Learning and thinking about Me Too

Last year on our podcast Senaai and I talked about complexity (or lack thereof) in regard to commentary surrounding the film awards season. Specifically we talked about the perceived La La Land vs. Moonlight rivalry and discussions about Casey Affleck’s suitability as an award winner.

We basically decried the lack of subtlety in the debate. On Twitter (and some news outlets to be fair) it seemed that if you disliked Moonlight you were disregarding its importance for black audiences. If you liked it, you were virtue signalling. If you liked La La Land you were taking the Oscar bait. If you thought La La Land was overrated, you were hating on the awards favourite. If you thought Affleck should win, you were excusing sexual assault. If you thought he shouldn’t be nominated, you were missing the point of the awards season.

We tried to come down somewhere in the middle. People are complex. So are issues. But it felt like the debate last year wasn’t. I know this is mainly Twitter we’re talking about, so it’s not exactly the place you go to for reasoned debate (though, where would you go these days?) And I know there are plenty of other areas where nuanced debate is needed, where both sides of an argument simply scream at each other without truly engaging – for example, everything else on the planet right now.

Obviously you can like both movies. For the record I adored La La Land but was happy to see Moonlight win, as it was spectacular film that came at an important time. As for Casey Affleck, I was conflicted, but given that his sexual assault case had been settled out of court (presumably to the satisfaction of both parties), I was okay with his win. I even said something like “it’s not the best person award, it’s the best actor award.”

I don’t think that’s true anymore. Well, to be more accurate, I don’t know what to think about a lot of things now. What a difference a year makes.

In regard to Affleck’s win, it is now overwhelmingly clear there’s a clear problem in Hollywood (and the world), and in a post Weinstein world we can’t be blind to the messages we send with award recognition, and for that matter patronage. Clearly many powerful men have got away with horrible acts because they are good at their jobs and because people see their movies.

Yet I still loved Manchester By The Sea. And Affleck’s performance is a huge part of that. And I’m not sure how to reconcile that anymore. Affleck’s case is different to Weinstein’s – but most stories will be. Weinstein’s alleged behaviour will be a huge outlier. But as I said, Affleck and his accusers settled out of court – so is the case settled? Settled enough to enjoy his movies?

I’m not sure. Things are still complex.

Senaai and I haven’t addressed Weinstein and the Me Too movement on our podcast, although reading about it has basically taken over our lives. It’s not because we don’t have views. It’s just that what we think isn’t vital right now.

This should be a time of learning and thinking. Learning from people who have been silenced. And thinking about how we can find some sort of consistency with difficult, often contradictory opinions.

Here are some things I’m really struggling with:

  • Can I love Woody Allen films but still respect the Me Too movement? The same question can apply for James Franco and Aziz Ansari and so many others.
  • Is a film or TV show off limits because of the criminal actions of the star? But what if the assistant camera guy is also a predator? What then?
  • Lots of people contribute to a film – if we don’t watch it because of one person is that disrespectful to everyone who worked on it?
  • Is a person’s behaviour in a workplace or industry context more significant than in a personal setting?
  • Does it matter when the offence occurred? Or when we found out about it? E.g. Is it okay to watch Kevin Spacey’s earlier work?
  • Can someone’s work be essential enough that we look past improper behaviour?
  • Can we forgive those who seek it? Or are they too far gone?
  • Is bullying or more general bad behaviour enough to disqualify someone from public standing?
  • It’s probably impossible to watch films made by only by good and moral people – but is there any harm in trying?
  • How do we deal with accusations of improper behaviour given false accusations are rare, but such allegations also difficult to definitely prove? And how does the presumption of innocence come into play?

I don’t have all the answers yet. I probably have four or five positions on all of the above, most of which challenge the others.

I think it’s okay to not know or have opinions that don’t quite make sense yet. The ramifications of Weinstein will be felt for years. My main hope is that no one else has to suffer like the stories we’re hearing from Me Too.

God I hope things will be better soon. And if I make it in industry soon I plan to be part of that change.

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