A few months ago, widespread rumblings about Casey Affleck’s sexual allegations began to surface in my social media space. To be completely real, my very first encounter was when someone dropped a NY Mag link in my women-centric industry Google Group. Not on my Twitter timeline, not on my Facebook feed, not via Instagram scrolling. There was nary a peep via my usual “breaking news” sources.
In 2010, two separate women accused Affleck of sexual harassment while working with him on the Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary, I’m Still Here, which he directed. The allegations, brought on by Amanda White and Magdalena Gorka (the film's producer and cinematographer), included verbal and physical harassment on set. These resulted in $2 million and $2.25 million suits, respectively.
Weeks went by and I saw Affleck being taken to task by firm, yet small, movements. Even bigger still, was the campaigning of his frontrunner status as “Best Actor.” On Sunday night, January 8th, he won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama, for his portrayal in Manchester By The Sea.
Inevitably, the comparisons creeped out. Nate Parker’s name drifted amongst his naysayers and defenders, alike.
Let’s list some similarities: Both have been accused of serious sexual allegations. Both have vehemently denied them. They’re both men.
And now, some differences: Parker was acquitted; Affleck reached a settlement for the suits. Parker’s case was criminal; Affleck’s case was civil. Parker was burgeoning into the mainstream; Affleck is Hollywood royalty.
Oh, and one more thing: Affleck is WHITE WHITE WHITE MCWHITE WITH A SIDE OF WHITEMALETTES.
It can’t be denied that there are stark differences between how media and society handles White celebrity and Black celebrity transgressions in relation to their career trajectory. Privilege is oh-so-very real and I can smell its mayonnaise-odor from here. There are myriad of examples of Blacklisting celebrities, while their White counterparts get to not only continue to cook, but thrive. But, I will never-ever-in-neverland-ever be here for using that — or Affleck’s flourishing — as a defense to advocate Nate Parker’s “right” to be let off the hook.
That is not a fight I’m willing to throw hands for, as you’ll catch a pile of bullshit. Affleck’s winning-tour is not a reason for Parker to “get off,” it’s a mirror held up to the tangled web of Hollywood’s racially-misogynistic depravity. Affleck’s golden gains doesn’t mean both men should be deemed right; it only shines a glaring light as to just how wrong they both are.
I’m also not down for the “trauma Olympics” conversation brewing amongst the reports. Trauma is trauma is trauma is trauma. Now, there are various levels to sexual assault and criminal punishments that match for a reason, just as there are for battery in comparison to murder. Rightfully so. What I will NOT stand for; though, is any defense of “well this isn’t as bad as that,” in order to defend Affleck. The traumatic effects from continued sexual harassment triggered by a man in a highly-regarded position of power (who also maintains nominal power) is nothing to scoff at. And it’s certainly not an opportunity to exploit the horrifying and incomparable traumas of rape in order to downplay its effects.
As the poet-laureate, Meek Mill, once quipped, “There’s levels to this shit.” I am able to discuss the disparities between celebrities of color and the placating of peak White privilege: in this case, a protected Hollywood legacy, such as Affleck. I am able to peep how; since that November Affleck article, there has been several more articles; a bulk of people are just choosing to ignore it. I am able to discuss that without showboating on which situation is “worse,” and able to resonate on the fact that both are heinous, gross, and reprehensible. I am able to side-eye Parker on one side, and Affleck on the other. At the same damn time!