Film critic David Edelstein apologizes for rape joke, as Martha Plimpton and others call for him to be fired

Raechal Shewfelt
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Martha Plimpton
Actress Martha Plimpton earlier this year. (Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

David Edelstein, a film critic at New York magazine and other publications, is panning his own ill-conceived tweet after actress Martha Plimpton and others called him out.

Edelstein had attempted to make light of a scene in the 1972 movie Last Tango in Paris, after hearing news that the film’s director, Bernardo Bertolucci, died at 7 a.m. Monday at his home in Rome, following a struggle with cancer. Edelstein shared an image from the part of the film where Marlon Brando’s character rapes the character played by actress Maria Schneider, using butter as a lubricant. He captioned it, “Even grief is better with butter.”

Plimpton was so infuriated by it that she demanded Edelstein, who also appears on NPR’s Fresh Air and CBS Sunday Morning, to be fired.

Others weren’t far behind.

The quip was all the more offensive if you know the story behind the scene: Schneider, who was 19, nearly 28 years younger than Brando, didn’t know until the last moment that Brando was going to use a stick of butter as a sexual lubricant in the scene. The late director said in a 2013 interview that circulated online in December 2016 that he hadn’t told Schneider about what would happen to her ahead of time, because he “wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress.”

Schneider, who died of cancer in 2011, said she didn’t know at the time to call her agent or her lawyer for help.

“During the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears,” she said. “I felt humiliated and, to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and Bertolucci.”

Film critic David Edelstein in 2016. (Photo: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Hamptons International Film Festival)
Film critic David Edelstein in 2016. (Photo: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Hamptons International Film Festival)

Edelstein eventually deleted the tweet and said in a statement that he hadn’t realized the history. “To my embarrassment, I was not aware of Maria Schneider’s comments about the making of Last Tango in Paris. I now realize the joke was in poor taste and have removed it, and apologize for the remark,” he said.

Just last week, Edelstein apologized for a review of Green Book after writing, “The movie taps into a kind of nostalgia for when everything — even racism — seemed simpler, and ready to be legislated out of existence.”

He Iater appended the review with the following: “I find to my horror that my closing line reads as if I have nostalgia for a time when racism was even more pervasive and deadly than it is today. I don’t. I was writing as a white liberal who in the ’60s believed that if the system were changed — the Voting Rights Act passed, discrimination on the basis of race made illegal, black people elected to higher office — white racists would come to understand the stupidity and illogic and evil of their prejudices. But what white racists (or white liberals) think is beside the point. My nostalgia for my own naivete — as well as the kind of old-fashioned, congenial mainstream anti-racist myth that flatters Northern white liberals — reveals the limits of my perspective, and I apologize unreservedly for expressing myself so insensitively.”

Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: