Awards shows should not honor abusers

By Elise Martorano

Greg Hernandez/Wikimedia Commons
Greg Hernandez/Wikimedia Commons

Michael Fassbender, Jared Leto, Woody Allen, Christian Bale. These are some of the men that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to nominate for Oscar awards and they have all been accused of violence against women.

Of course, the trend of nominating actors like this, and sometimes handing them an Academy Award, is nothing new.

In 1994, a college student sued Charlie Sheen after he hit her in the head after she spurned his advances. In 1996, he beat his then-girlfriend, who received seven stitches in her lip. And in 2009, he choked his third wife, Brooke Mueller, and threatened her with a knife. This is just to name a few incidents. And yet since the first incident of abuse, he has been nominated for three Golden Globes (winning one), four Primetime Emmy Awards and countless others, including a few Teen Choice Awards.

In 1988, Sean Penn was charged with domestic violence, after beat Madonna with a baseball bat, leading to her hospitalization. Since then, he has been nominated for five Academy Awards (winning two), five Golden Globes (winning one), three BAFTAs and innumerable others.

Roman Polanski, acclaimed director of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Pianist,” along with many other critically acclaimed movies, drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl in 1977, later defending himself by saying, “Everyone wants to f*** young girls.”

And since then, he has been nominated for three Academy Awards, one Golden Globe and two BAFTAs. Polanski couldn’t accept his 2003 Oscar because he was a fugitive of the U.S. judicial system. Harrison Ford accepted the award in his place.

The list is endless. And every year, the organizations that head awards shows such as the Oscars insist upon sweeping disturbing events like these under the rug.

Michael Fassbender, Jared Leto, Woody Allen and Christian Bale have all been accused of violent and/or sexual abuse toward intimate partners as well as family members, and yet the Academy and other organizations still see fit to nominate them, and others like them, for awards.

One might say that the wrongs that they have committed are wholly unrelated to their deservingness to be rewarded for their artistic ability. But our view of abusive celebrities cannot be so black and white. Awards shows produced by prestigious organizations like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should uphold a standard of excellence, not just of artistry, but of humanity.

Rewarding abusers for the work that they have done removes the responsibility that must be placed on them for the violence they’ve inflicted on others and this must not be the case. Not only are the lives of domestic abuse victims torn apart by the horrific experiences they have had with these celebrities, but also their ability to expose the injustices done to them becomes severely limited when their abuser is a public figure, especially one so universally well-liked as Woody Allen or Christian Bale. The public will often choose to ignore such accusations because they don’t want their favorite celebrity to be tainted. Too often are rumors ignored because the public believes that a person’s personal life can be entirely separate from their professional accomplishments. This too is a misconception that must be deconstructed.

A person’s capacity for violence toward others influences every area of their life, including the work they produce and the way they interact with their co-workers both on set and off set. Simply because we see a movie or an interview with our favorite actor and cannot see any trace of instability or danger in their behavior does not mean that the people close to them are safe. We must not enable these celebrities to continue being viewed as an objective reality. We must see them as abusers on and off the screen so that their victims are not silenced by our willingness to turn the other cheek.

This is why the Academy should not continue to honor them. By recognizing the talent that allows their misdeeds to be ignored, organizations are sending a message that it’s okay to do bad things, as long as you’re talented, because that is all that anyone will ever remember. Except, of course, for the victims, who will never forget, and who have been silenced by a public that aggressively refutes their allegations of horrifying violence so that they may continue to watch their favorite movies guilt-free.


Elise Martorano is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]