The Academy Awards is Hollywood’s Super Bowl. The top movies and actors from the previous year compete for the title of “best.” It’s prestigious, it’s coveted, and yet it seems the Academy is at a loss over whether it should award morally unsound people with the highest honor in the business.
Last night, Casey Affleck was competing for the award of “Best Actor” for his performance in “Manchester by the Sea,” an honor he doesn’t deserve.
Affleck directed a 2010 pseudo-documentary titled, “I’m Still Here,” and was sued for sexual harassment by not one, but two women working on the film.
The producer, Amanda White, claimed Affleck ordered a male crewmember to show his penis to her, and the cinematographer Magdalena Gorka woke up one night to find Affleck in her bed caressing her back wearing nothing but a T-shirt and underwear.
It was outrageous. It was disgusting. Instead of going to court, he settled both lawsuits.
The Academy touts the importance of standing firm on a moral ground. Actors spent the majority of the evening blasting some of the ethical decisions made by the current administration and vowing to remain strong and united.
Yet it didn’t hesitate to nominate a man who was accused of sexual harassment.
What’s truly baffling is the Academy already has chosen to condemn these acts, as is evident in its shunning of “The Birth of a Nation” after it was exposed the director, Nate Parker, and his close friend had been accused in 1999 of raping a female classmate at Penn State.
The woman had taken them to court. Parker was acquitted at trial, but his friend was convicted, though he was able to successfully appeal the conviction on the ground of ineffective counsel. Then the bomb dropped.
The woman who had accused Parker had, after multiple attempts spanning several years, committed suicide.
Even though Parker was not convicted, the fact that there was even a chance he had done such a horrendous deed took the film from Oscar shoo-in to box-office flop. Despite the deep, meaningful content of the movie, there was zero talk of it being considered for an award.
The movie, the actors, the crew, were punished for the alleged actions of the director.
Where is the line drawn?
Does there need to be a death for sexual assault to be taken seriously enough to make an actor an outcast? Is it because Parker is a black man and not a scruffy white guy who has a famous brother? Does Affleck get a pardon because the character he portrays is a jerk, a terrible human being, whereas Parker played a hero?
The Academy must make up its mind. It must decide if the horrendous actions a person does denies them the chance for the highest recognition in the field.
And if it decides to draw the line, to deny awards to men and women who lead twisted lives, regardless of their acting ability, it must stick to its decision.
Mel Gibson was ostracized after his anti-Semitic rants, especially after it came to light he had frequently used racial slurs and drunkenly belittled women. Jokes on his behalf were weaved into multiple award shows and it was generally acknowledged the man would never be praised for his artistic talents again.
The Academy was appalled at his behavior. And then it got over it. Eight years pass, and he finds himself nominated for “Best Director.”
At the end of the day, people are watching what the Academy believes constitutes good art. If they see terrible people can do appalling things and still be considered the “best,” why should they make sure they live morally sound lives? It won’t impact their work, they can still have thriving careers, so might as well do whatever they want right?
The Academy cannot permit those who do not value and respect all of humanity, not just a select few, to win or even be nominated for an Oscar.
By permitting a detestable nature, it breeds it.
Breanne Williams is a senior majoring in mass communications.