So here’s a funny story.
I had a friend for a number of years, I don’t know what her deal was, it would be unfair to call her a narcissist but she was extremely self-absorbed. Had a bad habit of sleeping with other people’s boyfriends, but she was generally pretty cool, and I was a mess too back then, so we got along, in a weird occasionally enabling toxic way where we both kind of indulged each other.
Anyway, she falls in love with/becomes obsessed with this famous guy. He has a girlfriend his own age but she relentlessly throws herself at him until he leaves the longtime girlfriend and starts dating her.
The age difference is nearly twenty years and where they’re at in their lives is totally different. She’s from wealth, no real job, and he’s a very busy multimillionaire, so she essentially becomes his red carpet girlfriend.
All she talks about for years is this guy. She constantly shits on him privately for being “boring” while simultaneously fawning over him and bragging about the relationship. It’s very clear she just mainly likes having the status symbol boyfriend.
Time passes and she finally gets sick of him and the complaining about boredom in the relationship gets constant, the way people always do when they’re heading towards a break up. But she says she doesn’t want to break up with him because “it would be a whole thing.”
So she ends up cheating on him. He then dumps her.
Years later (and after a few more famous boyfriends), she calls me to let me know that she has decided to “write an article” about her experience. This was a bit after the high heat of #metoo, so I was totally confused.
This guy seemed like someone she didn’t really like dating, and ultimately, during the relationship which I witnessed up close, it seemed like they were just on two totally different paths lifestyle wise and were never really a good fit. It was always the fantasy of the relationship, and the disappointment of reality.
I kept asking if he was abusive or had done something awful I didn’t know about, but she came up dry. She ultimately said it didn’t matter if I could recognize the abuse, but it was simply how she felt.
She said that she “had to” cheat because she didn’t know how else to get out of the relationship. That didn’t check out for me at all. Two months before the break up I remembered her flipping out because he didn’t want to marry her. It seemed extremely transparent what was happening and I was concerned about her because I thought she was going to put herself in an unnecessarily stressful and negative position.
I didn’t care much about him (he’d mostly been really nice to me), but I really loved and cared about her, and saw the situation spiraling towards impulsive, emotional immaturity based chaos. I told her that if she felt that way she should talk about it in therapy and not invite the world into their relationship.
I had this whole phone call in the parking lot of the Beverly Center, and I remember it vividly pretty much only because of what happened next.
I described to her how my own small shaming in 2017 had affected my life and mental health, my family, as well as my relationships. She knew this better than anyone, I thought, but what she said next really horrified me.
After I finished my monologue about how public shaming would only complicate and intensify an already bad situation and cause chaos in this guy’s life, who she cheated on, she responded:
“I just don’t want him to win.”
I’ll never forget her saying that to me.
I’m someone who for decades struggled with deeply destructive, or “toxic” patterns in relationships. I’ve never been the kind of monster the internet occasionally thinks I am, but I’ve definitely caused harm in my life, and there are people who I loved who will never speak to me again because of my actions.
The multifarious nature of public shaming was so nakedly exposed to me in that moment, though, that when my eventual big shaming arrived, I processed it very strangely, especially considering who was ultimately involved.
I’ve never been comfortable talking about it because I don’t think the discourse currently lends itself to an honest calm discussion.
I’m reenforced in this decision by the many credible death threats from insane strangers and the one very real attempt on my life last summer.
The last discussion I had with someone involved in my shaming was after I had again been confronted by another stranger in public. I tried in a respectful way to send out an olive branch; after all, isn’t this all supposed to be about accountability?
I received a very high-school text back openly threatening me with further dire consequences, insulting me, and ending with the bizarre declaration that I was a “bad writer, too.”
A “bad writer?”
People have been telling me I was a bad writer since I was 12. This woman had publicly portrayed me as a Svengali-esque sociopath. And she’s…trying to hurt my feelings in a text? My mind, which had spent years in therapy processing how I’d hurt this person, snapped back to the truth of our multi-year entanglement.
It was Ryan and Kelly, not Hannibal and Clarice. Still toxic, still ugly, still traumatic, but mutually dysfunctional, enabling, codependent and endlessly messy. Heroes and villains were only assigned after the fact.
I heard the words in my head again, then:
“I just didn’t want him to win.”
Some of what’s been said about me is true. It’s definitely true that my instability translated into relationships as emotional abuse, infidelity, and wild unpredictable emotional behavior and tantrums that imploded many of my closest relationships.
