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Actor Casey Affleck (R) accepts the Best Actor award for 'Manchester by the Sea' from presenter Brie Larson onstage onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

'Endlessly forgiving'

The big — and less obvious — problem with Casey Affleck winning an Oscar

February 28, 2017

On Sunday night at the Oscars, Casey Affleck took home the Best Actor award for his role as a tortured working-class man in Manchester By the Sea. The win came amid sexual harassment allegations leveled against the actor by two women he worked with on a 2010 film. He was accused in a lawsuit of basically torturing the two colleagues with sexual harassment and then enlisting other members of the film’s crew to bully them for rebuffing his advances. The case was eventually settled through mediation.

Writing for Elle magazine, Sady Doyle points out the negative ripple effect Affleck’s win could have on women in the industry, and how such a win was enabled by a history of the Academy looking the other way and letting male artists who are facing serious charges — or in the case of Roman Polanski, who has pleaded guilty to child rape — off the hook. Such forgiveness influences the artistic direction of the film industry, Doyle argues.

“The problem with Affleck or Gibson or Polanski or Allen winning awards isn’t just that it’s unfair,” Doyle writes. “It’s that someone else could be getting them. Someone else could be standing on that stage — maybe even holding that Best Director trophy, which, to date, only one woman has ever done. By endlessly forgiving and validating abusive men, we tell women that the abuse they suffer is less important than some white guy’s right to get his point of view across. We lose those women’s stories, and their art, because we’ve told them they don’t count.”

While much of Hollywood seems to be overlooking the accusations against Affleck, there have been some stars who have objected to the industry celebrating him. Constance Wu, who appears on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat sitcom, strongly opposed Affleck receiving a nomination last month, questioning whether the Academy prized “good acting” over “humanity” and “integrity.”

Even after Affleck won, as The A.V. Club noted, Brie Larson, the actress tasked with presenting the award, staged a quiet protest of his win. Larsen, who played a sexual assault survivor in the 2015 film Room, handed Affleck the statue and, though she gave an obligatory congratulatory embrace, she then stood with her hands at her side, refusing to clap as Affleck accepted the award. A GIF of the moment earned thousands of retweets on Twitter.

How did we get to such a place? Doyle traces the history of back to Polanski’s big win in 2003 — but also points out some more recent instances of the industry turning a blind eye to some men’s misdeeds.

Read the full story at Elle.


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