Kenneth Lonergan defends Casey Affleck in row with Wesleyan college student

 In the wake of a sexual controversy surrounding Oscar-winning actor Casey Affleck, Aoife Loughnane asks if Hollywood is choosing to condone this behaviour and, if so, why should we care?

Kenneth Lonergan, Oscar-winning director of Manchester by the Sea, has hit back at an article written by a student at his old college, Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Connor Aberle, an assistant editor for the college newspaper, wrote a scathing piece “How Wesleyan is Complicit in Affleck’s Sexual Misconduct by Endorsing Lonergan ’84”, calling out Lonergan for his support of Casey Affleck’s alleged sexual harassment. 

Affleck took home the gong for Best Actor at the Academy Awards on February 26 2017, alongside Lonergan,  who won for Best Original Screenplay.

“Affleck’s victory suggests that he is superlative in his job but also generally an upstanding person. If a cashier in a grocery store committed a murder, no matter how well they run the register, they are not going to win employee of the month,” Aberle writes. 

Lonergan penned a response in the college paper, The Wesleyan Argus, titled, “How Connor Aberle And The Argus Are Complicit In Slandering Casey Affleck.

He slams Aberle’s claims that he is condoning sexual misconduct, calling his article, “a tangle of illogic, misinformation and flat-out slander that only the author’s presumed youth can possibly excuse his deeply offensive display of ignorance, and warped PC-fueled sense of indignation.”

Lonergan goes on to protest Affleck’s innocence, saying “Casey denounced the allegations as being totally fabricated. Like most civil suits, this one was settled out of court by mutual consent on undisclosed terms. In other words, nothing was proved or disproved. So how does Mr Aberle dare to write as if he knows who was telling the truth and who was not?”


Media scrutiny

There have been disappointed murmurings in the media regarding Affleck’s win since he took home the statuette for his role as a depressed uncle tasked with becoming the guardian to his teenage nephew.

Brie Larson, who had awarded Affleck both his Golden Globe and Oscar, decided against applauding him as can be seen via Twitter below.

Larson, who won her Oscar last year for her portrayal of a rape survivor in Room, had to hand over the Best Actor Oscar to a man who has had two separate sexual harassment cases brought against him.


Affleck’s allegations

The Employment Equality Acts 1988–2008 defines sexual harassment in the workplace as, “any kind of unwanted / unwelcomed act of physical intimacy, request for sexual favour from one person to another and any unwelcomed act from one person for another, including spoken words, gestures or the production, display or circulation of written words, pictures or other materials”.

The harassment cases in question occurred in 2010 on the set of the documentary I’m Still Here, which Affleck himself directed.

Producer Amanda White alleged Affleck was verbally abusive to her and when she refused to share a hotel room with him, he responded with a string of offensive texts.

In addition to this, cinematographer Magdelene Gorka alleged that he came into her bed uninvited and made sexual advances towards her and again when she refused him, he allegedly got crew members to bully her until she quit.

Affleck has denied these allegations and both cases were settled out of court for an undisclosed sum of money.

“I believe that any kind of mistreatment of anyone for any reason is unacceptable and abhorrent, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace and anywhere else,” he told the Boston Globe after his win.


Polanski, Allen and Parker

This is not the first time that a Hollywood star has come under fire in relation to sexual harassment claims.

Parallels have been drawn between Affleck’s situation and both Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. Both of the latter have been the subject of scandals involving allegations of sexual assault.

In Allen’s case, his daughter Dylan Farrow claims she was sexually abused as a child by him, which he has always denied. Yet his career has gone from strength to strength, with him even winning an Oscar for Midnight in Paris in 2012.

Polanski is actually guilty of the rape of a 13-year-old child. Yet he was awarded Best Director as well as Best Picture for his 2002 movie, The Pianist.

However, Donald Clarke wrote a piece in The Irish Times defending Affleck by saying, “Affleck did not hit anyone, he did not physically hurt anyone. He is neither a rapist nor a child abuser.”

Clarke goes on to say that Affleck’s acting and his personal life are two separate things, calling the  “consistent attacks” that Affleck has been subjected to akin to a “witch-hunt.”

One man whose career has been severely affected by allegations is Nate Parker’s. Parker wrote, directed and starred in The Birth of a Nation, yet a 1999 rape case (that he was later acquitted of)  shrouded his movie in controversy and invited huge media attention.

The Hollywood Reporter ran a piece ‘Nate Parker’s Failed Media Tour: Anger, No Remorse and Oprah’s Advice Ignored’ detailing how Parker had not helped his cause once his former allegations became public knowledge.

According to the article, Parker “was angry that what he saw as a consensual, youthful sexual experimentation gone awry had become an issue years later despite his acquittal.”

Lying low for a while is one option for Parker yet his actions – declining to tell his story on Oprah, showing no regret in interviews for the suicide of his former accuser – might have ruined any chances he has of a future Hollywood career.

The fact that Parker is black and relatively unknown in Hollywood, whereas the others are powerful white men, is always going to stir up questions.

Why ignore Affleck’s allegations and not Parker’s? Granted, Parker was accused of rape and not harassment yet morally, there are question marks hanging over Hollywood in relation to dealing with instances of sexual misconduct.

Judging from Kenneth Lonergan’s angrily-worded letter defending Casey Affleck, it seems like that won’t be changing anytime soon. 




Featured Image by Disney ABC Television Group via Flickr  licensed by Creative Commons

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