Gone are the days of blissfully consuming content that may or may not be attached to serial predators since the launch of Rotten Apples, a database that allows users to search films and TV shows to discover if anyone in front of or behind the camera is a sexual harasser or abuser.
So if there’s that one movie you still love despite the presence of say Kevin Spacey or Dustin Hoffman, or the Weinstein Company’s name in the producing credits, search for it on Rotten Apples and the site will tell you if the content you want to consume is either “fresh apples,” meaning no serial sexual predators are attached to it, or if it’s “rotten apples.” Those movies and TV shows that earn a “rotten apples” rating also provide the name(s) of the attached predators with a link to a story about their transgressions and crimes. If you’re a lover of classic cinema who still has a soft spot for Annie Hall, Chinatown, or any number of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, Rotten Apples is there to remind you just which type of monster helped create the content.
Since The New York Times published its expose that revealed Weinstein's serial predation, there's more of a push than ever to completely eschew projects with predators attached. And Rotten Apples is an invaluable tool to boycott the bad guys (and a few women) of TV and film, but it’s also sobering to come face to face with the fact that some of your faves are problematic.
“The Rotten Apples is a searchable database that lets you know whether or not a film or television show is tied to a person who has been accused of sexual misconduct. In the case of this website, the ‘person’ is defined as a cast-member, screenwriter, executive producer or director,” Rotten Apples' mission/about statement reads. “The goal of this site is to further drive awareness of just how pervasive sexual misconduct in film and television is and to help make ethical media consumption easier.”
The statement goes on to clarify, “By no means is this site meant to serve as a condemnation of an entire project.” And that’s where it gets interesting. For instance, search Carol, out director Todd Haynes’s Cate Blanchett-Rooney Mara lesbian-themed masterpiece with a screenplay from lesbian screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, which also stars beloved out actress Sarah Paulson, and the “rotten apples” rating comes up over a famous still from the film. The film is cherished for its artistry and its queer representation on and off screen, yet it's not easy to look away from the names Harvey and Bob Weinstein (the serial sexual abusers who executive-produced the film) and all that they represent.
Despite Rotten Apples' eye-opening mission that holds a mirror up to what consumers of content are willing to support, the site is a bit of marvel for its thoroughness, assuming it was created post-Weinstein. Search something recent like Manchester by the Sea and it comes up “rotten” for Casey Affleck’s participation in it. Or toss it back 60 years and search Rear Window and that classic turns up a “rotten apples” rating for Hitchcock having terrorized several of his lead actresses, particularly Tippi Hedren on The Birds and Marnie.
But it’s not just film. The TV section is already rather comprehensive. Searches for Transparent and House of Cards turn up “rotten apples” scores for their predatory lead actors, while a show like the CW’s Arrow gets a rotten rating for producer Andrew Kreisberg’s history of harassment.
While it seems like an exercise in becoming increasingly disgusted to continue to search content with harassers attached to it, there is a bright side. Searches for new and old popular content like Will & Grace, Queer as Folk, The L Word, Orange Is the New Black, Big Little Lies, Stranger Things, and so on yield a bright green “fresh apples” rating with a line that reads, “This TV show has no known affiliation to anyone with allegations of sexual misconduct against them. If you believe this is an error, please let us know by clicking here and we’ll fix it as soon as possible.”
For all of the correct results the site yields, there are swaths of content that have yet to be fleshed out for good or bad, particularly in foreign cinema. The site fails to recognize famous foreign films by the greats like Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Francois Truffaut and even the early work of Pedro Almodovar, to name a few.
The site does allow that there’s room for error and correction with some of its results. For instance, search any Mel Gibson project and it comes up with a “fresh apples” rating, which is debatable since he's well known to be a racist, anti-Semitic misogynist who threatened to kill and rape his wife. For the record, his name has now been submitted for review on several of his films.
Consumers of content often develop blind spots when it comes to their favorite movies, actors, and shows, but like it or not, Rotten Apples makes it all painfully clear.