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Men Accused of Bad Acts Were Still Front and Center at the Oscars

Bad Men

In a year that was supposed to be about empowering survivors of harassment and abuse, men accused of rape and domestic violence won Oscars. 

Time's Up pins abounded at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, and to be sure, there were powerful moments for women despite the fact that not one woman was awarded on her own with an Oscar for her work other than in the gendered Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories.

Still, this awards season was widely interpreted to be the year of the woman and continued to weed out men accused of sexual predation, like James Franco, who failed to nab an Oscar nomination for his work in The Disaster Artist despite winning the Golden Globe. And Casey Affleck, who was essentially blacklisted from this year's ceremony although he was lauded last year in spite of having settled a pair of nasty sexual harassment suits. But despite McDormand's impassioned call for "inclusion riders" to ensure diversity in Hollywood, some men famously accused of bad acts slipped through the cracks on Sunday.

For anyone who tuned in to E!'s red carpet coverage, there was a complete disconnect between the past five months of giving voice to survivors of sexual harassment and/or abuse and the network's decision to allow accused predator Ryan Seacrest to be the prominent face of the pre-show. Just over a week ago the news broke that the host of Live With Kelly and Ryan was accused by his former stylist Suzie Hardy of slapping her butt so hard it left a welt and of rubbing his genitals against her. However, E!'s independent investigation into the accusations turned up "insufficient evidence" for the incidents, which allegedly occurred in 2007.

So, as if several months of #MeToo never happened, Seacrest took to the red carpet and pathologically avoided discussing the top subjects of the awards' season -- sexual harassment and Time's Up. E!'s decision to parade its show pony Seacrest rather than to allow another interviewer to take the lead resulted in relatively few big-name red carpet interviews for the network and some awkward moments like when Seacrest attempted to interview All the Money in the World nominee Christopher Plummer while avoiding the fact that the legendary actor replaced serial predator Kevin Spacey at the 11th hour before the film's release.

The Oscars may have purged Franco from the ranks of Best Actor nominees, but voters saw fit to award Gary Oldman with the prize for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour. But Oldman's history is far from squeaky-clean. According to a 2001 police report filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the star of several films in the Harry Potter franchise and The Dark Knightassaulted his then-wife, Donya Fiorentino, in front of their children.

"As I picked up the phone to call the police, Gary put his hand on my neck and squeezed. I backed away, with the phone receiver in my hand. I tried to dial 911. Gary grabbed the phone receiver from my hand and hit me in the face with the telephone receiver three or four times. Both of the children were crying," Fiorentino said at the time.

Beyond the accusation of that ugly incident (Oldman has denied the allegations), there's his use of misogynistic and homophobic slurs he used to defend his anti-Semitic pal Mel Gibson.

Speaking about political correctness to Playboyin 2014, Oldman, who is a libertarian, let out a slew of hateful words that were ostensibly intended to depict a double standard between what those on the right and those on the left are allowed to say but appeared to be more about pushing buttons with naughty words.

"Well, if I called Nancy Pelosi a cunt -- and I'll go one better, a fucking useless cunt -- I can't really say that. But Bill Maher and Jon Stewart can, and nobody's going to stop them from working because of it," Oldman said. "Bill Maher could call someone a fag and get away with it. He said to Seth MacFarlane this year, 'I thought you were going to do the Oscars again. Instead, they got a lesbian.' He can say something like that. Is that more or less offensive than Alec Baldwin saying to someone in the street, 'You fag?' I don't get it.'"

Finally, basketball legend Kobe Bryant took home an Academy Award for Best Animated Short for Dear Basketball, based on a poem he wrote about leaving the sport. In a category rife with solid choices, it seems that Oscar voters didn't care that the now-retired Los Angeles Laker was accused of raping a woman in a hotel in 2003. And while there appeared to be physical evidence of the assault -- blood on her underwear and on his shirt -- the case was eventually dropped when she chose not to testify after his legal team ruthlessly went after her reputation, questioning her sexual history and her mental health.

Rousing speeches and commercials aimed at empowering women in the industry aside, the Oscars came up short not only in failing to expunge bad men from the ceremony but in rewarding them when there were equally excellent, viable people who could have won in their place.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist