On Monday, Edelstein wrote a Facebook post that included an image from the late Italian director’s Last Tango in Paris that depicted the rape of actress Maria Schneider’s character, Jeanne, along with the caption “Even grief is better with butter.” In the controversial scene, actor Marlon Brando’s character, Paul, uses butter as a lubricant.
Following Edelstein’s post, social media users pointed out the insensitivity of the posting, noting that in 2007, Schneider said that the simulated rape scene was not included in the original script for the film. In an interview with the Daily Mail that year, Schneider said that Bertolucci and Brando sprung the scene on her at the last minute, which led to her “crying real tears” during filming.
“I felt humiliated, and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and Bertolucci,” she said. “After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.” Schneider died in 2011 at age 58, while Brando died in 2004 at age 80.
Edelstein, who also works as a film critic for New York Magazine, later deleted the post and apologized via a statement, saying that he was “not aware of” Schneider’s trauma on set. However, on Tuesday, NPR issued its own statement indicating that the station “decided to end Fresh Air’s association with him.”
“The post is offensive and unacceptable, especially given actress Maria Schneider’s experience during the filming of Last Tango in Paris,” NPR’s statement read. “The post does not meet the standards that we expect from Fresh Air contributors, or from journalists associated with WHYY or NPR.”
Edelstein, of course, is no stranger to controversy. Last year, he drew ire online over sexist comments in a review of Wonder Woman, in which he called star Gal Gadot the “perfect blend of superbabe-in-the-woods innocence and mouthiness” and waxed nostalgic about “Lynda Carter’s buxom, apple-cheeked pinup” version of the story’s heroine. In response to criticism of the article, Edelstein wrote on social media that “the problem is that some people can’t read.”
More recently, Edelstein caused controversy earlier this month with his review of director Peter Farrelly’s Green Book. The film, which follows an African-American classical pianist and his Italian-American driver on a tour through the American South in the 1960s, “taps into a kind of nostalgia for when everything — even racism — seemed simpler,” Edelstein wrote. In an followup apology, Edelstein noted that the line “reads as if I have nostalgia for a time when racism was even more pervasive.”