Pop Culture Fix: Famous Lesbian Conductor Not Nearly as Impressed With “Tár” as You Are

It’s Wednesday! Homemade spicy chicken soup day in my house! Enjoy this Pop Culture Fix while it simmers, and then come on over for a bowl!


+ Marin Alsop, the Chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and a MacArthur Genius Award composer who was mentioned in Tár, said the film offended her “as a woman, as a conductor, as a lesbian.” She went on to tell the UK’s Sunday Times: “To have an opportunity to portray a woman in that role and to make her an abuser for me that was heartbreaking. I think all women and all feminists should be bothered by that kind of depiction because it’s not really about women conductors, is it? It’s about women as leaders in our society. There are so many men actual, documented men this film could have been based on but, instead, it puts a woman in the role but gives her all the attributes of those men. That feels anti-woman.”

+ Here’s a full list of Golden Globe winners, which includes Cate Blanchett for Tár — and also! Angela Basset for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever! Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All at Once! Zendaya for Euphoria! Jennifer Coolidge for White Lotus! Quinta Brunson for Abbott Elementary! And Abbott Elementary full stop!

+ Don’t worry, Out magazine’s got all the red carpet looks from your LGBTQ faves. Oh! And Them does too.

+ Yellowstone breakout Lilli Kay on Clara’s future and that queer kiss.

+ Here’s the trailer for How I Met Your Father season two.

+ Willow‘s world creates a perfect place for queerness to thrive.

+ Oh and by the way! Michelle Yeoh’s Star Trek: Discovery spinoff is still in the works at Paramount+. (Paramount+ has also ordered a D&D live-action series, to which I say, again, WATCH WILLOW.)

+ Wait — is coming out fun now, for celebrities?

+ Rutina Wesley is playing Maria in The Last of Us. Here’s the first look photo!

+ Grease: The Rise of the Pink Ladies? YES PLEASE.


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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1532 articles for us.

28 Comments

  1. Thank GOD someone said it. I haven’t been able to understand why this movie has had so many queer women clamouring for it when it glorifies an abuser. It watches as a moan about “cancel culture”, Blanchett (a serial apologist for abusers and predators; see Polanski and Allen) giving red flag interviews about the content/context of the movie and ffs even Fox News are holding it up for being “anti-woke”.

    Our standards for adoration have to be higher than “Cate Blanchett in a suit”.

    • You’re so right. I saw it at the Australian Film Festival with a good friend of mine, we were so keen to see it! And then spent the entire drive home just tearing it apart because it absolutely was not what we expected and having Cate in a second off-putting lesbian role now makes me hope she avoids playing another in the future.

      Cate in a suit might be awesome, but Cate as a queer icon? Pass, thank you.

    • Actually, you CAN see the film as a wicked satire or sth. It really seems to be a man’s role played by a woman and Cate talking about “husband and wife” in interviews, but please! While this MAY work in theater, it just comes over as regressive here.
      Good, that Alsop speaks up!!
      This film really does a disservice to women leaders – I think Blanchett does not want to think about this. After all, she very much values the VIP male directors.
      The clothes are nice, but maybe we shouldn’t glorify her. A couple of heteros partnering who – for the exotic touch – make Tàr a lesbian. No, thank you.

  2. lol jesus christ I feel like this website is oddly devoted to making sure I feel like a very bad no good shameful person because I like Tar and thought it had aesthetic value. like what is the deal, let queer people have different opinions

    • coming back the next day and the comments in this thread are intense! after taking some time away my comment is too strong. I think I’ve been feeling like AS has become a little bit of a cool kids club/cult of personality for a while, and for some reason the Tar discourse became symbolic of that for me. clearly I just need to step back from the site for a while since I’m taking this all too personally, and other people are clearly having a good experience that I don’t want to undermine.

      • That’s fair! I hope I didn’t come across as hostile, and I think my comment, too, is coming from a place of frustration with some of the stuff that occasionally (rarely!) seems to get posted here in bad faith (e.g., a comment or two by Warrior Nun fans who think the site is out to get their favourite show). I think there’s a good middle ground somewhere where the criticism and discussion can go both ways, though!

  3. How ridiculous. It is quite depressing to think of what story telling would be if everyone actually limited themselves to depicting women as only virtuous, good, and without flaw or faltering. I’d rather stories allow women the full breadth of humanity. Some of the best films and television about men, are about bad men. It’s not an attack on women to tell the story of an abusive woman.

