There is something of a bitter taste for what happened at the Oscars this past Sunday. And no, I am not talking about the Warren Beatty – Faye Dunaway – “LaLa Land” – “Moonlight” craziness. “Moonlight” won, some poor twit’s head will roll because of Twitter, and in the end a worthy movie most worthy of it won the top honor.
Hollywood loves an underdog and that is why the academy was all too keen to bestow Casey Affleck with the Oscar for Best Actor for his widely lauded role in “Manchester By The Sea”. He’s practically a living breathing Hollywood trope: constantly overshadowed by his megastar big brother Ben Affleck, he has spent years teetering on the precipice of movie stardom, clawing to make a name for himself. And then there’s the controversy.
Years ago Affleck was accused of harassing two women on the set of the mockumentary “I’m Still Here”. Both claimed they were subject to inappropriate sexual comments and unwelcome advances saying Affleck recounted his sexual exploits, attempted to psychologically and physically coerce one into staying in a hotel room with him overnight, and ordered a crew member to show her his genitals. At the time, Affleck denied the allegations and countersued. He later settled the case out of court to the apparent satisfaction of all involved parties. But as this year’s Oscar race heated up with praise for Affleck’s performance in “Manchester by the Sea”, though already known, his unsavory past was brought to light again. Clearly bringing up Affleck’s past at this point was a clear attempt to link his alleged off-screen transgressions with his awards fate. But the rehashing occurred after the movie was released and the buzz had a chance to build be heard nationally. And Casey Affleck can ow add Oscar Winner to his resume.
Years ago Woody Allen might have molested a child, and has a tenuous at best hold in public opinion. Yet, even with that cloud over his head he continues making movies with high-powered stars and winning Oscars.
Years ago Roman Polanski was arrested and charged in Los Angeles with five sexual offenses against a 13-year-old girl and other charges upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor. Polanski pleaded not guilty to all charges, but later accepted a plea bargain in exchange for a guilty plea to the lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse. And though he avoids stepping foot in any country that extradites to the United States, yet manages to win an Oscar.
And then there is Nate Parker…
Years ago actor/director Nate Parker and his then-roommate were accused of raping a classmate. According to court documents, after a night of drinking at a party, Parker, his roommate and the victim had sex in Parker’s room. The victim, who said she couldn’t remember anything from that night, insisted the sex wasn’t consensual, while Parker and roommate claimed that it was. Long story-short, Parker was eventually acquitted of the charges.
And for heaven’s sake I am not, repeat am NOT, repeat AM NOT excusing anything any of these men have allegedly done. This is not about what they may or may not have done, but how Hollywood reacts to such.
Nate Parker, though not a household name, has had steady career acting in other movies. It was not as if Parker’s past was not known, it was, but he wasn’t a big enough yet to bother him with it. But Nate didn’t know his row, he didn’t stay in his place. Worse he dared to taunt Hollywood by taking one of the most controversial movie within its archive “Birth of a Nation” and not only retell it, but did an undeniably magnificent job of it to boot! There had not been this much talk about a racially charged movie in since Spike Lee helmed “X”. It seems this could not stand.
With Polanski, Allen and now Affleck the talk of their pasts emerged after their movies were released to the public and given a chance to be seen by many. Not so for Parker whose past resurfaced right before the potentially Oscar-worthy movie was set to be released nationwide. All talk became about his past, not his movie. Effectively knocking him and his movie out of any chance of Oscar contention. Please remember Nate Parker was acquitted. Acquitted. In a court of law, but not in public opinion. And only when his star was set to rise high did he get the smack down.
For there is nothing Hollywood likes more than a breakthrough underdog. In fact, Hollywood adores an underdog and controversy. Hollywood courts controversy like a courtesan. Unless that underdog, that courtesan, is a black man, with a controversial movie and is a potential Oscar contender. Ask Roman Polanski. Ask Woody Allen. Ask Casey Affleck. Ask Nate Parker.
Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 9
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.