I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Oscars. Awards shouldn’t matter. Yet, I’ve always watched the Oscars – with my grandparents on their TV, at parties in college and last year at a friend’s home. Like millions of aficionados I’ve lapped up the glam and drama of the Oscars. Who can forget Sally Field’s “You like me! You like me!” moment or Barbra Streisand exclaiming “Hello, gorgeous!” when she won her first Oscar for “Funny Girl?” Yet in this #MeToo moment, the 90th Academy Awards ceremony on March 4 may be more mired in muck than bathed in bliss.
Men have had (and still have) nearly all of the power in Tinsel Town. We’ve all heard of “casting couches.” For decades, male producers, directors and actors have been accused of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault. Until recently, many of them kept working even with these allegations.
In 1977, Academy Award-winning director Roman Polanski was charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. He was in jail for 45 days after he pled guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor. Polanski fled to France when a judge wanted to reopen his case. Despite this, he continued to win Oscars (Best Picture and Best Director for “The Pianist” in 2003). Who wasn’t aware of the cloud over Polanski’s reputation? Yet, I, like many, continued to enjoy his movies from “Rosemary’s Baby” to “The Pianist.”
For years, there’s been controversy over whether Oscar winner (Best Director and Best Picture for “Annie Hall in 1978) Woody Allen sexually abused his daughter Dylan Farrow when she was a child. Yet, I, along with many other Allen fans, still loved Allen’s movies from “Annie Hall” to “Hannah and Her Sisters” to “Blue Jasmine.” Some of us were so taken with “Manhattan’s” black and white, romanticized vision of New York and Gershwin soundtrack, that it didn’t occur to us to wonder whether there was something creepy about Allen’s middle-aged character’s (in the film) hook-up with a teenage girl.
In the era of #MeToo and Time’s Up, it’s hard to believe how, previously, many of us could without thinking separate the art from the artist. How could we, mostly without guilt, disentangle our beloved movies or TV series from the allegations of sexual harassment surrounding their creators?
Since the New York Times reported in October that there were many allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against producer Harvey Weinstein dating back to 1990, numerous women and men, hetero and queer, have alleged that they have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. (Weinstein has denied the rape allegations. His films have received 81 Oscars.)
Kevin Spacey infamously issued a “non-apology,” apology after he was accused of making inappropriate sexual advances against Anthony Rapp when Rapp was 14. Instead of apologizing for sexually harassing Rapp, Spacey used the moment to come out, saying, he’d “had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.”
Perhaps, in a previous time, Spacey might have been allowed to continue to work. Fortunately, this isn’t the case now. Spacey was slated to appear in “All the Money in the World,” the 2017 film about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. After the sexual harassment scandal, Christopher Plummer replaced Spacey in the film. (Plummer received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance in the movie.) Spacey will not play villainous president Frank Underwood in the final season of “House of Cards.”
At the Golden Globe awards last month and at the British Academy Film Awards on Feb. 18, actresses dressed in black, wore Times UP pins and brought feminist activists as their dates.
These are hopeful steps. We needn’t stop enjoying, and even if we wanted to, we couldn’t erase movies created in the past. But we can support those working to make Hollywood a safe and equal workplace.
Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.