By Jack Schocker
Hollywood is currently abuzz with news about actor Casey Affleck, specifically regarding sexual harassment allegations that stem from his actions during the production of the 2010 film “I’m Still Here.” It’s been reported that he made disparaging and demeaning comments to two different women during the filming of the mockumentary and then fired them and refused to pay them for their roles on the crew after they complained about the harassment.
All of this is coming at a crucial time for Affleck, as he was yesterday nominated, and is considered the front-runner, for the Academy Award for best actor, after his show-stopping performance in “Manchester By the Sea.” Some in Hollywood are asking, is it acceptable for someone that has been accused of something so heinous to be awarded one of the movie industry’s most prestigious awards?
With all of the glitz, glamour and high drama of the American film industry, it’s hard for some people to remember that actors, actresses, musicians and other entertainers are often not the persona they are best known for. It can be easy to forget celebrities are human, and like other humans, they make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes are terrible and have large, over-reaching consequences. I am not excusing Mr. Affleck’s heinous behavior. I am simply pointing out that he is a human, and that means that sometimes he makes mistakes.
One of the most important things someone needs to do as a consumer of entertainment in this country is to separate art and artist. If we start disliking every entertainer for reasons other than their art, where do we a draw the line? Would we as a country backlash against Adele because she was arrested for a felony? Would we turn away from Jake Gyllenhaal because he called someone a mean name once? We, the consumers of this country, need to know where to draw the line.
The fact that movies and music created by people such as Woody Allen, who has faced several substantial claims of child molestation to his step-daughter, Dylan Farrow; Matthew Broderick, who was was in a car accident that killed two women and was never convicted of a crime or Phil Spector, who killed an actress in a drunken rage, are still enjoyed and even cherished by Americans today should absolutely outrage the same people that have been calling for Affleck’s head in the news lately.
Where do I think the line should be drawn? I don’t know that it should be drawn at all, especially when it comes to movies. It’s the job of an actor to portray emotions and characters that are not theirs in a convincing manner in order to move or entertain an audience.
If an actor has done his job correctly, then all of the context surrounding the actor and their personal life should be erased for 120 glorious minutes of Hollywood excellency. That is exactly what “Manchester By the Sea” was able to pull off successfully, in my opinion; you could not have had anyone else, regardless of their history, portray Lee Chandler in the brilliant way that Affleck did. It is for that reason alone that Casey Affleck deserves the Oscar that he may win in February, not because of the drama in his personal life but because of his performance on screen.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.