By Morgan Roberts
Trigger warning- this article does contain references to sexual harrasment and sexual abuse, that some readers may find distressing.
Amidst the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, it as become glaringly obvious how pervasive toxic masculinity, harassment, and abuse are in the film industry. With film and television as not just art forms, but avenues of escapism, how do we watch cinema more responsibly?
Following the scathing Weinstein report, MANY men in Hollywood – and some women – have been accused of sexual harassment and assault. This is not a new thing, but we are certainly not remaining as complacent as before. Louis C.K., Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Bryan Singer, R. Kelly and so on are facing exile from the entertainment industry.
While there are some who are finally being held accountable, there are many more still working. Roman Polanski raped a child and has been barred from ever re-entering the United States, but still makes films in Europe. Woody Allen is not only accused of sexually abusing his daughter, Dylan Farrow, but he married his other (adopted) daughter Soon-Yi Previn. Many people have still worked with him. James Franco. Morgan Freeman. Chris Brown. Casey Affleck. Ben Affleck. Sylvester Stallone. All have allegations against them, yet they are still working. Heck, Brett Kavanaugh is serving on the Supreme Court after having a number of accusations of sexual misconduct.
“I am not saying this is the only way to do it, but here are my measures of coping. To begin, I try really, really hard not to watch films or TV shows with known abusers. Johnny Depp is in this? Hard pass. Jared Leto is involved? No thanks. It is a little limiting on what I can see, but I at least feel better knowing that my money is not going to someone who traumatized someone.”
It is difficult to not feel so down and out about the state of the world. Especially considering how prevalent not only abuse is, but the complacency to it. So, how can we escape in a story when we know that a person has harassed or abused another person? How can we enjoy the art of others while sitting with the horrendous acts someone else has done to others?
I am not saying this is the only way to do it, but here are my measures of coping. To begin, I try really, really hard not to watch films or TV shows with known abusers. Johnny Depp is in this? Hard pass. Jared Leto is involved? No thanks. It is a little limiting on what I can see, but I at least feel better knowing that my money is not going to someone who traumatized someone.
I do not to be someone who perpetuates another person’s pain. Think of how Greta Gerwig, Rebecca Hall, Timothée Chalamet, and Ellen Page (to name a few) made remarks about Woody Allen following the creation of the Time’s Up campaign. They understand the inexcusability of working with a known abuser. How their excitement to work with someone like that further traumatizes the person he abused for years.
“When showing these films to others, having a dialogue before watching, letting it be known that they are abusers, does not condone their actions and does not diminish the artistic work by the numerous people who made these films.”
Yet, there are still people like Alec Baldwin, Kate Winslet, Anjelica Houston, and Scarlett Johansson who still plan to work with Allen or Polanski. These actors are just as disgraceful, in my book, for ignoring the trauma inflicted by these filmmakers. They are just as complacent of their crimes as the perpetrators themselves. We need to get to a place where we begin holding these people just as accountable as the predators they protect.
Going back, I have seen a number of films with so many known predators. “Edward Scissorshands” (1990), one of my favorite films, has domestic abuser Depp. All of my favorite stoner comedies have Franco, who has sexually exploited actresses in his acting classes. Weinstein produced “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012), “Fruitvale Station” (2013), and “Wind River” (2017). Those films were some of the best of the decade. I think, acknowledging their presence and abuse is important to move forward when watching those films. When showing these films to others, having a dialogue before watching, letting it be known that they are abusers, does not condone their actions and does not diminish the artistic work by the numerous people who made these films.
How do we sit with all of this? I do not have an answer to that question. Not a simple one at least. And not one that is universal. A paradigm shift does not happen overnight. But it is still important that we are cognizant of how our actions impact others.