I had awful boundaries, I regularly disregarded people who loved me, I was a sex addict, and oh yeah, if anyone cares, I’ve been struggling with pretty intense mental illness since I was about 5. That doesn’t forgive or dismiss the hurt I’ve caused, but it does go a long way to explaining it with something other than “he’s a sociopathic narcissist like from TV.”
I live with the consequences of my choices every day and those patterns haven’t been a part of my life for years, so I essentially live in my own shadow.
I don’t engage with the shaming because it feels impenetrable, monolithic, all-consuming. It is an essentialist defining document that says my soul is forever bad and wrong and anyone who says otherwise has been tricked.
I never apologized or denied because some of it is true, and the parts of it that aren’t true don’t deserve apologies, they just make me feel impotent fury. That’s just me being honest, there’s not any deeper reason for my silence beyond that, I’m just honestly not comfortable with it and I don’t understand what purpose it serves.
The people I feel I’ve hurt the most in my life were not involved in my public shaming. To me, that means it was at least karmically appropriate, and those people are not interested in an apology or hearing from me.
So I’ve never felt comfortable dismissing it, even though the Big Article has multiple easily disprovable lies, gross mischaracterizations, and even just bizarre stuff I can’t even figure out. Like the stories about me harrassing girls on the sets of the student films I directed, and forcing them to undress for auditions.
Auditions, might I ask, for what? What student films I directed? Anyone who knows me knows that the stories about me from college are either heavily twisted or totally invented. I directed only one short in college and it was about fucking Star Wars and everyone very much had their shirt on.
People in my real life, those close to me, are very aware that I was a messy and damaged, selfish person who caused chaos and harm. They are also aware that my shaming was ultimately a somewhat corrupt enterprise.
I wouldn’t have anyone in my life if I was actually the guy from the article. If it reads like a pastiche of every single bad thing a Toxic Man could do, that’s because it is a pastiche.
Yet I can’t deny that there are things I’ve done in my life that I regret so deeply that attacking the specific stories or people involved, or attempting to He Said She Said certain stories to clear my name just wouldn’t feel right.
So I chose to say nothing, for all these reasons, and one more.
I often think about the Twilight Zone Accident.
My father was present for a tragic accident on the set of one of his films, and was subsequently put on a long and very public trial for Involuntary Manslaughter, along with the producers of the film. Three people lost their lives that day, two of them children, and the more you read about the case the more tragic it becomes, because there are so many different levels to it.
Ultimately, it was deduced that what actually caused the accident was a special effects guy setting off a fireball at the wrong time. This isn’t an urban legend, this isn’t conjecture; this is fact, this is what happened.
This of course means my father was found innocent, because he is innocent. Despite the circumstances around the accident being complicated, anyone who’s been on a film set knows that the Director, no matter how loud or brash or unlikable, no matter how imperious or arrogant, cannot be held responsible for a special effects guy missing a cue hundreds of feet away, on a scene the fire safety officer told him was safe.
It was a freak accident. An unmitigated tragedy. I was born during the trial, and raised in the trauma and fallout of the aftermath.
When I was about nine years old, my dad and I were walking through the Century City movie theater and a random adult man screamed the words “Helicopter crash!” at my father.
I didn’t recognize it, but of course my father was triggered and fell completely silent, becoming emotional on the drive home. I was so baffled, didn’t people understand that wasn’t something to yell in the lobby of a movie theater to a man who’s holding hands with his son?
To a man who was found innocent? To a man who undoubtedly would have PTSD from witnessing the horrific accident up close?
Why would anyone do that?
And then, when I had a MySpace, before I was even a screenwriter, people were seeking me out to harass me about the Twilight Zone. I just didn’t get it. They always have this real moralistic tone to them, like I should be so ashamed about something that happened before I was born.
Eventually I just realized they wanted to hurt me, which was nothing new to me because I was often obnoxious and arrogant and annoying and people hating me was a relatively common occurrence.
This was a long time before I ever heard the term “troll.”
The Twilight Zone shit never stopped. People harass me about that to this day sometimes sometimes and it’s just so weird, especially since they now have the extra leverage that I too am an irredeemable monster. People seem so excited, weirdly giddy, to attack me.
I’ll never forget a while after the big shaming; a short, angry looking guy approached me and my friend Megan in an ice cream store. He yelled at her, “Google the guy you’re with!”
Megan responded “He’s my friend?”
The guy looked flustered but then yelled “Bright sucked by the way!”
I responded “You think I’m a malicious sociopath and the best you can come up with is ‘Bright Sucks?’ I don’t even like Bright!”
Again, I live with my implosion of my friend group and career, of several relationships, of alienating so many people, I live every day with the consequences of my behavior.
