Sexual assault and harassment are legitimate and real problems. I’m not here to argue that they aren’t. I’m not going to sit here and minimize them either. However, I do want to point out a couple things in how Hollywood and America in general are handling it, because it needs to be pointed out.
First and foremost, at this point in time, the accused are essentially being condemned, tried, and executed, frequently without an actual legal trial. In some cases, all it takes is a single accusation to bring down a person, and there doesn’t even have to be any validity to that accusation. This is a tough thing to try to deal with properly; on one hand, you have to take the victim’s claim seriously. You have to, there is no other option. But on the other hand, you also have to give the accused the benefit of the doubt: our law is based on the presumption of innocence until a court of law finds him or her guilty. That is the law of the land. You can’t bypass that and go straight to punishment. Except we have been. With the #MeToo movement, people have been drummed out of their jobs and society, frequently without a trial of any kind.
Take Kevin Spacey, for example; his accuser waited 30 years to bring up the assault publicly. He had 30 years to bring it up to the police (ok, probably a lot less given the statute of limitations) and to seek some justice, but only did so at the start of this movement. In the process, Spacey has been banished from Hollywood for something that may have been a one time, mutually consented to interaction, without a trial, or expectation of such. He was fired from his current role, digitally erased from a film, and likely will never earn another dollar as an actor. Hell, he may not even be able to work again period given the notoriety if the situation. All that without even giving him the benefit of the doubt or at least a fair trial.
I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it, I’m not saying he’s a saint. For all I know, Spacey may eat the hearts of puppies every morning for breakfast. What I am saying is that the court of social media and public opinion needs to stop convicting and punishing people without a legal conviction first.
The other point is that in cases where people have been legally convicted, and have served their time, they have a right to work again if they can find it. It’s hard enough for any ex-convict to find work; it always has been and likely always will be. It’s a stigma and struggle they have to live with. But once they have served their time, they are legally entitled to work again. I’m writing this post because I just finished reading about how unfairly Olivia Munn is being treated after she informed Fox about Steven Wilder Striegel who appeared in the upcoming film “The Predator”, apparently in a single scene, with Munn. There were many wrongs about this.
First of all, regardless of how Striegel got the role, he has a legal obligation to inform his employer about any convictions that he has. Given that Fox claimed ignorance of it, he either didn’t, Fox lied, or someone kept it quiet. Given that Striegel is a friend of the director, Shane Black, my bet is that it was kept quiet. That’s a tough call; on one hand Striegel did his time and is just trying to work and a friend has a duty to help another friend where he can, on the other Black’s obligation to the studio, the cast and the crew demands that he bring it to their attention prior to filming. Another thing to consider is whether Striegel was an “extra” or a paid member of the cast: it’s not difficult to be an extra on a film, and frequently no one even asks your name or has you sign a release, let alone do a background check. It would be impossible produce films the way they are currently and do background checks on everyone involved no matter how small the role. Nonetheless, this is something that Hollywood might have to change.
The second thing is, that had the proper notifications been made, Striegel had a fully legal reason and right to be there. I love Olivia Munn and have since her days on Attack of the Show (????????????????), I really do. But, strictly speaking, Striegel did his court assigned punishment; aside from being obligated to notify the powers that be of his conviction, he was entitled to be there as much as Munn was. While I agree that the fact that she wasn’t informed and given the option of not working with him, he didn’t do anything wrong on this film as far as we know. Her outrage is valid; there’s no disputing that especially she found out after the fact, but had she been informed, there’s no reason the scene needed to be cut from the film. As far as I know, Striegel did not assault or harass her or anyone else on the set, and no laws were broken. (Aside from the question of notification.) So, I again stress that the cast and crew had a right to know, but Striegel also had a right to be there.
Next, I think it’s absolutely disgraceful the way that Black and Fox have apparently behaved. If you’re going to ostracise someone for doing the right thing, you may as well kill the film. That seems to be the way things are being done these days; Spacey’s last film was released to a limited number of theaters with no advertising whatsoever, and then the media that covers Hollywood was alerted that the film made $126 in its opening weekend. So why not do that? Frankly, the only reason I’m probably going to see “The Predator” is for Ms Munn; frankly, I’m tired of the remakes and reboots that are all the rage these days.
My final point in this post is that despite what the #MeToo movement seems to think, people, whether they’re legally convicted or not, still need to work. They still need to feed themselves and their families. If they’ve been accused of a crime, push for legal prosecution; if they are guilty, then they need to stand trial, be convinced, and be put away so they can’t harm anyone else again. If they haven’t been convicted, as hard as it is for me to say it, then they “legally” haven’t done anything wrong. I’m not saying their actions weren’t terrible or a crime, but until they are convicted, they shouldn’t be persecuted and exiled from their jobs. It’s how our law is supposed to work. You can’t fairly force people out because someone accused them off something, when only the people who were there really know the truth. #MeToo shouldn’t be about forcing the accused out, it needs to be about supporting the victims, getting them to stand up and press charges in a timely manner, and getting sexual assault and harassment to stop by getting convictions. Right now, the movement is too similar to an angry mob out to lynch anyone it can find.