As expected, Casey Affleck received an Oscar nomination for his role in the melancholy New England drama Manchester by the Sea. Despite his deserving performance, he shouldn’t be nominated.
Two women who worked with Affleck on his 2010 mockumentary I’m Still Here filed lawsuits accusing him of repeated sexual harassment and disparagement, citing disturbing stories of Affleck drunkenly crawling into bed with one of them without her consent while she slept and violently grabbing the other in an attempt to force her to stay in his hotel room. After denying said allegations, Affleck ultimately settled out of court for undisclosed sums.
This incident is rarely, if ever, acknowledged in interviews with Affleck. When Variety brought up the allegations to Affleck in his October 2016 interview, his response was:
“People say whatever they want. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you respond. ... I guess people think if you’re well-known, it’s perfectly fine to say anything you want. I don’t know why that is. But it shouldn’t be, because everybody has families and lives.”
The few media outlets that have bothered to treat this incident as more than a footnote were quick to point out the differences between how Affleck is treated in light of these sexual harassment accusations versus how actor-writer-director Nate Parker was. Parker – a black man – was repeatedly asked about the accusation of rape brought against him while in college in 1999, despite the fact that he was acquitted. However, major media outlets hardly ever acknowledge Affleck’s – a white man’s – 2010 allegations, showcasing the prevalent double standard in our society.
Race factors aside, Affleck’s Oscar nomination raises an even larger political issue. Just two months ago, Donald Trump was elected to the highest office in the U.S. despite the condemning footage released of him in which he admits to grabbing women by the genitals without their consent. Similarly, Affleck is now nominated for the highest U.S. honor an actor can receive despite the disgusting sexual harassment allegations brought against him by two women, conveniently settled out of court.
By giving Affleck the nomination – and likely the award itself – The Academy is reinforcing exactly what American voters did this election season: the idea that it’s perfectly acceptable to degrade, assault and harass women if you have the money and power to excuse your actions.
Luckily, some celebrities like actress Constance Wu have called out The Academy for their choice.
"Boys! BUY ur way out of trouble by settling out of court! Just do a good acting job, thats all that matters! bc Art isn't about humanity,right?" Wu tweeted.
In another message shared on Twitter, Wu capitalized on the importance of and strong link between art and humanity.
“Art doesn’t exist for the sake of awards, but awards DO exist to honor all that art is trying to accomplish in life,” Wu wrote. “So context matters. Because in acting, human life matters. It’s why art exists.”
To allow Affleck the nomination is to belittle not only his actions, but the lives of the women affected by them. Women’s lives matter in politics and art alike. Women’s lives matter period. And to honor Affleck with this nomination – or worse, this award – is to disregard the validity of women’s lives altogether.