Let me be perfectly clear at the outset; this is not a “rip Tom Hanks” piece.
That said, when asked in a recent interview about what to do with a compromised artist’s work, I can’t agree with the way the actor handled that question, especially in light of the particular people Hanks was referring to: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Louis CK and Brett Ratner, each of whom has been accused of multiple sexual assaults and/or rape.
It may be his very specific wording that gives me pause, so before we go on, do listen to Hanks’ comments yourself:
If you threw out every film or television show that was made by an asshole, Netflix would go out of business. The Brady Bunch, I don’t know what else. I think you do just have to…you wait. ‘Cause this is a long game. Picasso was a womanizer. And this is not excusing anybody — you just have to wait and see how it settles over the long haul.
This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. And I think work does speak for itself. But character does come into the conversation at some point. But I think that lands over time.”
Meryl Streep seems to agree with Tom, and threw out Shakespeare as an example of separating art from its creator.
We still revere Shakespeare. We haven’t thrown it out, and there is no question that [The Merchant of Venice] is anti-Semitic. There is no question that The Taming of the Shrew is misogynist. Everybody has their blank spots, but the genius that understands so much else about the human experiment is worth safeguarding, and shouldn’t be touched.
People who are terrible also have terribly clear insights on other subjects, so I don’t think you throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
The art v. artist conundrum tends to be intensely personal, and peoples’ opinions can vary based not only on who the individuals are that have committed offenses, but also, what those specific offenses are and sometimes regardless of the perpetrators’ (alleged or convicted) legal status. Recently, both Kate Winslet and Alec Baldwin have defended working with Woody Allen, because they claim they don’t know more than that ultimately, Allen wasn’t found guilty of sexual abuse in court. Roman Polanski, on the other hand, was found guilty and fled the United States when his lawyers advised him the sentencing judge was about to break a plea-bargain deal, and plenty of actors still work with the director. Choosing to watch Allen or Polanski’s films, past, present and future varies wildly; I’ve heard some folks say they see some works as worthy art, but that they’d never “give money” by purchasing tickets to the directors’ new work.
There’s a clear difference though, between a person classified as a “womanizer” or even a “misogynist”, and people like Weinstein and Spacey, who’ve been accused by multiple people of rape ( legal ramifications aside, when there are so many like allegations, veracity exists) so it’s disappointing to hear Hanks and Streep essentially conflate Shakespeare’s words with these modern monsters’ vile acts. And while we, the individuals, might never agree on the personal dilemma of watching, purchasing tickets or music or film, there is much those in the industry can do — starting with people like Meryl and Tom. Because if powerful actors, directors, producers, cinematographers and crew start refusing to work with or hire people who abuse their status, if no one will finance the work of those who sexually harass and commit assault against others, the message will get out, loud and clear. There are too many situations where after some indeterminate time has passed — as Hanks says, ‘This is a long game …” — abusers are let back into the arena (Mel Gibson, who battered his partner, and Johnny Depp, his wife). These are not simply assholes and womanizers we’re talking about; they have assaulted people. Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner and Kevin Spacey have, by multiple accounts, assaulted, raped, felt privileged to take away others’ dignity, to disrespect and disregard others as people; how dare we offer them up as untouchable “artists” or “geniuses” whose work somehow eclipses those acts? Moving forward and to effect change, it’s time to take a stand against those who victimize with sexual assault, to declare that no art is worth tolerating such predators in the industry.
On a positive note, congratulations to the Screen Actors Guild, who after bringing on Kristen Bell as the first SAG Awards host, will honor women by featuring women presenters only at the ceremony, January 21, 2018.