We all know that sex sells in Hollywood, or at least that is what we are lead to believe. The leading men are idolised for their chiselled abs and sharp jawlines, they are held on a pedestal as modern day silver screen gods. But what happens when they tarnish their reputation. Do they lose out on a coveted film role, get cut from advertising deals or snubbed during awards season? In some cases this is what happens but this isn’t always the outcome.
In 2010, Casey Affleck worked on I’m Still Here with Joaquin Phoenix. Two women who had worked with Affleck on the film filed separate sexual harassment suits against him, each suing him for over $2 million. One of the suits claimed that Affleck had climbed into bed with one of the women without consent and grew violent when she rejected his advances. The other woman’s case was very similar in nature and involved Affleck’s co-star, Joaquin Phoenix, and a crewmember. Both of these cases were settled outside of court, Affleck paying an undisclosed fee to both women. As a result of this, there is no other information about these cases.
Fast forward to 2017 and Affleck is having what can only be described as a career high. His critically acclaimed film, Manchester by the Sea, did exceptionally well in the awards season circuit. Not only did he pick up the Golden Globe but he also nabbed one of the most prestigious of all awards – the Academy Award for Best Actor. Given that he was in a category with well-respected and previous Oscar winners this was a spectacular win. However, from the moment Brie Larson announced his name at the show, there was an almost instant backlash. Should he have even been nominated? Does this disregard and belittle the sexual harassment accusations from his past? There are so many ways to argue this. The main question is: should he be punished for the rest of his career for something that he did over half a decade ago?
If Affleck was working an office job in a high up position and had the same accusations put against him by his colleagues, the course of action would probably be that he would be fired from his job and he would have some sort of record against him making it hard to get a job of the same stature as his previous one. This is not the case in Hollywood. Affleck is not the only male actor that has had such allegations put against him and his career be seemingly unaffected. Mel Gibson, a previous winner and who was also nominated for his turn at directing Hacksaw Ridge this awards season, has also been accused of sexual assault and of being physically violent towards his ex-girlfriend, which he pleaded no contest to. This issue that many people had, particularly and understandably the sexual violence community, is that both of these men were nominated for such high profile and coveted awards. Many argued that it wasn’t fair and they should not have been nominated in the first place. While Affleck has not had as high profile of a career as his brother Ben Affleck, he has worked steadily for the majority of his career. This is the same as Mel Gibson. Gibson is one of the most well known actors, his films might not be the best but he is well known and his pay check reflects that.
So what is it with double standards? Both Casey Affleck and Mel Gibson have had sexual violence claims against them but their careers have not taken a significant hit. Which begs the question: is it time for Hollywood to start taking different routes when it comes to situations like these? While I am not saying that they don’t take matters like these seriously, a revaluation of things wouldn’t go amiss. If things don’t change, there could be a bigger backlash on the horizon.