Stop Rewarding Abusers In Hollywood
In May of 2017, Kathy Griffin made a decision that torpedoed her career. When TMZ released a picture of the Emmy-award winning comedian holding Trumps’ decapitated head, her life on the D-List seemed resigned to life on the No-List. She was fired from CNN, investigated by the Secret Service, and denounced by longtime friend Anderson Cooper for her actions. Though she had crossed the line before, with jokes showcasing extreme internalized misogyny and misguided racism, she had never faced punishment this severe. With no steady gigs flowing in, it appeared she would just be another memory of comedy’s past.
At least, so it had seemed.
Griffin is on the brink of a comeback. After selling out Carnegie Hall in less than 24 hours, her career is not as dead as it appeared to be when she was fired from CNN. She met the overwhelming response of ticket sales with a thank you tweet, as is courtesy to do when your career has been resuscitated. Friends and fans poured love out to Griffin online, appreciative she was back on the comedy radar once more. Fellow comedian Bette Midler pointed out the backlash following the event for what it was, an injustice maintained by inequality, stating:
“Congratulations and welcome back! You were in Show Biz jail longer than the Stanford rapist was in real jail!”
It’s no secret women are awarded less chances to mess up than men. In the words of Griffin herself, “when you’re a woman, you get one f—up and it’s over.” Men who legitimately hurt and traumatize people don’t face nearly as much punishment as women do. In a field where everything is consistently observed under a magnifying glass, we’re given visibility to everyone’s mistakes, and consequently given the opportunity to decide how we prosecute them. Finally, now, is the chance to rewrite history. To change the narrative. Yet, for all the steps society takes forward, it seems like Hollywood is standing relatively still. Abusers are being cast in cartoons. Assailants are winning Oscars. Times are changing, certainly, but are we still perpetuating the same ideals? Regardless of progress?
DeadPool 2 is a comic book adaptation scheduled to release on May 18th. It’s predecessor, DeadPool, brought in around $500 million dollars in less than two weeks, indicating the next installment will no doubt be a blockbuster hit. Of the actors cast, T.J. Miller, who recently called in a bomb threat to La Guardia airport, is on the bill as bar manager Weasel. Despite being accused of penetrating a woman with a beer bottle, Miller will be playing on-screen in theaters across America for up to two months.
The solution seems easy. Cut these men from modern vernacular to set an example for those who follow. Yet, as time moves forward, roles are still rewarded. Recently, it was announced Jeffrey Tambor will star in Arrested Developments’ season return despite accusations of sexual harassment. The ex-Transparent star will still have transparency with loyal Arrested Development fans. Fans who will continue consuming media representing past offenders considering its long standing nature.
The question remains. What is the appropriate amount of time to wait before turning a blind eye to past transgressions? For James Franco, the answer was three years. When he won an Academy Award for his performance in The Disaster Artist, people were uneasy, but unsure why. It took Ally Sheedy to remind everyone of his history harassing a 17-year-old to have sex with him in 2014. It would be defiant to outright cut these people from the industry entirely, and many think this may be extreme due to anonymous defamation, but what message does it send to keep casting them? To keep rewarding them?
Hollywood is rampant with male entertainers. Comedy is one sub-genre of that. A field decidedly dominated by men, for men. Women have been told for years that being funny is synonymous with being undesirable. That being loud is wrong. At the hands of silencers, their desire to not speak up, for risk of losing their jobs, have silenced them further in to submission. From small-scale incidents, like when comic Marcia Belsky was banned from Facebook for saying “men are scum” to large-scale incidents, like when Katie Rich was suspended from SNL after a questionable tweet, women in comedy constantly facing stricter scrutiny than our male colleagues. Both now and then.
There is a long way to go when it comes to undoing an established history of awarding abusers and the conversation starts with how we handle them, both on a large and small-scale. Women in comedy consistently run the risk of bumping in to abusers in the scene or even getting sued by abusers in the scene. Reductress writer Jasmin Pierce faced this when calling out alleged rapist Aaron Glaser for having nonconsensual sex with an intoxicated woman. In the interview, Pierce reported she had been silenced by Glaser’s’ threat to sue her for $38 million dollars, stating “In my opinion, this was an attempt to silence me, and it was successful,” It is on the shoulders of women to shield others in the scene from traumatizing men. Abusers whose actions are ruled out because they’re “nice men” or “colleagues.”Abusers who are probably influenced by people like Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari.
If we are going to truly progress in the wake of the #Metoo movement, we need to start with celebrities whose messages reach a wide audience of people, specifically, those perpetuating the problem. Take opportunities away from men who set examples for other men. We have laid a foundation for entertainment to thrive in the hands of abusers and now, have the chance to change that. If we don’t, men will grow up to understand that abuse can still go rewarded. That Kobe Bryant can allegedly rape a 19-year-old, settle a case out of court, admit their may not have been consent, and still win an Oscar. That Gary Oldman can allegedly hit his wife with a telephone and still win an Oscar. That Johnny Depp can also allegedly hit his wife and still star in a film that will play to a large audience of children.
To shape the future, we must amend the past. As we move forward, there are signs this double standard is beginning to change. People who have worked with Woody Allen are beginning to denounce him. Ridley Scott recast Kevin Spacey in All The Money In The World. To combat assault, we must eradicate the people fostering it for good. Make it harder for them to get jobs in the industry. We must protect those who need protection from them. Even if it costs us business.
By giving assailants roles, Hollywood is saying coercion and violence can still yield success. That eventually, conversation will die down and collective conscious will allow enough time to pass to forget these mistakes. They’ll still get cast as lovable side kicks in Marvel movies while well meaning people are benched for anonymity. Instead of allowing collective conscious to forgive, conversation should never stop. Every movie they’re cast in should feature links to news reports detailing past accusations. Otherwise we’ll end up with another event of James Franco. Another event of Johnny Depp. Another event of Gary Oldman winning an Oscar only to remind us that in the wake of #Metoo, we are still awarding abusers with negligence.
The film industry, like any business, thrives on connections. Big names bring in big bucks and soon, mistakes are forgotten. Forgiven. Being silent is being complicit. With Hollywood’s history of elevating actors despite allegations, the entertainment industry is in need for a serious makeover. Awarding these men with roles sends a message to a substantial amount of people, that past violence can still result in success. Conversation has changed and with it, so has decision. So should, decision. Hollywood should, and needs, to give roles to new people. It should allow visibility to those who can be a substantial voice in the #Metoo movement.
If we are ever going to make up for ghosts of entertainment’s past, we need to start making conscious efforts to combat assault. Starting at the top.
What do you think? Leave a comment.