Last night was The 2017 Oscars. The glitzy, glam ‘anyone who’s anyone’ night of the year. Everyone knows what it’s about and everyone has their views on who should win and who should go home empty handed. This year, in my opinion, pinned an underlying darker side to the Oscars, namely with a certain person taking home the award for Best Actor.
I personally don’t watch the Oscars anymore. Though if I am honest with you – as a teenager, I would stay up all night to watch Ryan Secrest and the stars on the red carpet, dreaming of it one day being me. Those days are now behind me and I’m not bothered by who takes home what award, but when it comes to social, moral and ethical reasons – I have an opinion. Of course, I have an opinion. And where sexual assault and Casey Affleck are concerned, I have a very strong opinion indeed.
I woke up this morning with a vague interest in who had won what and remained unsurprised by most of the winners. As I’ve grown older, my faith in the Oscars has diminished: I don’t think they are diverse enough, they glorify the sexualisation of both men and women and I think they epitomise a lot of what is wrong with society. Year after year we watch them, hoping that this year they will be more inclusive, more diverse and equal, and every year we are disappointed. This year was no different, showing us that this time, those who’ve had sexual assaults cases against them are untouchable. So although I felt a huge amount of disappointment when I saw who had picked up the award, it was no real surprise to me to see Casey Affleck’s name up there.
The response to this was predictable. Some related to Brie Larson and Denzel Washington and reacted with disdain, and some merely felt that it wasn’t a big deal. But it is a big deal – it’s huge in fact. In an ideal world, he would, due to these allegations, be banned from award ceremonies in the same way that average people lose their jobs. Instead, the media pen him not as a man who has allegedly committed these terrible crimes, but as an amazing actor, a role model – someone people should strive to be. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to accept the arguments put forward to me by people saying ‘oh but Manchester by the Sea was amazing’ and ‘he deserves to be credited for his performance’. At the end of the day, he is a role model for countless people out there – and what sort of message does it send that he can win an Oscar? I will tell you what message it sends: it sends the clear and simple message that it’s OK if you have a record of sexual assault because in this field of work it doesn’t mean anything. Giving him the Oscar normalises his past. It normalises sexual assault.
I am not saying that Casey Affleck is a bad actor, I’m aware that his performance was brilliant, but I am saying that he wasn’t worthy or receiving such a prestigious award. Anyone who has seen Fences would argue that Denzel Washington was equally if not more deserving and yet Affleck beat him. Is this the race card rearing it’s ugly head again? There is no question that there is still a very clear divide in Hollywood and if you don’t agree then answer me this: why is it that Jonny Depp still get’s offered great roles, whereas Chris Brown had his career ruined (rightfully I might add) for domestically abusing their partners?
We have such a long way to go when it comes to gender equality and ensuring that women and men have a fair playing ground needs to be a priority in everything that we do. We just simply cannot afford to continue to tell the world that regardless of how you treat women, you can still be the top of your game professionally, especially if you are a white man.
This sort of teaching brushes aside issues of sexual harassment and assault, looking at them as nothing more than a fly on your shoulder, a slight inconvenience to the bigger picture. Is there an answer? Other than saying the same thing over and over again and boycotting certain films because of their cast and crew, I’m not sure. What I am sure of though is that if organisations such as the Oscars continue to celebrate people such as Casey Affleck, Mel Gibson and Jonny Depp then they are constantly bringing us back to square one.