Certain things shouldn’t be justified with “it’s just my opinion”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Scarlett Johansson was asked how she felt about Woody Allen. Hollywood is in the midst of a great change in how it treats women and sexual harassment.

And this question is posed decades after Allen was first accused of sexual assault by his adoptive daughter. She replied: “I love Woody, I believe him, and I would work with him any time… I have been very direct with him, and he’s very direct with me. He maintains his innocence, and I believe him.”

On one hand, I could argue that everyone has the right to their own opinions and judgements. I can feel the way I want to feel about Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson can feel the way she wants to feel. But on the other hand, the voice of a celebrity as big and influential as ScarJo has an impact, and right now Hollywood is in a state of flux about how the #MeToo movement will evolve.

To provide you with some context, Dylan Farrow says that Woody Allen, her adoptive father, sexually assaulted her on Aug. 2, 1992. I won’t go into the details, but Farrow tells a story that is, according to Maureen Orth of Vanity Fair, “…consistent with the testimony of three adults who were present that day.” Allen was never charged with a crime and investigations ended up claiming no molestation took place and that it was more likely that Dylan Farrow was coerced by her mother, Mia Farrow. However, a judge by the name of Elliott Wilk came to the conclusion that there was no evidence that Mia Farrow coerced her daughter in any way, and that Allen’s behaviour towards his daughter was extremely inappropriate.

Essentially, nothing’s official.

Some could argue that everyone is “innocent until proven guilty.” But here’s how I see this situation: Dylan Farrow has been telling the same story again and again for years, and she didn’t do her first television interview until January 2018. In fact, these claims against Woody

Allen have been persistent since 1992. I feel that if claims have been going on for this long, with little amount of public attention drawn to Dylan Farrow, the idea that someone is innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law is no longer valid. Johansson claims to stand by the #MeToo movement but comments like “I love Woody, I believe him,” voicing her love for Allen, send the message that she fails to grasp the fact that even the men she trusts or likes are capable of such terrible acts.

This isn’t the first time Johansson has made arrogant and ignorant statements. I’m referring to the time she was the lead in the film Ghost in the Shell (2017) and was criticized for whitewashing the character. This movie is based on a Japanese manga created by Masamune Shirow in 1989. In an interview with Marie Claire, she apologized; “I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive.”

About a year later when it was announced that Johansson would be playing a transgender man in a film called Rub & Tug, she was criticized so heavily she simply dropped out of the project. In my eyes, her defence of Woody Allen is just an addition to the list of her problematic traits.

Although I’ve always enjoyed Scarlett Johansson’s films and acting career, she is, without a doubt, ignorant (whether it be willfully or not) and hypocritical. She has the right to stand by her colleague and friend under the guise that no allegation has been confirmed. However, with the years and years of fighting from Farrow’s side, taking Allen’s side seems like a bad move. Scarlett Johansson has voiced her support of the #MeToo movement and TIME’S UP, an organization which supports “safe, fair and dignified work for women” and whose mission is to stop and prevent sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. She has even gone as far as making a speech at the Los Angeles Women’s March in 2018. “I am proud to be representing Times Up, an organization made up of some of the bravest, most determined, most inspiring women that I have ever had the great privilege of sharing with and learning from.” If she genuinely supports victims of sexual assault, Johansson should re-evaluate her position and her reasoning as to why she stands by Allen. Her support will only encourage others to get away with their own acts. In the end, she messed up, but she still has the chance to make things right and denounce him.

In the words of Scarlett Johansson herself, “We must take responsibility, not just for our actions but for ourselves.”

Ultimately, the things Johansson has done in the past are relatively forgivable. She was accused of whitewashing with her role in Ghost in the Shell, for which she “apologized,” moved on, and didn’t get the point. People forgot about it. She was criticized for being cast as a trans man, but she dropped the role before production. People forgot about it. Now, she’s defending a man who we can safely believe sexually assaulted his daughter when she was seven years old. I really hope people don’t forget that.


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

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