Sorry Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, There’s a Difference Between Womanizers, Assholes and Rapists

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.

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over eight years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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  • Jelinas

    Even if they WERE the same thing, that’s some deeply flawed logic. The argument boils down to: “I won’t stop supporting the art of bad people because I want to be able to enjoy their art.”

    And you’re absolutely right: womanizers and rapists are NOT the same thing. Refusing to support the work of rapists and sexual predators is not throwing out the baby with the bathwater because the baby is not MADE OF DIRTY BATHWATER. You can remove the baby from the bathwater; they are essentially distinct. But you can’t remove Louis CK from his show. Every scene in every one of Woody Allen’s films is tainted by his influence and direction.

    And using Shakespeare as an example is also flawed logic. I think there’s a huge difference between a man whose beliefs were appropriate/acceptable for the society in which he lived and a man like Weinstein, whose actions are not only inappropriate in the context of his own society but actually criminal. I think it’s asking too much to judge a sixteenth-century playwright by twenty-first century mores. It is not, however, too much to ask a twenty-first century man to live by the mores of his own time and culture.

    I’m not saying that I would necessarily judge anyone for enjoying the works of these men. But if you’re going to do that, be honest about why: you enjoy entertainment and what these men did doesn’t matter enough to you to spoil your enjoyment of their films.

  • emmalita

    I suspect Tom and Meryl have had to work with some really awful people and find ways to justify it to themselves.

    I don’t see any need to support actors like Mel Gibson or Johnny Depp. They don’t bring anything to the table that couldn’t be supplied by someone else. Kevin Spacey was a gifted actor, but again, there are a lot of gifted actors in the world.

    Harvey Weinstein is trickier, because he supplied the money, but it represents the work of so many other people. So I will continue to watch movies he produced in the past.

    When I found out what Bertolucci and Brando did to Maria Schneider during Last Tango in Paris, I struck Tango from my list of movies to watch.

    • Maximo Gómez

      I had Allen and Polanski movies in my list of movies to watch (I’ve only seen 2 Allen movies), I’ve taken them out of the list too.

  • Peachy

    Johnny Depp did not abuse his wife. He was never charged with anything. She had her chance to pursue her case but she dropped the charges and let’s also not forget she is the one with a dv charge because she attacked her ex-wife in an airport. A picture of a fake bruise doesn’t prove anything. The police and hotel staff saw her without makeup on and saw nothing. Depp had 52 witnesses compared to her seven who saw nothing and over 170 pages of tetxts between her “witness” friends. She refused to turn over phone records or appear for her deposition three times. I think you owe him an apology. I hope he sues you.