If the Harvey Weinstein scandal and effect that's currently exposing dozens of serial sexual harassers, predators, and rapists across industries had happened at this time last year, there might not even be a discussion as to whether or not last year's Best Actor winner Casey Affleck should be disinvited from presenting the Best Actress award at the upcoming Academy Awards.
But a year ago, a man who openly bragged about sexually assaulting women was about to win the Electoral College, and so, when news broke that two women had filed sexual harassment suits against Affleck, whose name was bandied about for an Oscar win for his performance in Manchester by the Sea, nobody really blinked, least of all the overwhelmingly elderly white male Oscar voters. That is until Brie Larson, an advocate for sexual assault survivors who'd won Best Actress the year before for playing a woman who was repeatedly raped in the film Room,pointedly refused to clap for Affleck even as she presented him with his award.
But a nearly a year to the day since admitted sexual predator Donald Trump won enough votes in swing states to be named the next president of the United States, sexual harassers and abusers are going down. Now there's a petition circulating to bar Affleck from appearing at the Oscars for having allegedly sexually harassed two women while he made his 2010 passion project I'm Still Here, a trippy documentary about his then brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix.
The women who filed suit against Affleck, Amanda White and Magdalena Gorka, both worked on I'm Still Here, White as a producer and Gorka as director of photography.
White alleged in her suit that Affleck engaged in several rude and lewd acts during the making of the film, including ordering a member of the crew to show White his penis even as she objected, referring to women as "cows," forcing her to listen to tales of his sexual prowess, and suggesting she become pregnant by one of the male crew members when he discovered her age, also implying she was becoming too old to get pregnant.
Gorka, who left the project but came back on board when White signed on as a producer, believing that having a female producer on the film would help quell any bad behavior, alleged that she awoke one night at an apartment where the crew was being put up to find Affleck, reeking of alcohol, sleeping beside her in a T-shirt and underwear, with his arm draped around her (Affleck admitted to having climbed into bed with her, according to the suit).
While some sites continued coverage of Affleck's behavior throughout awards season last year, the mainstream press ignored the allegations and he was handed several awards, including the Critics' Choice and the Golden Globe. The lone holdout was the Screen Actors Guild, which gave its Actor in a Leading Role award to Denzel Washington for Fences. The trade magazine Variety was so on board with Affleck that he landed on its cover with the label "The Outsider."
In the wake of sexual abuse accusations against Weinstein, James Toback, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, Affleck's brother Ben Affleck, and so many others, more than 16,000 people have signed a petition asking the Academy Awards to disinvite Affleck from presenting at the ceremony in 2018.
The petition, begun by independent director Cameron Bossert, reads:
Last year despite multiple sexual harassment claims against him, Casey Affleck won the Best Actor award for this role in Manchester by the Sea. Two women who worked with him on a 2010 documentary had accused him of sexual harassment. The women alleged that Affleck sent them threatening texts, demanded that they share a hotel room with him, and locked one of them out of her room so that he and Joaquin Phoenix could use it to have sex with two other women. One of the women woke up to find Affleck in her bed with her.
But Affleck won the Oscar, and according to tradition will present the Best Actress award this year. With these credible accusations against him, the Academy should take action and rescind the privilege this year.
Larson may have been the first person in Hollywood to draw attention to the allegations against Affleck when she read the names of the Best Actor nominees, announced his as the winner, and then refused to applaud him as the rest of the audience was on its feet for him. But it seems clear with the petition and the growing, long-overdue intolerance for predators, she won't be the last.