Rewarding Harassment and Abuse in Hollywood

This year’s Academy Awards continued a disturbing cultural narrative—one in which men accused of sexual assault or harassment are being rewarded.

Casey Affleck was sued for sexual harassment in 2010 by two crew members working on his film I’m Still Here. Amanda White claimed that Affleck had tried to flash his penis at her, tried to convince her into letting him stay in her hotel room, and when she refused he sent her abusive text messages. Magdalena Górka claimed she woke up late at night to find Affleck in bed with her, caressing her back with his face within inches of hers. Affleck won the Best Actor award during this weekend’s Oscar ceremony for his role in Manchester by the Sea. On the red carpet, Matt Damon—producer of Manchester—called Affleck “one of the best people I’ve ever met in my life.” Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote and directed the film, mentioned Affleck during his own acceptance speech for Best Screenplay. “Thank you Casey Affleck,” he said. “Casey Affleck, Casey Affleck.”

In 2010, Mel Gibson’s wife at the time, Oksana Grigorieva, said that he punched her several times—giving her a concussion and breaking one of her teeth. In tapes released to the public after the incident, Gibson tells his wife that she deserved to be raped “by a pack of ni**ers,” and that it would be her fault. Gibson was nominated this year for Best Director for Hacksaw Ridge, a film which won two Oscars—for Sound Mixing and Film Editing—despite his own history of misogyny, anti-semitism, racism and domestic violence.

Maybe Affleck’s performance was extremely compelling. Maybe Hacksaw Ridge was an excellent movie. That shouldn’t matter. The continued success of men like Affleck and Gibson—and the implicit or explicit acceptance of their behavior by their peers—serves as another reminder that Hollywood still has a lot of work to do around issues of sex.