So who the fuck is this dweeb? It’s just more Twilight Zone accident shit. Just more people trying to take power over me and hurt me. Score little “wins.”
Someone made a sponsored video where they compared me implicitly to Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. I was shown it and I laughed out loud. I’m not a real celebrity. 99% of the people who watched that video had no idea who I was. And again, it just took the weight off my back, it made me realize that so much of this current culture, at least the bubble I had been in, wasn’t about accountability at all. It was about spite.
This was cemented for me even further when one of the women involved in my shaming posted a Twilight Zone accident meme. Like a joke. About the death of a father and two little children. People joke about it, usually, with the intention of trying to hurt or upset me, to show me how rotten my family is.
To do that, to really teach me a lesson about how they’re better than me, they make jokes about a horrible accident that happened before I was born in which two children died.
That doesn’t excuse my choices in my life and the ways I’ve hurt people, but goddamn if it didn’t offer me some perspective. At that point, for a year and a half I’d been in intensive therapy, in and out of mental hospitals on suicide watch.
I never talked about this aspect of the shaming publicly because, again, I’m not interested in participating in the narrative. I wanted and continued to want to focus on myself and my responsibility, find ways to better function as a man and as a human being.
But again those words:
“I just don’t want him to win.”
And then some new words too:
Justice isn’t supposed to be revenge.
I have written dozens of responses to the shaming but none of them seem right because ultimately none of them are connected to my real life. I really hope that one day one on one I’ll be able to truly take accountability to people I’ve hurt, or if they never want to see me again then I hope they never see me again.
But now it’s literally been years and the discourse around me has gotten even more distorted.
I think people thought that my silence was an admission of guilt. No, my silence was because it’s an incredibly intense and deeply complicated multi-layered situation that you’re only looking at the most superficial level of, and I am dealing with, thinking about, and processing it all the time every day. I’m not comfortable engaging with it.
I am not canceled. It’s impossible for me to be canceled, because the centerpiece of what I do, storytelling, my life’s passion and the thing that connects me most to myself and other people, will always have a platform in the modern world.
And I will always be creating art because it is how I find my happiness and how I communicate love to the world. Even if no one’s listening, and God knows, the first 20 years of my life no one was listening.
There have been false reports about me attempting to make “comebacks.” These are all of course entirely made up, I’ve literally just been in therapy and working on myself for four years. Big Studio Hollywood only ever caused me stress and the success and money and fake friends it brought with it only made me more blind to the way I was treating people who cared about me.
I will never repeat the kind of behavior that led to me being publicly shamed. Don’t misread any of this: the shaming is a consequence of my actions and choices.
Most of the reading I’ve done about public shaming says it’s a calcification of enmity, that it never ends, but I really think that’s only true for some people. Chris Brown is doing all right. Shia LeBeouf has a sexual battery lawsuit against him from less than six months ago, and a slew of allegations on top of that, but Shia’s established public narrative of being a mess means he’s already set to star in an A list movie with an A list director.
He denies everything of course. So maybe he’s totally innocent, I don’t know. But it does seem like people pick and choose pretty intensely about this stuff. So I thought it was time I at least said something, because I don’t intend to stop making things any time soon.
The noxious larger-than-life Max Landis character that I fostered the creation of no longer exists. The monstrously misogynist soulless predator never existed, but in his place was something much more erratic and unpredictable that left me alone and hated.
Years pass and I am picking up the pieces of my life. I’m not that guy anymore and I haven’t been for a long time, and being a lolcow for obsessive Anon got old real fast.
I’ve been wanting to say something like this for a while, but I wasn’t sure if anyone wanted to hear “Hey listen I’ve caused harm and hurt people but it’s been years and I’m doing my best can we please stop harrassing me”
But then I remembered: John Landis is innocent.
So maybe it will never end.
There are only two public apologies I would like to make. One is to all of you, to anyone who still follows my work or is interested to see what I’ll do next. I am so sorry if my history of dysfunctional, toxic relationships affected or triggered you personally. I’m sorry if it tainted pieces of my art, or things I’ve collaborated on, that you enjoyed. I understand if you felt hurt, betrayed or confused, and I’m sorry.
I also want to apologize to my friends in real life, who have endured incredible trauma, harrassment and pain in ways that are inappropriate to share here, but if you’re reading this, you know. Most of you have talked endlessly about this with me in person and you’re sick of it, but this is just me trying to get it all out. I still have work to do on myself, I still have a long road ahead.
I used to be a generally negative presence. So my intention for years has been to try to put some hope out there into what feels like an increasingly dark, and ugly world.
I’m aware that sounds corny, but it’s actually the truth at this point and I live it every day.