    Nor is depiction tantamount to glamorization or romanticization as everyone is so quick to jump to. We’re not children. We posses the capability to tell right from wrong. If you watched this and thought it was glorifying her abuse, that says more about you as someone interpreting the film than it does the film itself.

  4. couple things you might consider – the predatory/abusive lesbian was, for a long time, the main image we saw portrayed. for many it was really harmful – the grooming rhetoric we are currently dealing with is really kind of the point. i get wanting more complex stories and not wanting our representation minimized, but the concern isn’t facile.

    second, the tar character has such striking similarities to Alsop it’s hard to imagine coincidence. the metric ton of crap she has had to deal with, while there are a metric ton of men who actually fit the profile drawn in the character, is understandably hard for her to take.

    • this made me think. I think I am particularly attracted to narratives in which queer people are depicted as abusive, and I think it might actually have to do with the fact that “queer people are abusers” was so often the only way queer people were depicted in movies. As in, maybe I like stories where queer people are the villains because for so long, those were the only storylines I was allowed to see myself in.

  5. I agree with Marin. I was a music major(at one point in college, finished w/ an English degree) and the abuse and favoritism that goes on when pursuing a degree in Music is disgusting. I spoke to an old classmate and the only people that were able to complete their degree and work on music into adulthood were the white students with money. All my friends and myself who were black barely get to continue music today. I was so traumatized by the music program I still don’t listen to any classical music. I tried to starve myself at one point and the black students were constantly compared to the white ones. I physically could not sing after I quit and hid my cello away.

    “Tár” could have been a celebration of being a queer musician, but instead it was about an abusive powerful lesbian. I mean what’s the point of that???

    Thank you Marin Alsop for speaking up!

    • I’m going to quote @msanon because I feel like my comment is not fully formed.
      “couple things you might consider – the predatory/abusive lesbian was, for a long time, the main image we saw portrayed. for many it was really harmful – the grooming rhetoric we are currently dealing with is really kind of the point. i get wanting more complex stories and not wanting our representation minimized, but the concern isn’t facile.”

      This *points up* I think we’ve seen enough grooming queer narratives. Abuse, racism, sexism, ableism are pretty rampant in these circles. I’ve been in them. But I would like to see something else not focusing on the grooming queer narrative. If we’re going to see these narratives, it’s be nice to see the victim not the abuser at the center and the story can still be queer queer queer(this part is way more my opinion than a critique). I’ve been around enough of these abusive musicians, conductors, etc. I know they exist, they don’t deserve the sh*t on my shoe. They don’t deserve a movie and it is weird that Marin was the inspiration (if memory serves correct) for this abusive shitty main character…

      I know other commenters are saying Autostraddle is pushing an anti “Tar” agenda. Autostraddle does not exist in a vacuum. All writing is inherently biased.

  6. Complicated feelings about Alsop’s take on Tar (didn’t see it myself, but familiar with the basic idea). It’s ridiculous to think that portraying terrible women is anti-woman, especially given the reality that the community is constantly sweeping woman-on-woman abuse under the rug because look, The Men are over there being worse. I would not expect this person to have opinions I don’t hate about basically anything to do with gender.

    However, it looks like the writers, intentionally or otherwise, made their awful protagonist very, very similar to Alsop in many other aspects of her life, and that’s a reasonable thing to be upset about. I would not be happy if I was well-known for something and then someone wrote a character who was more or less me but if I was the worst, whether or not they did it on purpose. I also get the sense that the character’s career was chosen because it had the right sort of vibe rather than because anyone really understood or cared about classical music, and if the way the culture was portrayed in the movie in combination with the abuse storyline didn’t really make sense, that also feels like a good reason to be upset. I don’t feel like writers have an ethical obligation to avoid accidentally creating characters that resemble real people or to portray every professional culture very accurately, but I also don’t think people who end up on the short end of that have an ethical obligation to be polite about it.

    I think the people bringing up the history of predatory lesbian narratives are onto something, I’m just not sure how I feel about it.

  7. The idea that we must always portray lesbians positively is absurd. We can be bad people! We can be abusive! It’s okay to show that on screen.

    I think the film more than adequately lets the audience know that Tár is an asshole. Her anti-cancel-culture tirade is a part of that. Truly, the amount of mental contortion you have to do to think that this movie is celebrating Tár is hilarious.

    Alsop is being willfully obtuse and Autostraddle is being Autostraddle.

    If it was up to the writers and (most) commenters here, we’d be drowning in empty saccharine fluff that never says or does anything interesting.

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