On Sunday night, Casey Affleck stood on the stage of the Oscars wearing a very nice suit and a very nice beard and a very nice ACLU ribbon on his jacket, and accepted the Academy Award for Best Actor.
A number of journalists have written detailed accounts of Affleck’s sexual intimidation, harassment and physical assault of Amanda White and Magdalena Gorka on the set of his 2012, I’m Still Here. You can read the entirety of Gorka’s lawsuit here, and an excellent analysis of the controversy here.
Whether or not you knew that Casey Affleck was a sexual predator, the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences assuredly did, and still decided that his profoundly middling performance as a very sad janitor was worth more than women’s dignity.
Personally, I am still waiting to see a film so good that it is worth legitimizing sexual violence in order to reward it; a movie more compelling than my own humanity. If there were such a film, I think it would likely star Kate McKinnon and Ellen Page and Issa Rae and Meryl Streep and Quvenzhané Wallis and tell a tense, wrenching story about complex networks of female affect, intimacy and emotional labor, maybe through the lens of a staff at a nursing home or the crew of whaling ship. However, remarkably, none of those actresses have sexually harassed anyone, and movies like this don’t often get produced by Hollywood, so this situation is an impossibility!
When we artistically knight men who commit sexual violence, we spit in the face of all women and especially in the face of victims. Most of all, we spit in the faces of women artists who are victims of abuse at the hands of their male colleagues, and whose art is apt to be denied the recognition we hand to their abusers as a result of the power imbalances that ordained their humiliation.
Art made by men who commit sexual violence should not get Oscars. I cannot think of any art less deserving of important, powerful awards — and our world is literally brimming with both bad, terrible, disastrous art, as well as luminously mediocre, undistinguished art.
So, I have taken it upon myself to compile an incomplete list of some of the movie performances that are more deserving of an Academy Award than sexual abuser, Casey Affleck’s performance in Manchester By The Sea.
1. Ray Romano as Manny in Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Who doesn’t love that big grumpy condescending mammoth?! Unlike Affleck in Manchester By The Sea, Romano showed extraordinary emotional range in this role, as Manny progresses through his characteristic stubborn arrogance and pride, the anxieties of being a new father, tender vulnerability when his family is threatened, and compassion for his friend Sid, a sloth trying to raise three young dinosaurs.
2. Alexander Skarsgård as Meekus in Zoolander.
Skarsgård’s performance explores the life of a deeply hedonistic and arrogant young model, Meekus. His performance is brief, as Meekus dies in a freak gasoline fight accident seven minutes into the film, but poignant — provoking questions about the inherent fragility and degradation of human life.
3. The hamburger phone in Juno
This sweet piece of kitsch honestly just sat in Juno’s bedroom for most of the film, arriving at its moral climax when Juno uses it to phone her local abortion clinic. But you know what, it got the job done and didn’t sexually harass anyone on set.
4. January Jones as Jeannie in Love Actually
January Jones slays this corny-as-hell role as a British fuckboy’s fantasy of a midwestern American dreamgirl, Jeannie, from her nail-biting to shoulder-shrugging to that perfect giggle — I was convinced. Unfortunately, we only really get to empathize with Jeannie through her brief flirtation at the bar where she spends most of her screen-time asking Colin to pronounce words like “table” and “straw” in a British accent. But I think her role really could have had potential, if the film returned to her storyline to explore her feelings of rejection after Colin ultimately chooses Harriet to be his American bride. Oscar for January.
5. Orlando Bloom as Paris in Troy
Orlando Bloom spends the entirety of this campy 2.5-hour long historical fiction porno with a look of mild confusion on his face and profound blankness in his eyes. He’s entirely upstaged by Eric Bana (Hector) and Brad Pitt (Achilles), and serves largely as a set of abs in the narrative arc of this long, bad and profoundly historically inaccurate film — but Bloom didn’t crawl into anyone’s bed and demand sex from them during its filming.
6. The demon children in David Cronenberg’s 1979 body horror flick, The Brood.
The creatures of The Brood are the embodiment of a woman’s anger and trauma as the result of her childhood abuse — whenever she gets emotional, she gives birth to a new monster that terrorizes anyone her rage is directed at. While this is a deeply sexist narrative, these actors perform as the embodiment of trauma, which, when you think about it, is some avante-garde shit that has gone tragically unrecognized in the film world. The brood kids >>>> sexual predators!
7. Jake Lloyd as young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace
That kid can’t act for shit but he probably didn’t refer to women as cows or ask them why they weren’t married yet on the set of The Phantom Menace.
8. Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Hayden Christensen’s performance as Anakin Skywalker is some of the most overwrought, college-drama-class acting I’ve ever seen on the big screen, or the high school auditorium stage. Watching his blank rat-tailed face, I always get the sense he’s about to forget his line, and just barely remembers at the last second. He tells his girlfriend, Queen Amidala, “That’s wonderful!” when she tells him she’s pregnant, and I do not believe that shit for one second! He sounds like a man who wants the hell out. This role is the product of one of the worst casting choices of all time, which someone probably got fired for, but as far as I know, Hayden Christensen didn’t threaten or humiliate his women co-workers.
9. Ron Orbach, as the guy who gives Cher her DMV test in Clueless
Orbach berates Cher in a New York accent for a few minutes on-screen as she weaves across lanes of traffic, but as far as I know, respected Alicia Silverstone’s humanity and bodily autonomy.
10. Pierre Coffman, voice of the minions, in the Minions movie.
Coffman speaks nonsense to voice the characters of a squeaky mass-marketed cash-cow of a children’s movie but his role is still among the nearly infinite pool of performances more deserving of an Oscar than Casey Affleck.
Jael Goldfine is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Objectivity Bites appears alternate Thursdays this semester. She can be reached at [email protected]