There was a moving moment during the 90th Academy Awards where Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek, and Annabella Sciorra stood onstage to deliver a message. Their connection? All have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. In a year of watershed moments for transparency and accountability, the #MeToo and #TIMESUP movements have ascended, guided by the voices of survivors like Judd and Hayek, allowing for discourse on abuses of power and privilege in Hollywood. As these four women stood onstage at the Dolby Theatre, a short montage highlighted meaningful advances in representation and equity in the film industry. Yet, when it came down to the moments that matter—to the envelopes and the hardware—the Academy failed to stand for the beliefs it claimed to exemplify. Kobe Bryant, accused of rape in 2003, and Gary Oldman, a known Mel Gibson defender who was accused of beating his ex-wife Donya Fiorentino in front of their two children in 2001, both walked away with statues. The Academy showed that it remains as hypocritical and self-congratulatory as ever.
It’s no secret that the Academy awards abusers. From Casey Affleck, to Roman Polanski, to Woody Allen, if you’re a straight white man, and you make an acclaimed movie, the Academy is willing to forgive you for any number of past crimes. After the Year Of Weinstein, and the turning tide against abusive men in power, there was hope that the cultural zeitgeist could seriously affect the awards circuit. To a certain extent, it did—James Franco was left off of the Oscar ballot after sexual misconduct allegations from five women emerged, and Weinstein was expelled from the Academy. Still, Bryant and Oldman won Best Animated Short Film and Best Actor in a Leading Role, respectively.
What makes these men immune to the fates that have befallen Weinstein and Franco? Why are they, alongside Affleck and Allen, who continues to work in Hollywood after decades of abuse allegations by his former step-daughter Dylan Farrow, exempt from the same exclusion and public shaming? The Academy can pat its own back for kicking out Weinstein, but silently ignore the fact that he remained on the Academy for years, continuing to abuse women with no consequence. The small segment devoted to the #MeToo movement—a fraction of the screen time devoted to the War Movie Appreciation montage, or the more general Movie Appreciation montage—sought to cover up the fact that at the end of the day, the Academy cares about its members’ behaviour only to the extent that it affects ticket sales. The Academy selectively chooses who is culpable, co-opting activism to appease the general public.
In the opening monologue, human carpet bag Jimmy Kimmel quipped “But what happened with Harvey, and what’s happening all over, was long overdue. We can’t let bad behaviour slide anymore. The world is watching us. We need to set an example.” What example is that? That feminism is only useful to increase revenue and save the face of an outdated and out-of-touch organization? During Hollywood’s most important night of the year, the Academy had the chance to provide a platform for the under-represented. Instead, two known abusers walked off the stage carrying statuettes.