'Stridency and rage'

Sean Penn says ‘salacious’ #MeToo movement divides men and women

Sean Penn, pictured in Hollywood, California, in January, says the #MeToo movement lacks nuance. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Actor Sean Penn has weighed in forcefully on the #MeToo movement, saying it lacks common sense and nuance, and calling it a “receptacle of the salacious.”

The comments were made during an interview by Natalie Morales on NBC’s Today show. Penn appeared alongside actress Natasha McElhone, his co-star in a new TV series The First, about a dangerous mission to Mars. The series, which is set 12 years in the future, features many strong female characters, including the president of the United States, and three of the mission’s five astronauts. McElhone’s character oversees the mission.

Morales asked whether the show was informed by the #MeToo movement, drawing affirmation from McElhone and a strong response from Penn.

“I’d like to think that none of it was influenced by what they call the movement of #MeToo,” he said. “I think it’s influenced by the things that are developing in terms of the empowerment of women who’ve been acknowledging each other and being acknowledged by men. This is a movement that was largely shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious.”

“[We] don’t know what’s a fact in many of the cases,” he went on. “Salacious is as soon as you call something a movement that is really a series of many individual accusers, victims, accusations, some of which are unfounded.

“The spirit of much of what has been the #MeToo movement is to divide men and women.”

Morales then challenged Penn, asserting that, “Women would say it’s uniting women.”

“I’m gonna say that women that I talk to, not in front of a camera, that I listen to, of all walks of life, that there’s a common sense that is not represented at all in the discussion when it comes to the media discussion of it, the discussion where if Sean Penn says this, so and so’s going to attack him for saying this, because of that,” he responded. “I don’t want it to be a trend, and I’m very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed on to in great stridency and rage and without nuance. And even when people try to discuss it in a nuanced way, the nuance itself is attacked.”

“I think it’s too black and white,” he said. “In most things that are very important, it’s really good to just slow down.”

McElhone added that she feels it’s time for attention to move away from the “sort of bubble of actors or people who are in magazines,” while grateful for the spotlight they had brought to the issue. “But now we need to go to the places where this is happening behind closed doors, and it’s not exposed and those voices aren’t being heard.”

Penn has previously aired his concerns about the #MeToo movement, comparing it to a “toddlers’ crusade” and citing Louis C.K. and Charlie Rose, in a poem in the epilogue to his debut novel Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, that was published in March.

A story reported by CNN at the time of the book’s publication, included the following lines from the poem:

“There are no men nor women/only movements own the day/until movements morph to mayhem/and militaries chip away/whether North Korean missiles/or marching Tehran’s way/Where did all the laughs go?/Are you out there, Louis C.K.?”

“Once crucial conversations/kept us on our toes/was it really in our interest to trample Charlie Rose?/And what’s with this ‘Me Too’?/This infantilizing term of the day/Is this a toddlers’ [sic] crusade?/Reducing rape, slut-shaming, and suffrage to reckless child’s play?/A platform for accusation impunity?

Read the full story at Vulture.

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