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Why I stand with Brie Larson at this year's Oscars

Adithya Pratama
Adithya Pratama

New York based food & travel writer

Jakarta | Thu, March 16, 2017 | 01:30 pm
Why I stand with Brie Larson at this year's Oscars

Brie Larson arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Invision/AP/Richard Shotwell)

On Feb. 26, Hollywood pulled another unexpected plot twist that shook the world with the whole envelope snafu. Unfortunately, Moonlight was not the only thing overshadowed by the mishap during the Oscars this year. Brie Larson’s disappointment during the ceremony should be seen as a defiant act against the practice surrounding Hollywood elites that normalize sexual harassment.

Read also: Pakistani gang rape victim walks the fashion runway

Following academy tradition, Larson, who won Best Actress in a Leading Role last year for Room, presented the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Her expression quickly changed when she found Casey Affleck’s name inside the envelope for his role in the melancholy drama Manchester by the Sea. She presented the statue to Affleck, withdrew to the side and stood still while the audience applauded the winning actor.

Larson’s professionalism deserves an award by itself, but her act of defiance was an illustration of solidarity against normalizing a culture that should never have existed in the first place. 

Since the beginning of the award season, Affleck’s nomination had been controversial because of two lawsuits that were filed against him in 2010 for sexual harassment by a producer and a cinematographer who worked on his movie I’m Still Here. Affleck has denied the accusations and the lawsuits were settled out of court “to the mutual satisfaction of the parties,” his spokesperson said.

After the Oscar nominations were announced in January, Asian-American actress Constance Wu tweeted: “Boys! BUY ur way out of trouble by settling out of court! Just do a good acting job, that's all that matters! bc Art isn't about humanity, right?” 

Together with actress Heather Matarazzo and publisher of WomenAndHollywood.com, Melissa Silverstein, the outcry against Affleck’s nomination begun early in the run.

It was hard for Larson to present the award to Affleck. Larson portrayed a woman who was kept captive by her rapist in Room and helped raise awareness about the issue with the hope of bringing about social change through her films. In a recent interview, Larson said her actions onstage spoke for themselves and that she had said all that she needed to say about the topic. 

Read also: 'Last Tango in Paris' rape scene revelation sparks outrage

It was disappointing, to say the least, to witness another white, male, alleged sex offender being celebrated with honor and prestige in American mainstream media. This is the same culture that helped paved the way for Donald Trump to be elected president despite his highly inappropriate remark about grabbing a female host by the genitals on the set of Days of Our Livesin 2005.

On the contrary, the career of Nate Parker, a black actor who wrote, directed and starred in the critically acclaimed biopic The Birth of a Nation ended up in tatters because of a rape allegation  in 1999. Although Parker was found not guilty, his movie suffered from a serious box office disappointment and vote brigading on sites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes despite very positive reviews by critics. To top it off, the movie was overlooked for an Oscar nomination.

In short, this issue falls in the intersectionality of gender and race privilege. It is one thing for a male to commit a sexual offense but it’s another thing to get away with it. A person’s history of sexual assault should never be overlooked due to fame or achievement. I believe, as a society, we will never achieve gender equality as long as we normalize the culture of rape. Until the day we are able to respect what it really means to honor consent and value each other as human beings - not as men or women - we should continue to fight against any form of sexual harassment, assault and honoring people like Casey Affleck. 

Until then, I stand with Brie Larson. (kes)

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