Casey Affleck, Ben Affleck‘s younger bro, is currently making an Oscar run for his performance in Manchester By the Sea. Early recognition tells us he’s a frontrunner for this year’s Best Actor prize. But as the rave reviews pour in and he works on his acceptance speech, we have to ask ourselves why his career was not sunk by allegations of sexual assault like another Oscar contender’s was this year — Nate Parker.
A few of years ago, Affleck was accused of sexual assault by two women who worked on his ill-received documentary I’m Not Here. He was married at the time. According to The Guardian:
“[One accuser’s] original allegations included claims that Affleck hired transvestite prostitutes ‘for his personal gratification’ during filming, referred to women as ‘cows’, manhandled her when she rejected his sexual advances and instructed a camera operator to flash his genitals at her on several occasions.”
Last year, before his Oscar campaigning began for Manchester, Affleck settled those two lawsuits for a reported $4 million. Around that same time, his wife left him.
If America’s long past of pardoning White male indecency is any indication, Casey’s odds at avoiding any uncomfortable questions about the allegations are much better than Nate Parker’s. And if the examples of Woody Allen, Sean Penn and Charlie Sheen don’t show that we don’t just forgive these transgressions, we reward them, look no further than our president-elect.
It’s interesting to see what offenses American society deems unacceptable and who is ultimately granted mercy for these offenses in the court of public opinion. Who is a troubled kid and who is a super predator? Who is a lone wolf and who’s a terrorist?
Why hasn't MP Jo Cox's killer been branded as the terrorist that he is…Family Guy has the answer (as always)! pic.twitter.com/emeY2E5jWH
When does Ryan Lochte have to live with as much weight on his shoulders as Tamir Rice? Peyton Manning‘s alleged sexual harassment case at The University of Tennessee will never get the scrutiny it would bring most of his teammates.
America has no problem holding its disenfranchised citizens accountable for their shortcomings. But the legal and symbolic consequences that rich White men often face for crimes that ruin the lives of other races, genders and classes never add up.
Men like Donald Sterling and Donald Trump are still living the American Dream after years of housing discrimination, hateful harassment and generally fraudulent incompetency across all of their businesses.
But moral bankruptcies don’t hit everybody’s credit the same in America. Uncle Sam will forgive Casey Affleck the way we all forgive our crazy drunk uncle. And Trump is forgiven for grabbing pussies before Hillary Clinton is excused for an email breach. It’s because America is built on a rock that will always overlook the immorality of its White males.
That’s why we must remain critical of all citizens who breach the basic laws of humanity. And while judgement isn’t a solution, we have to pay attention to who we forgive and who we condemn. Why is the current heroin epidemic being treated with so much empathy from the government? How is it different than the crack epidemic that almost claimed he heart of Black America in the 1980’s?
The fluffy coverage given to the Neo-Nazi’s last week is no different than the fluff campaign mainstream media is allowing Casey Affleck to ride to moral absolution and Oscar glory. It’s all defined by the rose-colored glasses America views its White men’s mistakes. The glasses that let Reagan off the hook for crack, Clinton off the hook for mass-incarceration and Bush off the hook for — everything. That’s why Casey Affleck will likely win an Oscar next year, while Nate Parker will be looking for a new career.
Casey Affleck’s of the world will continue to benefit from this system by divine right, while everyone else’s scrambles to slip through the fleeting cracks in America’s Lilly white glass ceiling. Will we ever be able to create enough pressure to make it flood?