We’re all with familiar with the phrase ‘OscarsSoWhite”, however this year the Oscar diversity drought came to a temporary halt with a sizeable number of black nominations. However, is this just a farce? The tussle between Casey Affleck and Nate Parker makes us think so.
At the Sundance Film Festival last year, Nate Parker’s directorial debut The Birth of a Nation about a 1831 Virginia slave rebellion and Casey Affleck starrer Manchester By The Sea about a Boston janitor promised to make the Oscar rounds. With the coming of 2017, there seems to be no trace or mention of Parker while Affleck has picked up a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the heart broken janitor. So what changed? When Parker’s film released in October, it was overshadowed by the news that back in 1999, nineteen year old Parker and the film’s co-writer Jean Celestin had been accused of raping a fellow student in college. Parker was acquitted on grounds that he had consensual sex with the victim prior to the incident. Amidst the uproar, sexual harassment charges against Affleck resurfaced which allegedly took place on the set of his 2010 mockumentary, I’m Still Here. According to the Guardian, “original allegations included claims that Affleck hired transvestite prostitutes ‘for his personal gratification’ and 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.”
The one thing that has particularly galled a number of observers is the profiles of Affleck that make only a mere passing mention of his indiscretions. In stark contrast, when the news of Parker broke out, The Daily Beast says Academy voters said that they won’t even watch the movie while the American Film Institute cancelled a screening. Rev Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist, told the Root , an online magazine of African American culture, “Is the standard now that you can take an almost two-decade acquittal and deny him the Oscars, but it’s all right for others who’ve done crazy stuff to be Oscar material? I just want to know, what’s the standard?”
There is no escaping Affleck’s privilege as Ben Affleck’s younger brother who has one of Hollywood’s most enduring friendships with the influential Matt Damon. There is definitely no escaping the race factor as The Daily Wire rightly puts, “Black man acquitted of a single incident involving one woman 17 years ago, has his entire career destroyed. White man who settled two sexual harassment suits from two separate accusers that involve alleged behavior on a film set just six years ago, is well on his way to Oscar glory.”
This is reminiscent of Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird” where a black man is accused of rape simply because he is black and such violence is attributed to his race. Thus, ladies and gentlemen we observe that Nate Parker has disappeared of the Oscar radar while Ben’s little brother is on an award winning roll.
Image Credits: www.newyorker.com