While many viewers will be on the edge of their seats this Sunday night, waiting to see who takes home an Oscar, one award category in particular has been gathering scrutiny for an entirely different reason.
Casey Affleck has been nominated in the Best Actor category for his role in Manchester by the Sea. Although often overshadowed by his more famous older brother, Ben, Casey is a veteran of the film industry with dozens of acting credits to his name. He's also the subject of several disturbing sexual assault allegations.
Amanda White, a producer on Casey's experimental documentary I'm Still Here, alleges that he repeatedly harassed her during the 2008 filming. White's complaint alleges that Casey repeatedly referred to women as "cows," discussed his sexual exploits with her and tried to intimidate her into joining him in his hotel room.
The film's director of photography, Magdalena Gorka, echoes White in her complaint, claiming that the treatment she received at the hands of Casey Affleck was "the most traumatizing of her career," including waking up one night with Affleck — her married boss — curled up behind her, drunk and caressing her body.
Affleck ended up settling the allegations out of court, but many are still incensed about his nomination, saying that awarding the actor will also offer a tacit endorsement of his alleged behavior.
One of the most outspoken celebs on the issue has been Constance Wu:
In this tweet, Wu takes on those who argue that art should stand independent from its artist, stating that it's irrelevant if Manchester by the Sea is a significant work of art or not. If it's truly great, she says, it will stand on its own regardless of the awards it wins (or loses). But presenting an award to Affleck to recognize his work as an individual actively ignores the grossly inappropriate way he has treated women.
Why does this issue matter so much?
Well, aside from the obvious fact that his alleged behavior is totally fucked up, the issue of promoting and rewarding a man despite such allegations is particularly relevant now, with President Donald Trump, who has admitted to sexually assaulting women, occupying the most powerful position in the country.
Despite the red herring argument often made about false allegations, some studies indicate that just 2.1 percent of sexual assault allegations are proven false and that we should really be concerned about what happens when an assault does take place.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that, although someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds in the United States, reporting rates for sexual assault are incredibly low and conviction rates are even lower.
The commonly cited argument for going easy on perpetrators of sexual assault, and likely one of the biggest reasons that just 310 of 1000 assaults are reported, is that such allegations will ruin a man's life or career (cough Brock Turner cough). But with an admitted abuser sitting in the Oval Office and another on track to win one of Hollywood's most prestigious awards, I think it's safe to say that this assertion has been proven total bullshit.
So, what do we do if Casey Affleck wins? There are a few things to put on your to-do list:
1. Refuse to stay silent about or condone sexual assault in any form from any person, whether they're a friend, a boyfriend, a celebrity idol or a political powerhouse.
3. Most importantly, become loudly intolerant of the systems that reward abusers or attempt to separate their actions from their professional performance. Don't support their movies, don't vote for them, don't promote them and don't ignore the allegations against them. Write letters, make phone calls and let it be known that this behavior is absolutely #NotOkay.
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