He admitted he screwed up and was embarrassed by his own actions. He never suggested or implied that Kristen Wiig was in the wrong. He commented on thinking how great she was. I notice you feel very free to turn his own admission of screwing up into a bully pulpit about Male Privilege. Like I said, your words seem to suggest more about you than him.

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