The recent sexual misconduct allegations in Hollywood have horrified the world, as well as making that age old question resurface – can we really separate the art from the artist?
On Sunday 12th November, all I found myself doing was speaking to my colleagues about the terrifying, and unfortunately ever-growing, sexual assault accusations emerging in Hollywood. I was proud to witness every one of my work friends, both male and female, passionately commenting on the recent news. And it wasn’t only my friends who were voicing their opinions – on the same day, women in their thousands took to Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard in the name of the social media movement #MeToo, a platform for victims of abuse to share their experiences, promote solidarity and ultimately make survivors aware that they are not alone.
The past few months have revealed a multitude of sins in Hollywood. The snowball effect began with women speaking up about disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein. After at least forty different allegations, from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Cara Delevingne and Lupita Nyong’o, Weinstein’s wife of ten years has admitted to wanting a divorce. One of America’s most celebrated actors, Kevin Spacey, sexually assaulted a fourteen-year-old boy and is currently undergoing therapy at a sex-rehab clinic in Arizona. Dustin Hoffman has apologised for his inappropriate behaviour, whilst Ed Westwick has denied even knowing the women that have accused him of rape.
Every day, more claims of sexual harassment are being revealed. And, as much as I hate telling you of more, here are some lesser known cases that need to be named and shamed:
Andy Dick – On the set of Raising Buchanan (2018), Dick has been accused of kissing, groping and licking. He responded that licking is his “thing”: ‘It’s me being funny. I’m not trying to sexually harass people.” Following these claims, Dick has been dropped from the film’s production.
Jeremy Piven – Known for his portrayal of Mr Selfridge, three separate women have accused Piven of sexual misconduct, to which he denies. One of these women, advertising executive Tiffany Bacon Scourby, claimed Piven once rubbed his genitals on her and ejaculated on her shirt.
Oliver Stone – Patricia Arquette spoke about the writer & director’s inappropriate behaviour, and model & actress Carrie Stevens accused Stone of groping her.
Endless questions have arisen from these situations, but one which I’ve pondered over for some time now is, can we really watch these men on screen without any pang of guilt? Can we view these films and television programmes in complete isolation to the truth? This video draws some thought-provoking ideas around the topic of the art vs the artist.
Some are quick to suggest that, yes, we can separate the art from the artist, as the predetermined, scripted personality of a character massively differs from that of a sexual predator. We do not watch and listen and enjoy the performance of an abuser; we relish in the talent of an actor, we invest our time and emotion into characters and plots. Of all the people in this world who should be feeling guilt for their actions, spectators should not.
However, the power of cinema actually places the audience into a position of vulnerability. We are unknowingly absorbed into the director’s sphere, and as a result, our judgments are no longer constructed independently as what we see is through the eye of the director. Our heartstrings are purposefully plucked and our emotions blatantly evoked as we enrol into the actor’s alternative mind-set. Essentially, we as an audience are taken advantage of, so try as I may to distinguish the art from the artist, I can’t deny that if I’m watching a Weinstein production, a Spacey blockbuster or Westwick in an old episode of Gossip Girl, my viewing will be bitterly, bitterly tainted.
One of the most recent accusations to surface is against comedian Louis CK, who admits being guilty of masturbating in front of victimised women. Not in any way am I excusing CK’s behaviour, but fellow comedian Sarah Silverman’s discussion in the video below highlights both sides of the story – the anger towards disgustingly unpardonable actions contrasting with the sadness in grieving our idols.
Despite the news being devastating, the victims are brave, and what we can hope for now is justice. Now that our foot is in the door, we need to make sure it stays open.
Text: Natalie Zannikos
Images: The Guardian, WordPress, Fandango, TV Guide, Wired, Twitter