During the cocktail reception for Monday night's 2017 Gotham Independent Film Awards in New York City, attendees were certain we were in for a night. Everyone said they expected the issue of the sexual misconduct allegations that have been unearthed in Hollywood, which kicked off when the New York Times reported accusations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, to be front and center when it came to the show. So it was surprising when host John Cameron Mitchell opened with this vague sentiment:
"Everything’s unacceptable now. Everything’s fucked up...It’s a weird time. So we hashtag resist, because we’re panicking and we want to do the right thing so hard, and we reach for the right thing, and it’s like flying around. We grab it, we hold really tight, and we sand off all the complexity and we flatten the nuance until the right thing looks like Hollywood. It’s really simplified and smooth. It’s a weird time."
And then we moved on. There was a moment when we clapped for the women and men who have come forward, and the journalists telling the stories, but nobody specifically noted what those stories were about. Nobody said the name "Harvey Weinstein." Nobody pointed out the irony that one of first award shows occurring after Hollywood's reckoning was, later that night, going to give a standing ovation to Dustin Hoffman, whom Anna Graham Hunter claims harassed her on a movie set when she was 17. (Hoffman issued an apology for his actions.) For a night many expected to set a precedent for the rest of awards show season, the ceremony itself offered the bleak possibility that maybe things aren't changing after all.
Things were just as disheartening on the red carpet. Refinery29's Arianna Davis and Emily Curl made sure to ask celebrities about Hollywood’s current climate, and specifically Hoffman’s role in the ceremony, but were rarely given more than generic statements about being conflicted, or in the case of The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani, the claim that he was learning about the allegation for the first time.
This negligence for celebrities to directly address the current climate in Hollywood isn't unique to the Gotham Awards. The New York Times reported a similar gaping hole in the speeches and tributes at the Governors Awards earlier this month, where Hoffman was also greeted with raucous applause.
It's not enough for celebrities to be vocal online, to make statements via Twitter, or to condemn on Instagram if the issues will continue to be dodged and ignored when they are among peers in real life. Every time I geared up for a speech to really go there, it ended with a smile and no mention of the fact that there's a systemic problem in Hollywood — and the fact that no one will say it to the faces of the people directly involved is precisely why it went by unchallenged for so long.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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