Watching the Oscars last night was a WEIRD experience. The Academy — and E! News on the red carpet beforehand — made an effort to acknowledge the Time’s Up and Me Too movements against sexual harassment and assault...while simultaneously celebrating accused abusers.
The night kicked off with Ryan Seacrest hosting E! News’ red carpet. Although quite a few celebrities skipped chatting with Seacrest, many others stopped to talk with him — and neither Seacrest nor his interviewees mentioned the sexual assault and harassment accusations against him. Seacrest’s former stylist Suzie Hardy has accused him of sexual harassment; last week, Variety published the details of Hardy’s accusations against Seacrest, which include “grinding his erect penis against her while clad only in his underwear, groping her vagina, and at one point slapping her buttock so hard that it left a large welt still visible hours later.” Hardy says that she endured the abuse because she needed to provide for her daughter, and that when she finally reported it to E! in 2013, she was fired.
Seacrest denies Hardy’s accusations, and E! says an investigation found “insufficient evidence to support the claims against Seacrest.” Before the Oscars, many people — including #MeToo founder Tarana Burke — called for E! to replace Seacrest on the red carpet. “This is not about his guilt or innocence,” Burke told Variety. “It’s about there being an accusation that’s alive, and until they sort it out, it’s really on E! News and shouldn’t be on us. … It will let us know where they stand in terms of how respectful E! News is of this issue — and of women.”
Burke called it: E!’s red carpet coverage was a mess. Hosts tried to simultaneously acknowledge Time’s Up and avoid an in-depth discussion of the movement, leading to a whole lot of awkward euphemisms. At one point host Josh Horowitz described Casey Affleck’s decision not to present at the Oscars because of the sexual harassment accusations against him as “Casey took himself out of an awkward situation” — with no explanation of what that “awkward situation” was. Seacrest interviewed Christopher Plummer about replacing Kevin Spacey in All The Money In The World following the sexual assault accusations against Spacey; in the interview, Seacrest did not mention why Plummer replaced Spacey, instead focusing on the short amount of time Plummer had in which to shoot his scenes.
The cognitive dissonance continued during the ceremony itself. Host Jimmy Kimmel mentioned Time’s Up in his opening monologue; three of the women who have accused Harvey Weinstein — Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd, and Annabella Sciorra — spoke about the Time’s Up movement onstage and introduced a video montage about diversity in film; and ten activists including Tarana Burke, Janet Mock, and Dolores Huerta appeared onstage with Common and Andra Day during a performance of their song “Stand Up For Something.” But at the same time, the Academy gave awards to two accused abusers — Kobe Bryant and Gary Oldman — and celebrated the nomination of another, James Franco. And no one mentioned this onstage or on the red carpet (though people were discussing it PLENTY on social media.)
First, Kobe Bryant won the Oscar for Best Animated Short for his film "Dear Basketball," which he wrote and narrated — causing Twitter to recirculate articles about the 2003 rape accusation against Bryant. As the Washington Post reported at the time, a nineteen-year-old college student at University of Northern Colorado filed a criminal case against Bryant, saying that she met Bryant when he was staying at the hotel she worked at, and that she consensually kissed him before he nonconsensually “grabbed her by the neck, bent her over a chair and violated her as she cried and protested.” Bryant said the sex was consensual, and the criminal case was dropped after the accuser refused to testify in court; the accuser went forward with a civil case and settled out of court. Bryant also issued a public apology that has been seen by some as an at least partial admission of guilt: “After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
Finally, Gary Oldman won Best Actor for his performance in Darkest Hour — sparking conversation around the 2001 domestic violence accusation against him. At the time, Oldman’s then-wife, Donya Fiorentino, said that Oldman choked her and hit her with a telephone in front of their children. According to the New York Daily News, in court papers, Fiorentino said, "As I picked up the phone to call the police, Gary put his hand on my neck and squeezed. I backed away, with the phone receiver in my hand. I tried to dial 911. Gary grabbed the phone receiver from my hand, and hit me in the face with the telephone receiver three or four times. Both of the children were crying.” Oldman’s nomination and win also meant that anti-Semitic comments he made in 2014 re-circulated. Oldman apologized for the anti-Semitic comments and denies abusing Fiorentino.
Although Time’s Up and Me Too have got people talking about sexual harassment and assault, the presence of Seacrest, Bryant, and Oldman at the Oscars shows how far we have to go before Hollywood truly takes sexual assault and domestic violence accusations seriously.
top photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore
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