A few weeks ago, before The Predator was to make its international debut at TIFF, Olivia Munn discovered that Steven Wilder Streigel, an actor she shared a scene with, was a registered sex offender. That phrase should stand on its own, but if you need more, he pleaded guilty to luring a minor over the internet, the details are predictably horrible, and LA Times writer Amy Kaufman outlined them on her Twitter last week.
Also horrible? Director Shane Black knew about the conviction and didn’t tell anyone else in the cast. At first he said he “chose to help a friend” and later changed his tune to say he “…was misled by a friend I really wanted to believe was telling me the truth when he described the circumstances of his conviction”. Sure. Objectively slimy and covering his ass, but whatever. The scene was cut from the movie. It should have been the end of the story.
What happened at TIFF this weekend, though, is the real story of what can happen after you speak up, another maddening answer to the question …Why don’t women speak up?
First, Munn sat through tension-filled interviews with her costars Trevante Rhodes and Augusto Aguilera. This is what happened when they were asked about the controversy.
Please note how it’s already beginning in this interview. The isolating. The minimizing. “I wasn’t disappointed in [director] Shane, I was disappointed in the situation,” Rhodes says.
The reporter tries desperately to get them to look like decent human beings when she prompts them “It’s nice to see you supporting your costar”, and is met with Aguilera’s response: “Not that she needs it, she’s a badass all on her own”
Hear it? That’s the script: “She doesn’t need us, she’s doing whatever on her own. I wasn’t a part of this. Don’t be mad at me, anyone who’s mad, especially the studio. Hire me!”
In the clip you can see Munn’s crystal-clear non-verbal communication while the reporter is speaking. Part “Thank YOU for saying that”, part side-eye that clearly says “Yeah there’s no ‘support’ here”. She points out that “the support online has been really amazing”, i.e. not from her costars. She later says Black never called her to apologize, that an apology isn’t the same thing as a statement released in the press. She even says, “My silence is not for sale.”
Those are big statements. She’s drawing a line. And Olivia Munn is not a rookie. She doesn’t dodge a single question or use the word ‘unfortunate’. She says ALL the things, maybe thinking she wouldn’t get another chance. Because she probably knew what would happen next.
You know what happened next, right?
That was the last interview she did with any of her adult costars. After that they weren’t doing group press appearances anymore and only Jacob Tremblay did interviews with her. And she talked about what was happening through all of it.
She told Vanity Fair that the rest of her castmates stood up to give Black a standing ovation despite not having reached out to talk to her. She told the audience at The Creative Coalition Spotlight Awards on Saturday that “it’s a very frustrating feeling to be treated like you’re the one who went to jail for a crime against a child when all I did was the right thing.”
When none of her cast members joins her for a scheduled Hollywood Reporter interview on Saturday afternoon, she’s open about how alone and ostracized she feels. But what happens next is the grossest and most disappointing part:
‘Oh no, baby girl, no, you got it wrong. No no, see – you misunderstood.’
Here’s a statement from Munn’s costar, Keegan-Michael Key. Or rather, from his rep:
"His last interview was scheduled after lunch, which he completed. He was always departing TIFF early so he could be home to spend the Jewish holiday with his wife. Furthermore, Keegan reached out to Olivia privately last week to let her know how proud he was of her and echoed that sentiment in many interviews since then."
Mmmm… did he? Okay. Because the red carpet interview I saw was not that definitive at all. But by all means, produce the airline manifests, because proving he was always supposed to be on a flight will totally eradicate the question of whether he’s been loudly supportive or the exact opposite.
Then, worse for a lot of people, including me, is this (thread, read it all:)
.@oliviamunn I’m sorry you’re feeling so isolated, my dear. And I’m sorry you’ve been the only one to speak up publicly. I was not at #TIFF so I didn’t have an opportunity to be there with you. There are two main issues as far as I see it. First, what is and is not forgivable?... https://t.co/NQQpoO9kPa— Sterling K Brown (@SterlingKBrown) September 9, 2018
“I’m sorry you’re feeling so isolated, my dear.”
Seriously? Seriously? You know what that is? That’s ‘Well I’m sorry you feel that way’ with a little condescension thrown in. GOD I did not want that to be the response from Sterling K Brown of all people. GOD it is a textbook weak-ass non-statement that pretends to be supportive while actually saying absolutely nothing of the kind. We have allllll the key catchphrases:
“I wasn’t there, so…”
“I don’t have all the info about the crime, but…”
“Maybe you and [Shane Black] have different ideas about forgiveness, but…”
Disgusting. Sorry, it’s disgusting. It’s also such a boneheaded move from someone whose brand is that he knows better, as is Keegan Michael Key’s. All he had to say was “Olivia was out front doing something incredibly brave, I should’ve been louder sooner about my agreement and support for her, and I’m grateful to be associated with someone who did the right thing.”
Do you know how praised and tongue-bathed he would be for that? For tweeting the bare minimum?
Instead he’s condescending, minimizing, protesting, erasing – all the ‘ings’ that happen every single time a woman sticks her neck out. Nothing in that statement – or in Key’s “Sorry, had to clear security!” non-excuse – does anything to support Olivia Munn, to back her up, or to legitimize her COMPLETELY CORRECT actions.
That’s the worst, most frustrating part – the part that is hardest to say out loud even in this age of #MeToo. Men’s voices are infuriatingly important when it comes to actually changing anything.
Men still vastly outnumber women on film and TV sets. If you, a woman, ‘say something’ and you’re not backed up by some of the men on the production – some high-level, important men whose opinions matter to TPTB – you’ll be shushed, shunned and ostracized. Your complaints will be met with ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’, and even when you point out something completely correct and help them avoid a goddamn lawsuit, they’ll resent instead of praising you for doing it. They’ll call you ‘difficult’. See also, Michelle Williams. See also, Serena Williams. Yes, when women band together and put their foot down they can enact all kinds of change – but day to day, millions of women inside and outside Hollywood are working in environments like Munn is where they’re the only one. The only one who sees anything wrong, the only one who feels compelled to speak up. Their voice is the only dissent. And the result, more often than not, is what’s happening to her – she’s a pariah. In an industry that has been swearing a blue streak that things are going to change and that everyone gets what’s up, the truth is that punishment is still swift and severe and totally deniable. “What? I had a flight!”
Obviously my opinion of Olivia Munn has shot up tenfold – especially since I don’t think she thought, when she told the studio a few weeks ago, that defending her choice would dominate the news cycle this way. She still won’t shut up, even though she’s aware it may cost her her career – something I don’t think is an unfounded fear. I just hate this object lesson, reminding us how easy it is for supposed ‘allies’ – even the ones we thought would know better and do better – to slip away quietly when you need them most.
Oh, and if you were wondering about TIFF’s stance on the whole thing?