Time’s up for sexual assault in Hollywood

As more voices speak up, the social movement takes centre stage during awards season

If you watched the Golden Globes on Jan. 7, you’ll know that time is up for sexual misconduct and gender inequality in Hollywood.

On Jan. 1, an open letter signed by more than 300 women in the film industry announced Time’s Up!, an initiative which aims to end sexual assault, harassment and pay disparity in the workplace.

The initiative came as a response to The New York Times and The New Yorker exposés about the decades-long sexual assault allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein. Since the Weinstein stories came out, according to the L.A. Times, “a powerful person has been accused of sexual misconduct at a rate of nearly once every 20 hours.”

The Time’s Up! movement was in full force at the Globes last Sunday night, with nearly everyone in attendance wearing black in protest of sexual misconduct. Conversations about female empowerment and gender inequality dominated the red carpet as well as some acceptance speeches.

Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Oprah Winfrey were among those who delivered impassioned and rousing speeches. In one glorious moment, which followed Oprah’s encouraging words, Natalie Portman called out the blatant sexism that exists within Hollywood when she announced the Best Director nominees by saying, “here are the all-male nominees.”

With Time’s Up!, the women of Hollywood are taking great strides to illuminate gender inequality and sexual misconduct in the workplace. After watching the Globes, however, it’s clear there is still plenty of work to do.

While the women were leading the charge, the men stayed relatively silent. Sure, most of the male attendees sported Time’s Up! pins, but they were hardly asked to speak about the movement or why they support it. Unlike the women, none of the male winners brought up issues of sexual harassment or inequality in their acceptance speeches.

Last year, I wrote about how two women accusing Casey Affleck of sexual harassment would not thwart his chances of winning the Oscar for Best Actor. I was right; Affleck won that accolade at nearly every major awards show in 2017, including the Globes.

While it’s tradition for the recipients of the previous year’s Best Actor and Actress awards to present to the opposite sex the following year, Affleck did not attend the Globes. Although not formally announced, he was replaced on stage by Angelina Jolie and last year’s Best Actress winner, Isabelle Huppert.

It was a nice, albeit quiet, gesture on the part of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the committee of film journalists and photographers who nominate and decide the winners each year.

However, the HFPA chose to honour other problematic stars, including filmmaker Kirk Douglas, who has long been rumoured to have “brutally raped” actress Natalie Wood when she was 17 years old, according to the online media company Gawker.

In addition, when James Franco took the stage to accept his award for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical, The Breakfast Club actress Ally Sheedy tweeted (and later deleted) the following: “James Franco just won. Please never ever ask me why I left the film/TV business.” We can’t say for certain what Sheedy was insinuating with her tweet but, since the Globes aired, five women have come forward with their own accusations against Franco claiming sexual inappropriateness in the workplace. On Jan. 11, the L.A. Times spoke to the women, which included actresses Franco has hired for his films and students from his time as a professor at USC, UCLA and CalArts.

However, it seems Franco is getting the Casey Affleck treatment—just a few hours after the L.A. Times story broke, he won Best Actor in a Comedy at the Critics’ Choice Awards. Earlier in the week, Franco denied the accusations, which at that point had only been mentioned on Twitter, during appearances on both The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Late Night with Seth Meyers. Since the women came forward, Franco has cancelled several scheduled events and was a no-show at the Critics’ Choice Awards.

While it might seem shocking that Hollywood continues to allow allegedly abusive men like Affleck and Franco to succeed, it’s hardly a surprise. Just look at Woody Allen.

In 1992, Allen’s adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow alleged that he molested her when she was 7 years old. Farrow has penned several essays calling out the actors who have continued to work with Allen despite her testimony, and has been an active voice in the Time’s Up! movement.

The allegations against Allen have been an “open secret” in Hollywood since the 90s, much like those against Weinstein were, but that never stopped Allen from continuing to make films and work with the top actors in the industry.

His most recent film, Wonder Wheel, stars Justin Timberlake, who sported a Time’s Up! pin at the Globes, and Kate Winslet, who has been one of Allen’s biggest defenders.

Allen has also worked with the likes of Selena Gomez, Cate Blanchett, Colin Firth, Blake Lively and so many more. They all must have, at the very least, been aware of the accusations against Allen and chose to work with him anyway. Some, like Ellen Page and Greta Gerwig, have expressed their regret about working with him, but most have remained quiet.

Because, in 2018, working with an alleged pedophile and molester still gives an actor prestige.

Honouring and awarding men who have such severe allegations made against them at an awards show where everyone is protesting that very thing is disturbing. Doesn’t all the aforementioned effort go to waste when the actresses protesting sexual misconduct are forced to share the stage with an accused harasser/abuser?

The Globes may have seemingly banned Affleck from attending, but the Academy Awards are known to be far more traditional, so there is a chance we’ll see Affleck present at the Oscars when they air in March.

If that is the case, what can be done? Should we all change the channel the second Affleck appears on our screens? Should the audience boo as he makes his way over to the microphone? Would it not make more of a statement if the likes of Casey Affleck were formally banned from attending awards season altogether?

Time’s Up! is but a small step in an greater battle against sexual harassment and gender inequality, but cherry-picking who is held accountable and who gets a pass is not going to enact any change.

