Award shows are a venue for frank discussion. Photo: CC, Ahto Sooaru.
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Awards ceremonies should not be exempt from talks on rampant sexual assault

The lesser known of Hollywood’s glamourous awards ceremonies, the Governor’s Awards, took place on Saturday, Nov. 11, and this smaller event ignored a very large issue.

The awards ceremony is the first of many steps leading up to the Oscars, and honours winners with humanitarian awards, memorial awards, and honorary Oscars. It heard from prominent stars like Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lawrence, and made for a grand ol’ time, with pictures to prove it.

What it didn’t do, however, was mention the onslaught of sexual assault allegations currently littering Hollywood.

An article published by the New York Times addressed this issue perfectly, writing, “it seemed during a few moments as if the Governors Awards were taking place in a parallel dimension where the torrent of sexual harassment allegations against male stars, producers and directors did not exist.”

Now this isn’t the first time that Hollywood has been under fire for a social issue. Just off the top of my head, I can already think of the whitewashing of various racialized characters and the overwhelming lack of people of colour starring in major blockbusters, leading to the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. But at the very least, some of those concerns were addressed by their perpetrators. Steps have been taken to right past wrongs; take the casts of the new Lion King, or Aladdin live action remakes for example.

But when it comes to sexual assault, people are a lot more uncomfortable, and rightfully so. Sure, it could be the fact that it’s a criminal offence, or it could be the fact that celebrities know that the power they exert over others has consequences, that no one is ready to confront.

That’s why on Nov. 11, when Dustin Hoffman, who has been accused of sexual misconduct, took to the stage at the Governor’s Awards, he was met with applause.

Hollywood influences our world in many ways, from the way we dress to the way we engage with our peers. By not condemning these problems publicly, the message is loud and clear. We’d rather not talk about it. We’d rather pretend it didn’t happen. And if celebrities and political figures are immune, then why should the general population be held accountable for their actions?

The #MeToo movement on social media made waves for a reason. Sexual misconduct isn’t just something we see on screens, or behind them. These are real issues faced by real people on a day to day basis. People often look to Hollywood to lead by example; whether it be the latest hairstyle or fashion trend, celebrities are role models across the board. It’s up to them to use their platform to talk about things that really matter, and not just on Twitter.

Actors have a responsibility to their fans, whether they like it or not, and they should be expected to condemn sexual violence where people will listen, and where perpetrators will be present, even if those people are sometimes their friends.