THE ARTIST

Illustration Credit: Rebecca Gao
Illustration Credit: Rebecca Gao

 

Casey Affleck, who plays Lee Chandler in the 2016 drama film Manchester by the Sea, won the award for Best Actor at the Golden Globes earlier in the month and has been nominated for Best Actor at the 89th Academy Awards (or, the Oscars).

Casey Affleck was sued seven years prior by two different cast members while working on the film I’m Still Here for sexual harassment.

The two facts haven’t been mixing well. In fact, the idea that Affleck’s Globes win and Oscars nomination can proceed the two lawsuits is upsetting, disrespectful and disgusting to many. Fresh off the Boat’s Constance Wu went on a Twitter rant right after hearing the news of the nomination about how awards serve to honour and uphold the talent that an actor has. To give it to someone with a history of sexual harassment is not “recognizing” his acting capabilities but actually praising him as a person.

At this point, many people have started to boycott the film, Affleck and the Oscars in general. They can no longer support the awards show because it’s blatantly rewarding a sexual predator with hardly any punishment. It’s demeaning for the women who sued him and disgusting from an acting standpoint as well.

In the end, the only viable alternative would be to denounce the Oscars altogether and focus instead on directors and films that need our support: POC directors, female directors, queer directors, and small local indie film circuits.

THE AUDIENCE


I’d come to that conclusion around six years ago.

When I was around 15 years old, I’d started my mainstream media cleanse. It was almost like a diet, and I was going to clear out all my toxins until I felt better about all the things I consumed.

The thing was, the world has become pretty small after cutting out all problematic films, left with a handful of poorly told stories that I agreed with. And honestly, I really only kind of agreed with them. Everywhere, I found, was littered with things I couldn’t adhere to, or that made me feel upset because they weren’t politically correct. I remembered things I used to enjoy when I was younger, and then felt upset at the nudge-nudge-wink- wink racism that slid past my prepubescent sensors. Every single movie I watched was scanned and picked apart for an opinion I disagreed with.

Eventually, I had a hard time keeping up with the ‘do-not’s and ‘can-not’s of perfect ideology. It came to the point where I could no longer enjoy media at all because so much of it was full of things that I had issues with. At that point, I’d just said enough was enough.

As much as I wanted everything I watched to be politically correct and full of good vibes, it did not exist. I couldn’t live purely in ideology, in only perfect pieces of media. Little by little I realized that it was impossible.

Illustration Credit: Rebecca Gao
Illustration Credit: Rebecca Gao

THE ART

A few months ago, I’d matched with someone on Tinder who had a lot to say about movies and literature. She told me this:

 

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I didn’t know what to say, and in the end I didn’t respond. I respect her opinion, but who am I to be a smartass to tell her that art is simply what it is — art? That the artist can only be so involved until you surround yourself with nothing? That it’s okay to watch a shitty Hollywood movie sometimes? That what you consume doesn’t have to be black and white, but everything in between?

In the same way, I agree with Constance Wu’s anger that Casey Affleck had been awarded for his acting despite his shitty behaviour. She has a stake in the matter. She is justified in her emotions, and for her as an actress and as a woman, this hits close to home. I also personally think that Casey Affleck’s nomination is just that—a nomination for his good acting. His sexual harassment of women is deplorable and I have no respect for him as a person, but I’ll still watch the Oscars.

What we should not be doing is blacklisting and removing all problematic media from our lives, partly because it’s impossible and partly because it’s an ineffective way of staying aware. By curating discussion through these instances, we are creating a platform for critical thinking. And by watching Casey Affleck skid by with hardly any form of repercussion, we shouldn’t be turning a blind eye in anger—we should be watching even more carefully.

And if we do think he’s a good actor who deserved the award, then fine. Just because he’s a shitty person doesn’t make him a bad actor. But what’s more important, I think, is that it’s okay to continue to watch him too. Just because we happen to think that he is talented doesn’t make us bad people.

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