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Adam Driver Is Not a 'Diva' for Asserting His Boundaries

On Tuesday, the Daily Beast reported that Adam Driver, star of the new Netflix film “Marriage Story,” walked out of an NPR interview with Terry Gross earlier this month after they played a clip of his acting — something he had previously expressed discomfort over. 

This sparked a heated debate. Some, including celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, called Driver a “diva” for walking out of the interview, pointing out NPR producers did warn him the clip was coming so he could remove his headphones. Others defended Driver, saying the award-winning actor should be able to assert his own terms during interviews. According to reporting by the Daily Beast, Driver’s aversion to listening to himself has been described as a “phobia,” and he has a history of skipping screenings of his own work.

Here’s the thing. Driver identified a personal boundary: He was not comfortable with clips of himself being played during interviews — he even talked about it in another interview with the same journalist — and anxiety doesn’t always make sense. Maybe, even with the warning, he was still overwhelmed or thought he could handle it that day. It was not the journalist’s, nor is it the public’s, responsibility to understand his discomfort. It’s our job to respect the boundary, simple as that.

As someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalized anxiety disorder, I relate to Driver’s seemingly ‘extreme’ response over something small. Like that one time in high school I had a massive panic attack after eating ice cream with chocolate chips in it or that time I yelled at classmates who repeatedly touched my neck after I asked them to stop. The same principle that applied to my boundaries regarding personal space also applies to Driver’s boundaries in an interview. If someone expresses discomfort in a particular situation, they do not owe anyone an explanation, and it is imperative to respect their boundaries.

Gross, an acclaimed and celebrated journalist, seems to have a history of sometimes crossing boundaries. In 1999, Monica Lewinsky walked out in the middle of an interview after Gross asked her questions regarding her relationship with former president Bill Clinton that she felt were too intimate. At the time, Jamie Brickhouse, Lewinsky’s publicist, said, “She’s a person, with feelings. … You can’t force someone to do something they are just literally unable to do physically because they’re upset, regardless of how it’s going to be perceived.” (Lewinsky tweeted in Driver’s defense.)

It’s often hard for individuals without anxiety to understand the concept of being so consumed by something they physically cannot do it, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Imagine how you would feel if you were locked in a room with your biggest fear and not allowed to leave. Amplify that a bit and you have what it feels like for someone with anxiety to be forced to sit through their triggers. It’s not only difficult, but it can be incredibly dangerous if not done with caution — and that is not something anyone other than Driver himself can decide to do. 

Respecting people’s boundaries is always imperative, and a person should never be put in a situation where they have expressed discomfort for the sake of a “good story.” In these situations, however, walking away is often the best approach — one that allows the individual a space to calm down safely and prevents any other potential factors worsening an already overwhelming situation.

Driver has not responded since the Daily Beast shared he walked out of the interview with Gross, so we can’t know what he was thinking. However, it sounds like Driver made the best decision for himself, and that’s what matters most: boundaries are respected and people are empowered to do whatever makes them feel the most safe.

Lead photo via Wikimedia Commons