I’ve yet to see Manchester by the Sea. From the trailer and the few things I’ve heard it looks good, if a little depressing. Hence perfect for cleaning up at the awards ceremonies. But I was a tad disturbed reading reports about Casey Affleck. Claims that Affleck sexually harassed two female colleagues during the filming of the mockumentary I’m Still Here back in 2010 have re-emerged due to his strong contention for a Golden Globe (which he won) and possible Oscar nomination. The case was settled out of court. The two women were paid (off) and the complaints were dropped i.e. went away. Same difference.
End of story.
I find it hard to know how to feel in these situations. We’re still talking about Woody Allen and other Hollywood names that were accused of greater offences in the past but never charged. It’s like it’s an open secret and yet no one says or does anything. Have a read of Ronan Farrow’s (Mia Farrow’s son) article on Hollywood’s attitude to the Allen accusations. With regards to Affleck, I often think, rightly or wrongly, if something is settled out of court, there is guilt involved. Is it that the accused doesn’t want to go through the messiness of a battle so they try and resolve it out of the public glare? It could be argued on the other hand, even if innocent and later acquitted of any charges, the accused is already tarred with that brush. The mud has been slung and people can’t always see past the innocent verdict.
Take Nate Parker for example. He was accused of rape in 1999 but acquitted of all charges. Yet his film, Birth of a Nation, has apparently sunk without trace. Was it because it was a more severe charge? Or that his accuser took her own life several years later? Or had it to do with the colour of his skin? Or his place in Hollywood? His lack of big guns to protect his image. I don’t want to rehash other people’s arguments but you have to wonder. Why has this guy, who was found innocent in a court of law, been rejected by Hollywood? Reading around this 1999 accusation you do wonder if he should have taken more responsibility for his actions. Perhaps that’s why the film community are not as quick to receive him. And yet, why do we turn a blind eye to others? Roman Polanski has long been a controversial figure in Hollywood. Although he never admitted guilt to rape, he did plead guilty to having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13 year old girl, but fled the United States before he could be imprisoned. Personally I don’t think a 13 year old girl could consent to some of the things he’s accused of doing. And still he’s revered by many in Hollywood simply for the class of film he makes. Or what about Bill Cosby? As Melissa Silverstein writes in The Guardian “It took over 50 women to come forward for the world to believe that Bill Cosby might have been sexually assaulting women for decades”.
What frustrates me is there is no clear path in how to treat any of these cases. As I’ve spoken before it’s horrible to think of someone being wrongly accused of something. It’s also horrible for someone guilty to walk free. Such is the difficulty of finding justice some times. But what about the people who use money to make their problems go away. Affleck may not have raped these woman but should such “boorish behaviour” be forgotten so quickly? Or are people entitled to make mistakes, clear it up in private and move on with their careers? And what happens to the women whose voices have been silenced? I don’t know if Affleck has been wrongly accused. He claims he’s innocent. Perhaps he is. Or perhaps these two women were telling the truth. Maybe he got ahead of himself, big man on campus so to speak and did some extremely stupid things i.e. climbing in to bed with one of the women. And was drunk to boot. I’m not excusing any of that. But it’s not rape or child abuse. (Though I do find it weird that someone would pay out for something they claim they didn’t do.)
What it is, is a continued mistreatment of women by men in superior roles.
Take the recent surfacing of Bernardo Bertolucci interview where he admitted to conspiring with Marlon Brando over a rape scene without actress Maria Schneider’s knowledge. That is not acceptable. In this case it is outrageous and only serves to reinforce this image of Hollywood’s male elite being purveyor’s of this sexist attitude. Admittedly there has been outrage to the interview but apparently Schneider had been saying it for years and no one listened to her. As I’ve said before, doesn’t La La land have a responsibility for how it’s members treat each other? Shouldn’t it be working to change the way we view the sexual assault and rape culture in films, and between those with power and those without? It’s an institution, decades old, that has both protected and expelled it’s congregation over the years. It has the power to make or break you as Nate Parker is currently experiencing. But there needs to be a consistent approach to situations like this. Hollywood columnist and blogger, Jeffrey Wells believes “there should be a separation of church (cinema) and state (film-makers’ private lives)” But can that ever be? Shouldn’t there simply be an open understanding that behaviour like this is unacceptable and can’t simply be washed away by money, power, experience and the buzz of Oscars, no matter what your surname is.