February 15, 2014

Dear Cate Blanchett: Please Say No To The Oscar

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What is the issue?

Come March 2nd, you will almost certainly be a two-time Oscar winner. You’re up against the likes of Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, and Sandra Bullock in the Best Actress stakes, but your performance in Woody Allen’s latest is, I hear, unsurpassed by almost anything that’s happened on a movie screen in years. I haven’t seen it because I don’t pay to see movies made by Woody Allen. Wherever possible, I try to avoid lining the pockets of people who, in all likelihood, have committed rape. I really wish you’d do the same.

Before I go any further, I should say that I think you’re wonderfully talented. I’ve been fortunate enough to see you live on stage, in Hedda Gabler, and it was hands-down the best performance I’ve ever seen. I had less-than-great seats, so I spent a lot of the play looking at your back and your shoulders, and not a whole lot of time watching your face, but you did more with your back, shoulders, and hands than most actors can do with their entire bodies. It was spellbinding. And let me also say that you and your husband have done a fantastic job helming the Sydney Theatre Company in the last few years, and that there’s something great about two internationally recognized people who could work anywhere in the world choosing to stay at home and make sure that their local theatre scene thrives. I admire you for that. I also admire you for making interesting script choices, like Notes on a Scandal, Veronica Guerin, and I’m Not There (we’ll just pretend the last Indiana Jones movie didn’t happen, ok?). You’ve made a lot of good choices. Blue Jasmine was not one of them.

Last week, when asked about the controversy newly swirling around Allen — Dylan Farrow’s op ed in the Times, the various responses from her supporters and detractors, and then Allen’s own rejoinder in the Times — you sidestepped the issue, saying that you hoped the family would “find some resolution and peace.” Which is a lovely sentiment, but also, with all due respect, total bullshit.

You’re smarter than that. You’re perceptive enough to understand that this particular instance of alleged sexual violence has huge ramifications. You’re intelligent enough to know that this isn’t just a family matter, but a question of how seriously we, as a culture, take the question of sexual violence, and whether or not we excuse or ignore or even encourage sexual violence if the perpetrators are rich and powerful enough. You’re smart enough to recognize that sexual violence isn’t a family issue, but a public health issue, and a social justice issue, and a gender equality issue. This is not about — or not only about — the family “finding some peace.”

I recognize that you now find yourself in a very awkward position, in which you are being asked to defend someone who might have done something awful, and in which your professional fortunes are tied, in many ways, to that same person. That’s unfortunate for you, but it wouldn’t be happening if you hadn’t broken the Don’t Work With Alleged Child Rapists rule.

I understand that life is complicated, and that there are very few bright lines one can draw in the world, and that hard and fast rules aren’t always hard or fast or easy to implement in real life. But here’s one hard, fast rule, a bright line I think we should all be able to agree on: Don’t work with someone who has been publicly and repeatedly accused of child molestation. That’s just a good life rule. If you think there’s a fairly good chance that your potential colleague raped a child — and while some people think we’ll never know for sure what happened between Allen and Farrow, we can all agree that, at the very least, there’s a fairly good chance he raped a child — don’t work with them. Steer clear of people who have, in all likelihood, committed unspeakable acts of violence, even if their cases never went to trial.

This will mean making some sacrifices. For example, you won’t get to work with Woody Allen, the enormously influential cinematic auteur, whose films have helped to define and shape the American cultural landscape for decades. On the other hand, you won’t have to work with a probable child rapist, so that’s… pretty neat.

Alas, you signed on to work with Woody Allen. You shouldn’t have made this movie. But you did, and now you’re up for an Oscar, and since the Academy doesn’t seem to have a problem with overlooking rape in the name of rewarding a really good movie, you will probably win.

Don’t accept it.

I’m aware of how absurd that sounds. It’s an Oscar, for God’s sake. It’s what all actresses dream of — especially actresses who were unfairly passed over in favor of Gwyneth Paltrow a decade ago. Winning it and taking it home with you will raise your Hollywood stock. Better roles, more money. “Two-time Academy-Award Winner Cate Blanchett.” Sounds pretty good. Winning it and taking it home will also raise his stock, though. Another Oscar nod for Woody. Another sparkly accolade that reminds survivors of sexual violence that we want to keep giving Woody Allen a platform and we just want them to shut up.

Only three people have ever turned down an Oscar (one of them was Marlon Brando, though, so you’d be in good company). “I am honored to be recognized for my performance,” you could say, “but I broke the Don’t Work With Probable Child Rapists rule, and for that, I should not be lauded.” I know it sounds nuts. It sounds like career suicide. But when you win, are you going to stand at the podium and thank Woody Allen? The man who yes, helped you win an Oscar, but also almost certainly raped a child? How would you sleep at night?

It sounds insane to say no to an Oscar, and I would say you’ll have plenty of chances to win another one, but the Academy probably won’t take it very well if you turn it down, so your next nomination might be a long time coming. But it’s the right thing to do. Accept the award and take it home with you, and it will be tainted forever. It will be the Oscar you won for that movie made by a man who, more likely than not, raped a little girl.

Don’t accept it — that is the courageous thing to do. Or accept it– you’d be crazy not to. Take it home with you and put it on your mantle, and try not to think about whether you’re profiting, for the rest of your life, on the back of a child who was raped, and, because you know this isn’t just an Allen-Farrow family issue, on the backs of hundreds of thousands of survivors of sexual violence who watched as you chose a gold statuette instead of a gutsy, principled stand. Eventually, you’ll find some resolution and peace. And if you don’t, if you can’t sleep at night, I’m sure Adrien Brody has some tips. TC mark

image – Paul Cush
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