Character Of Lydia Tar, Explained: Predator In Disguise Or A Wronged Artist?


“Tar” surely did not wish to throw light upon the discussion around “not all men” (or not only men) but rather brought forth how often becoming a sexual predator is all about power and class. No doubt, we have uncountable cases of professors demanding favors from their students in return for better grades and opportunities. The elite academic circles were stunned by the “me too” movement that shook the entire world. The question of should an artist be determined by their sexual misconduct became pertinent in the liberal arts circle. Watching Roman Polanski’s films became a point of debate. Lydia Tar, the protagonist of Todd Field’s “Tar,” believes that prodigious skills have little to do with what an artist (in this case, Bach) did in bed. A genius was untouchable; according to Lydia, they were beyond scrutiny and ridicule.

Lydia Tar’s long list of achievements could not hide her problematic conduct. We get the sense that the whole idea of uplifting women in classical Western music had become redundant for her, which is why she hoped that the accordion fellowship that she funded would stop focusing on a single gender. “We have proved the point,” she believed. Tar did not find it important to discuss gender while talking about her career; perhaps she hated the idea of docility or submissiveness that is expected of a woman. Lydia Tar was more of a cis white man, or at least she enjoyed the idea of assertiveness, power, and privilege that came with being a man. To her daughter, Petra, she was the father who could walk up to her bullies and threaten them. Therefore, we get the idea that Lydia desired to be the tough, masculine figure. A man who could prey upon their subordinates and get away with it simply because he is a man with power. That power is what Lydia enjoys, and the idea of exploitation that comes with it excites her. She looked down upon the thought process of the new generation and ridiculed a student for refusing to perform Bach because he was a misogynist. Lydia, who was an authoritarian when it came to her practice, at one point casually told her daughter how an orchestra was not a democracy. The conductor was the one who had the power, and the performers were merely the players to execute the idea.

Even though Francesca, Lydia’s assistant, dedicated herself to her work in the hopes of becoming a conductor someday, Lydia never looked at her with respect. It was almost as if the dedication was expected of someone of the stature of Francesca. She perhaps believed that Francesca had no alternative but to march behind her, even if she continued to deny her the opportunities that she deserved. Even when it came to Sharon, Lydia’s wife, her relationship was transactional. She needed Sharon’s guidance and observation in the professional world, and their marriage had come down to almost an understanding. Lydia’s perfect world started to crack the moment she was informed about the death of Krista Taylor. Taylor was an Accordion fellow whom Lydia described as someone with “issues.” Upon hearing the news of her suicide, Lydia instructed Francesca to delete every email she had exchanged with the deceased. We later figured out that Lydia was the reason why Krista failed to find work. She had mailed negative recommendations to every institute to which Krista had applied. It is evident that Lydia once shared a sexual relationship with Krista but later refused to acknowledge her. It might be that Krista wanted to discontinue their arrangement, which ultimately led to Lydia proving how she could not navigate the world of Western classical music without her help. Lydia denied her association with Krista and weaved a narrative that projected Krista as the obsessive student who wanted to develop a relationship with her. The only person who knew the kind of person Lydia was, was Francesca, who later resigned after Lydia rejected her for the position of assistant conductor. We later discover that Lydia came from a middle-class American household, indicating how she, too, might have had to deal with hardship before becoming the stalwart that she was. But Lydia chose not to make it any easier for people such as Francesca. She was always mindful of reminding the people around her that she belonged to the upper strata.

Tar was captivated by young women—their inexperience, submissiveness, and enthusiastic charm attracted her. She knew they were easy to groom and control; they would believe her lies and go to any extent to impress their maestro. Other than the fact that preying on young women seemed easy for Tar, she wanted to surround herself with youthful energy. Aging was not a process Tar could gleefully accept; therefore, when it came to having a partner, she preferred someone with a youthful glow. She recruited Olga Metkina primarily based on her appearance. Lydia was fascinated by the young cello player and came up with ways to impress her in the hopes of developing a relationship with her. The desperation that Tar experienced was undeniable, considering that she was already in a questionable position after Krista’s suicide. While subconsciously, she was fearful of the past, in reality, she never stopped herself from misbehaving once again. Tar was almost repulsed by the decay that came with aging, which was obvious by how she obsessively cleaned her body after returning from her neighbor’s apartment, where an old woman and her mentally unstable daughter lived. Of course, it also had to do with class and the idea of steering clear of “dirty” people. There are two instances in the film when Tar comes into contact with a world she chooses to blissfully ignore. The neighbors were a constant reminder, and later it was the ruined building in which Olga lived. When Tar entered the building, she could immediately sense danger and feared what she might come across. She later injured herself while trying to run from a dog, though she convinced everyone else that she was attacked by a man. After all, she had to seem powerful and undefeatable.

Lydia was threatened by Kristi Taylor, and eventually, she started to hallucinate her. She was aware of how her actions had affected Kristi, and it slowly consumed her. She would often hear screams and noises that did not occur in reality. With her professional and personal lives going astray, Lydia could sense losing control of her mind. Lydia Tar was canceled for the statements she made while lecturing at Juilliard, and along with it, she was suspected of being involved in the Kristi Taylor case. While she started to lose the entire world that she had built around her, losing her daughter, Petra, was challenging for her. As Sharon had commented, the only person with whom Lydia did not share a transactional relationship was Petra. Her love for Petra was selfless, and she expected nothing in return. With controversy and legal cases in action, Lydia decides to settle in a Southeast Asian country, where she works as the conductor of an orchestra dedicated to recording video game music scores. Her previously aristocratic audience has now been replaced by a bunch of cosplayers.

When Lydia went to a massage parlor after relocating, she was provided with a room full of women to select her masseuse from. Lydia threw up after encountering the display. By directly facing a bunch of helpless women, she was forced to face her past. She, too, had hunted innocent, helpless women who were compelled to submit to her. We never really know if Lydia will reevaluate the choices she made or if she will ever face legal action for her involvement. Considering that she is a white woman living in a South-East Asian country and doing what she enjoys doing, her life barely seems to be affected by anything at all. Maybe she will just lay low for a few years and work in an upcoming industry; after all, she is known for being a versatile artist.

See More: ‘Tar’ Ending, Explained: Who Is Lydia Tar? How Does Her Life And Career Come Crashing Down?

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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