We must also leave room for the possibility that more stories will come out between now and March. Stories about those who have championed the movement since the beginning; stories about the very people who sported Time’s Up! pins at the Globes. If these stories emerge, those with the power to do so will have to respond quickly and accordingly.

Hollywood is not entirely there yet, and it looks like it still has a long way to go.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


An actor and author far from anonymous

On Thursday morning, I woke up at 6 a.m., got dressed, and braved the -28 °C weather in order to make my way to Indigo Montreal-Trust, where people were lining up to purchase James Franco’s debut novel, Actors Anonymous.

James Franco, Hollywood’s most educated man, was in Montreal last week to sign copies of his first novel, Actors Anonymous. Photo by Natasha Taggart

A total of 500 fans were able to purchase the book, some of whom had been waiting in line since midnight. Once they had bought the book, they were given a gold bracelet that would allow them to, at 7 p.m. that night, meet the famous actor, director, author and visual artist to have their books signed. I was put into group 10 out of 13, and then had to wait over nine hours until I could finally see Franco in the flesh.

The book signing, which took place on the second floor of the store, started 30 minutes late. The crowd, which consisted mostly of young, overly-excited women (I must admit that I was a part of this demographic), screeched his name when he finally welcomed his fans. We were then called up by group number, and were allowed to have two copies of Actors Anonymous signed.

When my group was called, I got in line and started to get nervous. I was about to speak to Franco and had no idea what I wanted to say. Everyone had their phones out at the ready, as there was about a 20-second window between standing next to Franco — therefore having the perfect opportunity to take a quick photo of his iconic crinkly smile — and then it being your turn to go say a few words.

Before I knew what was happening, Franco was asking me how I was. I froze, then told him that I was good. The next 30 seconds are a blur. I remember telling him something lame, like that I thought he was great. Then I mentioned that I had liked the book and he seemed surprised that I even brought it up. He winked at me and I had to move on.

At about 10 p.m., the event ended and Franco snuck out of the store through a secret exit, leaving his loving fans behind.

The whole event reminded me of a particular part of Actors Anonymous that was quite ironic. At the beginning of the book, Franco talks about how he struggled with being shy and that, when he was 27, he had to teach himself to talk to people. He mentioned that being famous helped and that, nowadays, people always want to be seen at his side. He then writes “or I’m like Santa Claus: Everyone needs a picture sitting on my knees. The ones I don’t mind are the young pretty ones.”

Well, everyone definitely wanted to take a picture with Franco on Thursday. Thankfully, many of them were young and pretty, so I guess he didn’t mind so much.

As for the novel itself, whether or not the fans had read it remains a mystery. For those of you who are considering picking it up or for those of you who have no idea what you had autographed, here is a review.

Actors Anonymous is unique, raw and gives a little glimpse of what it is like being Franco. The novel follows many seemingly unrelated young actors who are still nobodies, while being interspersed with Franco’s personal experiences with acting. The novel also includes poems about River Phoenix, a letter of apology to Franco’s film class, annotated stories and articles, text messages and scripts.

The book is roughly based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. In Franco’s version of the steps, God is the Great Director and the addiction is acting.

The most fascinating chapters in the book are by far those narrated by Franco himself. In these chapters, he gives readers a glimpse into his world and shows that making movies is definitely not the glamorous job it is portrayed to be. He speaks of the importance of every person who works on a movie, especially the director. Franco writes about the actors he looks up to, and talks about their lives — from Jack Nicholson to Marlon Brando. He also, of course, speaks a lot about art, of what it means to him and its importance.

It is hard to tell what parts of this novel are fictional and which are based on true events.

Any of his fictional characters could be him, and in some cases, know him or even dated him. As the book progresses, it also becomes obvious that all the characters are interconnected.

Photo by Nathalie Laflamme

At the book signing, Franco drew a little doodle next to his name. Everyone thought it was a snowman, but the drawing is oddly similar to a doodle one of the characters in the novel, an ex-heroin addict who works at a McDonald’s drive-thru, made for a woman he liked.

Franco’s writing style is simple yet filled with emotion and the content often shocking — talking about rape, death, prostitution, pedophilia, orgies and explosive diarrhea.

Some of the chapters in the book are annotated by one or two other characters, making the text confusing. In these, Franco is referred to as The Actor. One of these chapters includes parts of an article written about Franco that he did not like — each annotation is a negative comment about the article. It felt like Franco was using his novel as a way to get back at people. Of course, it is hard to tell how much of this story is based on truth.

Although Franco might be telling his readers that the film industry is not necessarily a good place to work, his text still offers a lot of life advice and shows to what extent pretending to be somebody else can affect a person. Franco also shows that fame is definitely not all it is perceived to be. As he writes in his book, “sometimes it would be nice to wear a mask in the outside world. Just stay anonymous for a while.”

A friend of mine mentioned that she thought Actors Anonymous would not have been published had the author not been Franco. In some ways, my friend might be right; the novel is definitely not your typical bestseller. Then again, I do not think anyone other than Franco could have written anything remotely similar to this novel. Franco fans will definitely enjoy this glimpse into his thoughts — they may even take his advice to heart.



Exit mobile version