Recommended listening: Filmsuck on Epstein

An immigrant's perspective on the case of Epstein.

Filmsuck recorded a really great episode with Mary Hanlon, a filmmaker and a former model, about the Epstein case and the new documentary that came out about it.

Mary has some deep personal insights into the Epstein-adjacent world, including into how so much of the fashion and modeling business is a legitimized pipeline for sexual abuse and exploitation.

Meanwhile, Evgenia offers a Russian immigrant’s perspective on the Epstein case. She grew up in Moscow in the 1990s and 2000s — right in the middle of Russia’s transformation into a rapacious oligarchy. She makes an important and I think largely overlooked point: What do you expect? This kind of abuse is what happens in an oligarchy. This is what happens in a society when an elite minority holds all the power. They exploit, take what they want, destroy lives, enjoy themselves — and they do it with impunity. They’re spoiled, bored out of their minds, and boringly predictable.

She reflects on how horrible Russia’s transition to oligarchy has been for women: the 1990s turned Russia into an Epstein world. “In Russia you don’t need a private island to fly away to and hide. You just do it in the open. It’s not hidden. That’s just how things are there. In a way it’s more honest. It’s not covered up by a Puritanical morality. But this is how power works.”

The problem, as Evgenia sees it, is that many Americans aren’t honest about the fact that they live in society ruled by oligarchic overlords.

“One thing confuses me. I’m not American so I don’t fully know the culture. Do people really expect...and are people are outraged that the people in power are not upright citizens? As a Russian, we don't have that.

“If we roll back history, weren’t feudal lords known for raping peasants? I’m talking about basic stuff!”

Listening to the ep, I couldn’t help but think of the bigger story that connects Russia to America and Epstein: The same gross American elites — including political sleazes like Bill Clinton and Larry Summers — who did everything to loot the Soviet Union and make it into the most unequal place on earth and a total hell for women, were the same ones partying, fucking, raping, and buying Epstein’s services as a pimp of poor young girls.

What do people expect?

So it’s fine that they do horrible things to other countries, but somehow they’re expected to be puritanical and pure and caring back home?

This naive expectation that the people who run your rapacious empire should be good people is incredibly powerful in mainstream American culture. But it’s just weird and puzzling to immigrants like us. How delusional and meek can a political culture be?

Anyway, while I’m working on the next installment, listen to the pod!

—Yasha Levine