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Controversy in Accountability: Abusers in Hollywood

January 25, 2018

Eve Katz

Sexual assault and harassment allegations have gained an increasingly brighter spotlight in the media in current society, especially pertaining to cases in Hollywood. Movements have been popping up of support of victims.

Although it has just recently gained widespread popularity in the media, the Me Too Movement was founded a decade ago by Tarana Burke. The movement began to create a supportive community for survivors of sexual harassment and assault. Supporters of the movement have now been given the title of “silence breakers” and were named Time’s 2017 Person of the Year.

The view of sexual assault and harassment by society has changed over the years. Through case after case of being scared into silence, told to be ashamed of their situations, and forced to live with the long list of lasting after effects of sexually based violence, the Me Too Movement provides an outlet to speak out.

Time’s Up, a similar movement to Me Too that outlines the idea that sexual harassment and assault need to be taken seriously in society, was recently showcased at the 2018 Golden Globes. Attendees of the award show ranging from Meryl Streep to Oprah Winfrey wore black, and some wore pins, to show their allegiance against sexual violence.

We’re here to stand up for all women and men who have been silenced by abuse and harassment and discrimination within their industries”

— Reese Witherspoon

This wave of celebrity support invoked both positive and negative reactions from the public. Some were happy to find their Hollywood idols supporting such a good cause, others were bothered by certain individuals who aligned themselves with Me Too in a seemingly hypocritical fashion.

Aziz Ansari, for example, took home a Golden Globe award from the 2018 event, but he was not only met with congratulatory messages. The star of ‘Parks and Recreation’ and ‘Master of None’ was accused of pressuring a woman into engaging in sexual activity after a date.

Responses to the allegations have been mixed. Those who support the woman believe that Ansari should have seen her discomfort in the situation, that he violated her and the situation should be considered sexual harassment.

Those on Ansari’s side believe that the woman was not clear in her discomfort in the situation, leading to the idea that it is unreasonable to call the situation sexual assault when they feel Ansari was not given clear cues that he was doing anything wrong.

“The next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed okay,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned,” Ansari expressed in his statement about the allegation, “I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.”

Some see his view of “everything seeming okay” as naive and inconsiderate, while others think the woman just did not show how she felt in the situation, so Ansari cannot be blamed.

Either way, with the phrase “sexual harassment allegations” now associated with the name Aziz Ansari, some find his decision to wear a Time’s Up pin to the Golden Globes questionable.

Another celebrity who has been called out for hypocrisy in their support of sexual violence movements like Me Too and Time’s Up in James Franco. Franco was yet another winner, taking home the award for best actor in a comedy or musical, but he, like Ansari, also is the subject of sexual assault allegations.

Reportedly, Franco has attempted to force himself upon women and has also attempted to have sexual relations with girls as young as 17 years old, when he is almost 40.

Though he denies the claim, many are outraged by Franco’s support of Time’s Up. They feel that, with so many accounts against him, he should not be able to try to support a movement that goes against sexual harassment.

Although the cases of Franco and Ansari are different and therefore have different levels of support on either side of both of them, they are prime examples of the public call to hold those in Hollywood accountable for their actions.

Outside of just the hypocritical support of the Time’s Up movement, people are shedding light on allegations against previously very highly respected celebrities such as Woody Allen, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey.

Allen was accused of rape by his adopted daughter, Dylan, who stated the act took place when she was merely seven years old. Ms. Allen publicly spoke of her traumatic memories of her adopted father the morning of January 18th, 2018 on ‘CBS This Morning’, but has been stating firmly that Woody Allen was an abuser ever since 1992. As one of the most successful filmmakers in the industry, even this crippling accusation hardly made a dent in his career. Allen is making a new film in 2018, which is controversially starring Selena Gomez.

Many have questioned whether or not to support the new film with the allegations that have been publicized, but Hollywood itself has not enacted any sort of repercussions against Allen.

Harvey Weinstein has recently become a frequently uttered name among the public, and not for good reasons. According to an article published by USA Today, there has been a total of 84 accusers claiming that Weinstein was sexually inappropriate with them. Despite the alarmingly high number, Weinstein will most likely not face real criminal charges due to a lack of tangible evidence. Public reactions to the lack of punishment vary. Some believe that the women who accused Weinstein are not credible for a number of reasons ranging from suspicion surrounding how long the women took to come forward to the sheer amount of allegations making it seem like some may have just jumped on the bandwagon, according to speculation.

On the other side, there is an accumulation of individuals that are enraged by the lack of consequences Weinstein will face. A career going downhill is not enough for some, who feel that Weinstein’s actions were purely heinous and can only be properly brought to justice with real criminal charges. Currently, Weinstein’s career is reportedly struggling, and that is still a victory for movements like Me Too and Time’s Up. Can this truly be counted as him being held accountable for his actions, though?

Moving on from Weinstein, House of Cards was a Netflix original series that was widely popular before the leading actor, Kevin Spacey, was accused of sexual assault. Now, there will only be one last season of the show, which will leave Spacey out, before the show is cancelled. He is also being edited out of his most recent film, All The Money in the World, upon the discovery of his sexual assault allegations, of which there are three as of December 13th 2018 when Scotland Yard began investigation of the third allegation.

It is unclear whether or not Spacey will face real criminal charges for his actions, but many are calling for this to happen.

Big names like Ansari, Franco, Allen, Weinstein and Spacey are right in the center of the controversy in accountability. Will they be punished? Do they deserve to be? The answers to these questions vary widely between each case, but it cannot be denied that Hollywood can no longer safeguard the abusers that wreak havoc within it.

Even the most successful or popular of actors, producers, filmmakers and more can be forced to face their actions.

There are, of course, still arguments over the issue. Some may feel as if movements such as Time’s Up and Me Too are merely causing more conflict and leading to those in Hollywood, particularly men, to be placed under a critical microscope watching their every move. An argument against that may be that the microscope is necessary, even the smallest instance of sexual violence cannot be allowed, and must be punished.

No matter the dizzying amount of clashing opinions on this subject, abusers in Hollywood are facing more accountability for their actions than ever before. Going into the future, hopefully Hollywood will be a much safer and less corrupt industry.

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