A Conversation with My White Male Privilege About Casey Affleck
Male White Privilege: Dustin, have you heard about Manchester by the Sea? It looks amazing! It stars Michelle Williams, Casey Affleck, and a bunch of Boston accents. The reviews are stellar. Actually, it’s already won movie of the year from the National Board of Review.
Dustin: Yes! It looks great. Coach Taylor is in it, too, and I think he dies, and I’m probably going to weep buckets. I’m stoked about it, even though the last thing we need is another Sad White Person movie …
Male White Privilege: Shut up, dude! Can’t a movie just be a movie?
Dustin: I mean, yeah! Sure. It’s just, you know. Whatever. A little diversity during awards season wouldn’t be a bad thing, would it? You know that Matt Damon was originally supposed to direct and star in it, but he had to pass on it to make Bourne Martian or something. Damon still had final cut on it, which was probably a good idea considering what happened with Lonergan’s Margaret.
Male White Privilege: Ha! Tell me about it.
Dustin: You know about Casey Affleck, though, right?
Male White Privilege: What?
Dustin: Remember that dumb Joaquin Phoenix documentary he directed?
Male White Privilege: Yeah.
Dustin: He was a real jackass during filming. Harassed several women.
Male White Privilege: Ugh. This again? And let me guess? These women just happened to bring it up in the midst of awards season?
Dustin: Well no. It’s been out there for years, actually. He settled two sexual harassment lawsuits against him. It’s just that this is his first big press tour since the allegations surfaced, so some people in the media are pushing back on it.
Male White Privilege: Oh God. Is this going to be Nate Parker all over again? Is Courtney already blasting this shit all over the place? Do we have to?
Dustin: I mean, no. It’s probably not going to be Nate Parker all over again. Parker faced a criminal trial and the woman he raped later committed suicide. But also, Casey Affleck is white and Nate Parker is black.
Male White Privilege: Oh, so this is a race thing?
Dustin: I’m not saying that, exactly. But it is telling that Affleck and his PR team have already been able to silence some of the conversation surrounding the settlements.
Male White Privilege: Good. Because I don’t want to have to think about that while I’m trying to enjoy the movie.
Dustin: That’s kind of the problem, though, isn’t it? It’s a great movie, and Affleck apparently turns in an astounding performance, so we’re just going to ignore the fact that he harassed a woman, called her names, and basically lashed out at her for refusing to sleep with him, and then he got drunk one night and crawled into bed with another woman?
Male White Privilege: Yes, that would be my preference. Ignoring that. I mean, he allegedly harassed some women. What does that have to do with a movie about a Boston lobsterman (I assume) dealing with grief?
Dustin: It doesn’t have anything to do with it, but that’s not the point, man. Are you being willfully dim?
Male White Privilege: No. I just don’t think that because the guy is a jerk that I shouldn’t go see his movie.
Dustin: I’m not saying don’t go see it, necessarily. I mean, I still saw Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, and it was OK. But I will tell you this: I barely went five minutes without thinking about Nate Parker’s rape trial and all the shitty things he said during his press tour (and it was particularly unpleasant during the movie’s rape scene).
Male White Privilege: Exactly! I don’t want to have to think about that shit while I’m trying to watch a movie. It ruins the film for me!
Dustin: Awww. Poor you! Several women were subjected to prolonged bullying and sexual harassment, but we should worry about your enjoyment of a film being diminished. Get over yourself, dude. You’re the problem here, you know that, right?
Male White Privilege: Why? Why am I the problem? I didn’t harass anyone!
Dustin: Maybe not, but it’s people like you who choose to ignore it every time something like this happens. When you sweep it under the rug, guys like Casey Affleck have no incentive to stop being harassing assholes. The culture of harassment will never stop as long as guys like Affleck can get away with it.
Male White Privilege: He didn’t get away with it! He had to pay a couple of million in legal settlements.
Dustin: And that’s exactly what Affleck is saying! But that’s not an acknowledgement. That’s not an apology. That’s not accepting responsibility. That’s throwing money at a problem. He needs to know that the behavior is not acceptable. And you know what? Maybe if a few more journalists question him, or if he loses out on some awards recognition, or future jobs, then maybe he’ll change. If other actors see Affleck being shamed on his press tour, maybe they’ll think twice before they harass a co-worker. And it’s not like Matt Damon is innocent in this.
Male White Privilege: YOU LEAVE MATT DAMON OUT OF THIS. HE IS A SAINT.
Dustin: Dude, Matt Damon hired Casey Affleck. Matt Damon knew about the settlements, because he must have because he’s friends with Casey, and he still hired him for what Damon knew was a prestige job. He is, in effect, rewarding bad behavior. He is contributing to this culture.
Male White Privilege: Goddamnit! Now you’re going to ruin Matt Damon AND Manchester by the Sea?
Dustin: I didn’t ruin anything, man. Affleck is the one who harassed the women. Damon is the one who hired him. I didn’t engage in the bad behavior. They did. All I’m doing is making you aware of it. Everyone should be aware of it, because they should feel remorse for their actions. It is not OK.
Male White Privilege: Fine. Whatever. I guess I’ll just go see Assassin’s Creed, instead.
Dustin: You heard about Fassbender, though, right?
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