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Hollywood’s Answer to Accused Men? Make Them Disappear

Kevin Spacey James Franco Casey Affleck

Vanity Fair scrubbed James Franco from its cover after sexual harassment allegations against him surfaced, but he's not the only accused predator to vanish from the public eye.

As the #MeToo movement and the Time's Up initiative to combat sexual harassment and abuse continue to dominate the narrative in Hollywood, famous men who've been accused of various levels of harassment, abuse, or cluelessness are continually disappearing from the public eye.

The latest, most literal and damning example is that James Franco was originally included in the cover photo for Vanity Fair'sannual Oscar portfolio issue, but after accusations of serial sexual harassment by Franco emenged, the magazine Photoshopped him out of the cover, which happens to feature women active in combating harassment and abuse like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Jessica Chastain.

"We made a decision not to include James Franco on the Hollywood cover once we learned of the misconduct allegations against him," a spokesperson for Vanity Fair told The Hollywood Reporter.

But it's not the first time Franco, who won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his role in The Disaster Artist earlier this month, vanished from the public eye. Accusations against the actor piled up on Twitter during his Golden Globes appearance, spurred by what accusers called the hypocrisy of his sporting a Time's Up pin on his lapel.

Later that week the Los Angeles Times printed an expose in which several women alleged Franco has a long history of harassing and abusing women on the sets of his projects and in private. Just four days after the Globes, while the accusations were rolling in, Franco opted out of attending the Critics Choice Awards, where he won the Best Actor prize. He did, however, resurface to appear at the Screen Actors Guild Awards two weeks after the Globes. But SAG voters chose Gary Oldman in The Darkest Hour as the winner rather than Franco.

Vanity Fair worked quickly to remove traces of Franco from its cover, but that was likely a breeze compared to what it took to to wipe any evidence of accused serial predator Kevin Spacey from Ridley Scott's film All the Money in the World. Within weeks of news breaking about Spacey's decades of misconduct that includes a predilection for abusing underage boys, the studio ponied up millions to replace him with veteran actor Christopher Plummer. Following a nine-day shoot with Scott and star Michelle Williams turning down a payday in order to facilitate the process, Spacey had been completely extirpated from the film by the time it was released at Christmas.

Meanwhile, Aziz Ansari, who scooped up Best Actor in a Comedy Emmy and Golden Globe Awards this season, was noticeably absent from the SAG Awards this week following a first-person story on the site Babe about a sexual encounter he'd had with a young woman shortly after his Emmy win that spawned dozens upon dozens of commentary pieces on whether or not he had blurred the lines of consent or if he was just really bad at taking cues from a sexual partner. Ansari, who had so much momentum heading into this awards season, lost the SAG Award to Shameless's William H. Macy.

After Ansari's absence from the SAG Awards, the news dropped Thursday that Casey Affleck, who won the top acting Oscar last year for Manchester by the Sea despite evidence that he had settled two sexual harassment suits, will skip this year's ceremony. The move breaks with the long-held tradition in which the prior year's Best Actor presents the current year's Best Actress Oscar and vice versa. But keeping Affleck from attending this year's ceremony has been long in coming, since Oscar voters ignored or weren't moved by his sexual misconduct on the set of his 2010 passion project I'm Still Here.

The damning allegations against Affleck for which he settled suits included ordering a crew member to show one of his accusers his penis, suggesting that she get pregnant by one of the crew members, and bragging about his sexual prowess. The other suit, the details of which were available to Oscar voters, alleged that Affleck climbed into bed in his underwear with the accuser while she was sleeping.

But not everyone saw past Affleck's misconduct to his performance. Actress Brie Larson, a longtime advocate for sexual assault survivors, who had won the Oscar the previous year for Room, was tasked with announcing Affleck's win. As the auditorium burst into applause for him, she stood stone-faced onstage, refusing to applaud him. There's no telling how just how influential Larson's silent protest was in finally pressuring him to sit out this year's ceremony, but it was her act of resistance that finally got mainstream media to report on the allegations against him.

As the walls around serial harassers began to crumble this fall, independent director Cameron Bossert circulated a petition to compel the Academy to disinvite Affleck from the event. The actor appeared to back out of the ceremony somewhat of his own volition, but he's likely not the last of the powerful men who will be felled by #MeToo before the Academy Awards ceremony airs March 4. The 2018 awards season, with more than a month to go, has fast become the year of the vanishing sexual predator.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist