Arts

Casey Affleck’s Academy Award nomination is steeped in controversy in light of the sexual harassment claims made against him. Illustration: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.

Constance Wu speaks out against toxic Casey Affleck nomination

Oscar season is a wondrous time to help distract us from the hardships and toils of everyday life. It’s an excellent way to sit back and judge celebrities from afar based on their wit, outfits, talent, and … character?

This year’s list of nominees, which was released in late January, was surrounded by controversy.

Constance Wu, best known for her role as Jessica Huang on Fresh Off the Boat, criticized the Academy for nominating Casey Affleck for best actor for his performance in Manchester by the Sea in lieu of the sexual harassment charges made against him.

The allegations were made in 2010 while Affleck was busy filming mockumentary I’m Still Here. Magdalena Gorka, the cinematographer of the film, and Amanda White, one of the film’s producers, came forward filing sexual harassment suits on the premise that Affleck’s actions were physically and verbally inappropriate and harmful.

They stated that Affleck used force in attempt to engage in sexual relations, and when the women resisted they were met with harsh language and threatening remarks.

Both women successfully sued the actor and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

But the issue goes beyond an isolated event. It adds to a problematic discourse of sexism and patriarchy, particularly within the workplace.

It reaffirms the idea that one good performance in a film outweighs one’s personal actions, a dynamic which sheds a light on what our society values and what type of individuals it caters to: rich white men.

This isn’t the first time the Academy has come under fire for something of this nature. Past Oscar winners include Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, both of whom faced allegations of sexual assault on minors—in Allen’s case the victim being his own adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow.

The representations the public absorbs from the media is very important to take into consideration, especially since behaviours of sexual harassment are often normalized or even dismissed.

This pattern perpetuates a rape culture that shames victims while allowing the perpetrator to get out relatively unscathed. Furthermore, it promotes the idea that violence against a woman will not lead to any repercussions in the lives of privileged men.

In nominating Casey Affleck, the Academy is blatantly choosing to ignore the mistreatment of women. In fact, they are choosing to adhere to patriarchal values and represent him and the many other men whose careers are prioritized over basic human rights.

This did not go unnoticed as many took a stand to voice their opinions on the matter—most notably Wu, who was not shy to share her thoughts on Twitter.

She then expressed the impact of this patriarchal culture not just on victims but other women in the industry.

However, Affleck’s nomination controversy does have one silver lining.  It has sparked a conversation that needs to be had, and is encouraging people to question the ever-present sexist rhetoric that exists both on and off media productions.

At a time when American women fear that their rights are being compromised, it is imperative that these stories serve as a teachable moment. If enough of us stand up, we can prevent these patterns of misogyny from continuing, starting with the Oscars.