Who gets to survive the #MeToo era?
Certainly not James Franco, who was snubbed Tuesday morning in the Oscars’ Best Actor category. It presumably has something to do with the Los Angeles Times publishing the accounts of five women who accused Franco of “inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior.” In fact, the only nomination Franco’s The Disaster Artist picked up was one for Best Adapted Screenplay, which was written by two men who are not Franco: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. His film was otherwise shut out of the nominations altogether—a sharp contrast from the Golden Globes, where Franco took home the Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy trophy. This was, of course, days before the Times story hit.
Compare that with Christopher Plummer’s nomination from the otherwise ignored All the Money in the World. Voters seemed to rally behind the replacement for Kevin Spacey, who was removed from Ridley Scott’s film after his own sexual-misconduct scandal broke. But as we seem to be approaching a more “woke” awards season—including nominees of color and women like Mary J. Blige, Dee Rees, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon, Greta Gerwig, and Jordan Peele, to name a few—it seems that the #MeToo movement and the attempt to avoid another #OscarsSoWhite means that Hollywood is very much focused on what’s right in front of its face.
Take for instance how Franco’s notable absence loses its impact when you realize Gary Oldman still received a nomination for Best Actor.
Oldman, 59, was nominated for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the film Darkest Hour (also nominated for Best Picture), but the character actor’s dark past is readily searchable on the internet and was reported on in the lead-up to awards season. It seems with men like Oldman and Mel Gibson, the Academy is ready to live and let live. The sins of the past are not the sins of today.
In 2001, Oldman’s then-wife Donya Fiorentino filed papers in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that Oldman assaulted her with a telephone in front of their children. According to the New York Daily News, Fiorentino said, “As I picked up the phone to call the police, Gary put his hand on my neck and squeezed. I backed away, with the phone receiver in my hand. I tried to dial 911. Gary grabbed the phone receiver from my hand, and hit me in the face with the telephone receiver three or four times. Both of the children were crying.” Oldman has denied the allegations and claimed, “[the accusations are] replete with lies, innuendoes, and half-truths.”
But that disturbing alleged incident aside, he also has a history of making light of bad behavior when it pertains to men like Gibson.
In a 2014 interview with Playboy, Oldman said: “Well, if I called Nancy Pelosi a cunt—and I’ll go one better, a fucking useless cunt—I can’t really say that. But Bill Maher and Jon Stewart can, and nobody’s going to stop them from working because of it. Bill Maher could call someone a fag and get away with it. He said to Seth MacFarlane this year, ‘I thought you were going to do the Oscars again. Instead they got a lesbian.’ He can say something like that. Is that more or less offensive than Alec Baldwin saying to someone in the street, ‘You fag?’ I don’t get it.”
Oldman’s wildest quotes from the interview concerned his defense of Gibson’s infamous drunken anti-Semitic rant where he exclaimed, “Fucking Jews… The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” and his racist one wherein he told his then-partner, Oksana Grigorieva, “I hope you get raped by a pack of n-----s.” Oldman offered some anti-Semitic gems: “Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews, and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him—and doesn’t need to feed him anymore because he’s got enough dough. He’s like an outcast, a leper, you know? I don’t know about Mel. He got drunk and said a few things, but we’ve all said those things.”
Gibson managed a comeback tour at the Oscars last year for his war drama Hacksaw Ridge, and inexplicably starred in last year’s family comedy Daddy’s Home 2. If Gibson is allowed a comeback, why not the man who went out of his way to aggressively defend him?
Oldman isn’t the only man whose past sins have been forgiven by this year’s Oscar voters. Retired Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant was nominated for Best Animated Short for Dear Basketball, based on the 2015 letter he wrote The Players Tribune to announce his retirement.
In 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a woman at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in Colorado. Despite being charged with sexual assault and false imprisonment, Bryant’s case never went to trial. One week before the trial was set to begin in 2004, and despite considerable evidence against Bryant (including DNA), the case was dismissed after the accuser informed the court that she would not testify. The 19-year-old victim filed a civil suit against Bryant and agreed to the dismissal of sexual-assault charges if his apology was read aloud in court, which said, in part:
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter. I issue this statement today fully aware that while one part of this case ends today, another remains. I understand that the civil case against me will go forward. That part of this case will be decided by and between the parties directly involved in the incident and will no longer be a financial or emotional drain on the citizens of the state of Colorado.”
Bryant’s rape case has mostly become a gallows humor joke at this point, and seeing as the case never went to trial, we have no idea what actually transpired at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera. But men in Hollywood have been excised for similar things, so it’s odd that during Hollywood’s progressive #TimesUp moment, past transgressions are brushed aside when faced with fresh ones. It’s a reminder that we often pick and choose who we want to persecute, and begs the question: Was Franco’s snub because Oscar voters were really intent on cleaning up their ceremony or do they just not like him?