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Allowing Art to Speak for Itself

The 89th Academy Awards came and went, but not without a fair share of drama. La La Land took over the show with a little help from Warren Beatty, Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweets threw some major shade, and a bus full of LA tourists took a star-studded detour. Another Oscar snafu that garnered less attention: Casey Affleck’s Best Actor win for his role in Manchester by the Sea.

In 2010, two women sued Affleck for sexual harassment allegedly committed during filming of the mockumentary I’m Still Here. The cases were settled outside of court for an undisclosed amount. Affleck, however, has continually denied these allegations. My inquiry lies not within the validity of the women’s statements, but rather in the frequency with which our society bolsters people of such character. Should art, such as Affleck’s performance in Manchester by the Sea, be evaluated separately from the artist? Or would it be a detriment to society at large to allow art to speak for itself?

Casey Affleck is not the first man of questionable history to win an Oscar. Mel Gibson, Woody Allen, and Roman Polanski all have a history of sexual assault allegations yet all have received either an Oscar nomination or win. Such a phenomenon is not unique to Hollywood and the like. Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, too, are questionable characters that published revered work. Should an individual with a nefarious history be awarded with an esteemed honor such as an Oscar or Pulitzer Prize?

Here, my passionate side conflicts with my rationale. For too long, society has turned a blind eye towards the indiscretions of the famed, particularly regarding sexual assault allegations. However, their art lies on the screen and the page, not their day-to-day lives.

Should people personally admire Casey Affleck? No. There are far better role models—within the acting community alone—to admire. Should Casey Affleck be cast in more movies? No, based on his alleged outrageous and harmful professional behavior.

And finally, should Casey Affleck have won an Oscar? Yes. His nomination for the Oscars was based upon his acting skills, not his personal history. While I do not agree with the way that Hollywood overlooked his behavioral history in casting him—leading to further stardom—he produced an Oscar worthy performance. Thus, he should be rewarded based on his performance.

Brie Larson, the actress who presented Casey Affleck with his Oscar, exemplified the perfect response to his win. She did not applaud when his named was called. Similarly, I do not applaud his win. However, I acknowledge that his win is fair, although his re-entry into fame is absolutely not.

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