Constance Wu, star of Fresh Off the Boat, is fed up. She’s had enough and isn’t going to sit quietly as Casey Affleck basks in the glory of his Oscar nomination for best actor for Manchester by the Sea. So yesterday, she launched Twitter and started typing.
In case you’re unfamiliar, film producer Amanda White and cinematographer Magdalena Gorka accused Affleck of sexually harassing them while filming Joaquin Phoenix’s 2010 faux-documentary I’m Still Here. The women charged that he both verbally harassed them and came on to them. Eventually, all three settled out of court.
Seven years later, Hollywood is drooling over Affleck’s performance in Manchester by the Sea, conveniently forgotting a woman once claimed she was “traumatized” by her interactions with him. No one seems to want to talk about the fact that such a talented man could have allegedly done such a thing.
Well, no one except Wu. In a series of tweets, she called out the fact that in Hollywood, all that matters is that “you do a good acting job.” She later tweeted that “Affleck’s win will be a nod to Trump’s” and claimed that she was told not to speak up about the issue for the sake of her career.
But will that comparison even hurt his chances at Oscar glory? After all, as an actor, he’s just an “artist dedicated to his craft,” not some power-hungry politician. In super-liberal Hollywood, it seems almost impossible that the film community could be politically progressive and ignore when men in their community mistreat women. But it does. It’s well-documented trend.
Hollywood’s culture of silence around sexual assault has been around for decades, and it’s poisonous. Directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have all skirted sexual harassment allegations and gone on to make movies with some of the biggest stars. Polanski even won a best director Oscar while on the lam for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl. Meanwhile, only four woman have been nominated for that award in 89 years, and only one has won. (Curiously, Nate Parker’s Oscar chances for his film Birth of the Nation were immediately squashed last year after it came out that he was accused and acquitted of raping a woman in college. The difference between Parker and Hitchcock, Allen and Polanski? Well, Parker is black….but I digress.)
Sadder still, Affleck’s unwavering support proves that women don’t have much of a voice in Hollywood. Meryl Streep can walk up to a podium and proudly declare the least controversial opinion in the world right now—that Trump is bad—and be torn apart for it. Most women—almost all women—don’t have the protection that her level of fame affords her. No one knows what might have gone down had she addressed harassment within Hollywood instead of within politics. That’s because the Academy’s one-track mind to celebrate “good acting jobs” regardless of a person’s integrity sends a message of willful ignorance toward crimes against women.
Wu is just one small voice going against a longstanding infrastructure that is dominated by mostly white men, but thanks to her, awareness of Affleck’s murky past is growing. As backlash grows, I can’t help but be reminded how the #oscarsowhite hashtag last year forced Hollywood to face its diversity problem. (This year, by the way, more people of color were nominated in acting categories than ever before and three best picture nominees focus on the black experience.) I also can’t help but consider the tone this year’s show had Ellen Degeneres, a victim of sexual abuse, been tapped to host instead of Jimmy Kimmel.
Hopefully Wu won’t be punished for speaking out. She shouldn’t be. Instead, she should be heralded for not playing into a system that low-key celebrates gender inequality, year after year. Perhaps the next wake-up call the movie industry needs is to realize gender inequality is perpetuated by more than just unequal pay. If the industry stops rewarding men who have a past history of assault—and they can do that by denying Affleck an Oscar in a year when a pussy grabber became POTUS—there is no doubt that filmmakers who dream of winning an Oscar one day will think twice about how they treat the women around them.