Content Warning: Domestic Abuse
Last week, Casey Affleck won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Manchester by the Sea. This win was marred with controversy, due to allegations of sexual harassment that have previously been made against Affleck. After handing him the award, Brie Larson refused to clap for Affleck; Larson having won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2016 for her portrayal of a victim of sexual assault in Room.
Allegations against Affleck were made by both Amanda White and Magdalena Gorka, colleagues on the set of his largely unsuccessful mockumentary, I’m Still Here. In 2010, both women sued him for sexual harassment.
Affleck reportedly bombarded White with sexually aggressive text messages, ordered another colleague to watch as he exposed his genitalia, and attempted to physically intimidate her into sexual conduct. Similarly, Gorka claimed that Affleck snuck into bed with her while she slept and caressed her whilst she was unconscious. He then proceeded to intimidate her when she awoke and protested his actions. These cases were settled for undisclosed amounts and Affleck still maintains his innocence.
This was, however, quickly forgotten and, with the help of his long-time friend Matt Damon, Affleck landed the role in Manchester by the Sea. That these accusations were largely ignored by the acting community, presenting Affleck with the opportunity to go on to win an Oscar, provides a perfect example of the indifference the entertainment industry has towards abuse. Abuse and harassment by male entertainers is routinely brushed aside if they are deemed sufficiently talented.
Woody Allen, accused of abusing his seven-year-old step daughter, to this day still retains legendary status as a highly-respected director. Mel Gibson was recorded verbally abusing his ex-wife with an onslaught of sexually and racially abusive slurs, yet was recently nominated by the Academy Awards for best director for his 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge. Chris Brown beat Rihanna to the point where her face was almost unrecognisable, and has since assaulted and threatened to kill his on-off girlfriend Karrueche Tran, yet continues to top the charts. Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Dr Dre, Charlie Sheen. The list goes on and on. Are many of these individuals highly talented? Yes. Does that excuse their abuse? No.
Ignoring and denying claims or apologising for their actions: all are common reactions of abusers whose actions are deemed forgiveable by the entertainment industry. Meanwhile, the likes of Kate Moss and Winona Ryder were shunned for elongated periods of time for respective drug abuse and shoplifting, where no direct victim was involved.
By turning a blind eye to the actions of these male abusers, the industry is sending a message to the public that abuse is okay. Both on and off screen, abuse and harassment are either portrayed as acts of passion, or forgiveable lapses in judgement. It is victims who are wrongly vilified and are deemed as either promiscuous or prudish. The more abusers are put on pedestals by Hollywood, the more millions of young men who look up to them will view their actions as acceptable within society. We must hold men accountable for the abuse they perpetrate.