Everyone’s social media feeds after Sunday night’s Academy Awards will be filled with videos of Viola Davis’s tearful, inspiring speech of her accepting the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s royal blunder and whatever it is now that Chrissy Teigen and John Legend do that is #couplegoals. While there is every reason to celebrate Mahershala Ali’s historic Best Supporting Actor victory, making him the first Muslim to win an Oscar for acting, it is a damn shame that Casey Affleck will similarly bask in his Best Actor glory as he and the rest of the world conveniently forget his past sexual assault allegations. Acclamation is undeniably instrumental to rectifying Hollywood’s diversity problem, but Affleck’s win demonstrates that handing a shiny gold statuette to a POC actor will solve next to nothing when it comes to the sickeningly forgive-and-forget, doting attitude Hollywood has toward its dear white male artists.
The world may forget what Affleck did seven years ago, but Amanda White and Magdalena Gorka won’t forget. In 2010, Affleck wrote and directed the mockumentary “I’m Still Here,” during which he was sued by White, the film’s producer, for $2 million for numerous “uninvited and unwelcome sexual advances” and inappropriate comments, some of which include referring to women as “cows” and asking White, “after learning her age, ‘Isn’t it about time you get pregnant?’” Gorka, the film’s cinematographer, followed with her own $2.25 million lawsuit alleged that Affleck “entered the bedroom while she was asleep and crawled into the bed. […] He had his arm around her, was caressing her back, his face was within inches of hers and his breath reeked of alcohol.”
What does society do to a man who does half of what Affleck is accused of having done? Society, when in its right mind, forces him to face serious consequences. Society should not allow him to hire a crisis PR team, settle out of court and sweep the whole thing under a rug. Society should not put him in the winner’s dais with one of the highest honors in his profession, especially considering said profession is one that puts him in a place of considerable visibility and influence. Society should similarly not allow such an individual to set up his little knickknacks and trophies inside of the Oval Office. But that’s exactly what we’ve allowed to happen, this past Sunday and on Election Day. It’s not too far a leap between Affleck and Donald Trump. Here stand two white men, long since established in their respective dominions of acting and business, slipping past consequence to continue their pre-ordained illustrious careers.
Sunday night, Casey Affleck joined an exclusive tier of the Hollywood elite: the miscreants we forgive in the name of their “art.” You know the names: Woody Allen. Roman Polanski. Mel Gibson. Hollywood’s resident purveyor of charming, witty comedies, Allen has been accused of molesting Dylan Farrow, his then-seven-year-old stepdaughter. He has also married his ex-wife Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, with whom he shares two adopted daughters and a 35-year age gap. Roman Polanski was accused of, arrested for, and plead guilty to sexually assaulting 13-year-old Samantha Gailey in March 1977, but that didn’t stop him from being nominated twice and winning one Best Director Academy Award. Mel Gibson has been recorded spewing anti-Semitic and homophobic comments, and in July 2010, a phone call between Gibson and then-partner Oksana Grigorieva adds domestic abuse and racism to the mix. These quotes have not been included in the article due to their inflammatory nature. Nevertheless, Gibson’s quiet but assured comeback also saw him in the Dolby Theatre for a Best Director nomination for “Hacksaw Ridge.”
Which brings us to the case of Nate Parker. Parker, director of “The Birth of a Nation,” was accused of raping an unnamed student while she was drunk and unconscious. He was acquitted of the charges; she had two suicide attempts before succeeding on her third. The film, poised for a worthwhile awards season, became shrouded in Parker’s past transgressions. Due to his actions 18 years ago, Parker’s career has been shot to hell. I raise Parker’s situation not only as one of the few instances in which Hollywood “got it right,” but also as an example of the inherent double standard Hollywood holds for its non-white membership. The blacklisting of Nate Parker is indicative of Hollywood’s blatant hypocrisy when it comes to sexual abuse and race. Praise Hollywood; it’s kept the scary, black abuser from showing his face again but time and time again plasters the face of the white abuser on posters around the world.
We fail to teach a lesson to the next generation of young men by obstructing this information and the rightful anger from the public consciousness. It’s a nasty cycle that faithfully fails the victims every time. The women, cast aside and nameless, are mere potholes in men like Affleck’s career paths. We allow them to become footnotes in a celebrity’s biography, famous only in the context of their abusers. Art should not be shamelessly separated from the artist, because in doing so, we absolve the villain of his crimes. We send a petrifying message loud and clear: if you’re white, male and famous, you can get away with virtually anything. It’s 2017. More than ever do we have to kick up a fuss about sexual abuse, alleged or otherwise. We have to do better.