Though under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations, Casey Affleck won the Academy Award for Best Actor last January for his performance in Manchester By The Sea. Winning means that per tradition, he will present the Best Actress award at next year’s ceremony. And in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, having an alleged harasser present that honor seems crass, right? Tens of thousands think so as they sign a pair of online petitions calling for Affleck to be barred from this Oscar honor.
One petition asks: Don’t let Casey Affleck hand off the 2018 Best Actress Oscar, and summarizes the accusations made against Affleck. For those who need a refresher, cinematographer Magdalena Gorka and producer Amanda White both made complaints about Affleck’s behavior during the making of the 2010 mockumentary I’m Not There. This included aggressive sexual come-ons, abusive text messages, violent outbursts when rejected, and Affleck sneaking into Gorka’s bed while she slept. Both women settled their cases in civil court, and Affleck went on to win Academy favor, and make a movie that weirdly recreated some of the disturbing behavior of which he’s been accused.
The other petition pleads: Don’t Let Casey Affleck Present at the Academy Awards, and declares, “It’s time for Hollywood to stop victimizing women by propping up actors with disturbing histories of sexual harassment or sexual assault.”
Considering the rising awareness of sexual harassment and its prevalence, cutting Affleck from the ceremony is the very least they could do. But I don’t know how much we should expect from an awards show that in 2013 allowed Seth Macfarlane to mock many of its female members in the jaw-droppingly offensive musical number, “We Saw Your Boobs.” However, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did oust Harvey Weinstein over his allegations of abuse. So maybe there’s a change in the air. Maybe Affleck might even be next? But probably not.
Realistically, the Academy will likely ignore these petitions as long as they can. Then once we have the nominees, they’ll have some hard questions to face. Because if even one of the nominated women is among Weinstein’s accusers—or an accuser of Toback, Ratner, or the growing number of harassing power players—the Academy won’t want the photos and headlines resulting from pushing a victimized woman to share her spotlight with another alleged abuser. And even shifting him to Best Actor could be a problem, as more and more male victims of sexual harassment and abuse surface. Regardless, how the Academy decides to handle this Affleck situation will be a public statement. It will show where they choose to draw the line when it comes to allegations of harassment. And the world will be watching.