Casey Affleck is promoting a new film, The Old Man & The Gun. You’ll recall, back in the fall of 2016, when momentum was surging around Manchester By The Sea, making him a Best Actor Oscar favourite, Amy Zimmerman wrote a great piece for The Daily Beast, questioning why Casey seemed to be given a pass despite the fact that he was accused of sexual harassment by two women while working on I’m Still Here (the lawsuit was eventually settled out of court). A week later, The Wrap reported that Casey’s rep were shutting down questions about those allegations, blocking the media from amplifying the story, so as to protect his Oscar chances.
Now he’s done his first interview since #MeToo dominated Hollywood headlines and the launch of Time’s Up. In an interview with The Associated Press (I recommended following that link and reading the entire thing), Casey admits to contributing to an “unprofessional environment” and “accept(s) responsibility”. He’s had a long time out of the spotlight to think about how to handle this. Enough time to carefully and strategically, with PR specialists, plan out exactly what to say, work out the right recipe of words to reassure just enough of the right people that he’s contrite without getting too specific about what he really did. And, most importantly, to not derail the new movie.
Mission accomplished. To be clear, that doesn’t mean I’m into it, but I don’t have to be. There are already people out there appreciating him for this. They’re saying that he’s saying the right things. And as far as his PR team and the studio are concerned, that’s enough. They’ve pulled it off. He will probably glide through this round of promotion pretty smoothly.
I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know the formula for accountability. As Sarah has noted, consequences for sh-tty behaviour have been so inconsistent and even talking about the inconsistency in consequences has resulted in even more toxicity, so it’s hard to even have a constructive conversation about how to rebalance the situation. All I can say is that in this situation, it doesn’t feel, to me anyway, that there’s been any balance.
Pajiba’s Kayleigh Donaldson, always insightful, put it like this:
It sure is nice that Casey Affleck is saying all the right things about #MeToo after he & his PR team ran a ruthless Oscar campaign that shut down vague mentions of sexual harassment, then went silent long enough until the first steps of industry backlash hit the movement, eh?— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) August 9, 2018
I’m not here to continue dumping on Casey Affleck. At the same time, let’s not give him a gold star. If anything, and that’s probably still debatable, he’s done the bare minimum. So… I guess… if we’re to be willfully optimistic, it’s a start? A slow start?
Maybe what he’s said in public isn’t a complete representation of the self-reflection he’s claimed to have done in private. I do wonder about those private conversations though, if they happened at all. For instance, a few months ago, Kenneth Lonergan, who directed Casey in Manchester, said that Casey had been “treated abominably”. I mean, he was shielded from media scrutiny by a stern PR team and went on to win an Oscar and by his own account has been able to spend the time since enjoying his life with his sons and his girlfriends and not giving interviews so, um, I’m not sure about that definition of “abominable” but sure, OK, Kenneth was defending a friend, someone he’d grown close to. Now, though, his friend has admitted to being a dick, to allowing others to get hurt, to being responsible for pain and trauma.
Part of moving forward and actually contributing to change then is to go to those who believed in you, over the word of others, and tell them about yourself, right? To be like… you were wrong about me, and the fact that I was wrong and that you were wrong about me is a symptom of a bigger problem that we all, together, have to address. Because every time someone like you stands up for someone like me, when I was at fault, it means someone else has been silenced.
Are those the discussions that Casey Affleck has been a part of? Is that the work that he’s been doing? Because if he’s been working on coming up with a publicity strategy for how to answer the questions on a press tour to make sure his movie is a success, I sure as f-ck hope he’s been working even harder behind the scenes on confronting the sh-t that has held back others from even a fraction of the success that he’s enjoyed. My worry is that that’s not the case.