Celebrities have become more outspoken than ever in 2017, using their platforms to call out oppression and injustice. In the sports world, Colin Kaepernick protested racism against African Americans by kneeling during the national anthem, and in the acting world, dozens of actresses from Lupita Nyong’o to Angelina Jolie have stepped forward with their stories of sexual assault by film producer Harvey Weinstein. These celebrities have stood out as brave symbols fighting for justice and equity and as a result, discussions of racism and sexual assault have come to the forefront of the public consciousness — but the following celebrities stood out for all the wrong reasons. Although they were popular in 2017, 2018 deserves better.
Woody Allen (And Those Who Have Worked With Him)
Woody Allen is a famous Hollywood director, writer and actor, known for films like “Manhattan,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and, most recently, “Wonder Wheel,” with a career spanning over 50 years. Allen’s skeletons have been chasing him ever since the 1990s when he was accused of sexual assault by his adopted daughter, actress Dylan Farrow. In a 2014 letter published in The New York Times, Farrow alleges that when she was seven years old, Allen, her father, led her into the attic and molested and raped her in August 1992. Her mother, actress Mia Farrow, Allen’s partner since 1979, had split from him eight months prior to the assault after she discovered he’d taken nude photos of her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, who is now his wife. Anyone who’s anybody has worked with Allen; Miley Cyrus, Scarlett Johansson, Selena Gomez, Justin Timberlake and Kate Winslet are just a short list of Allen’s collaborators. Because of their position in the spotlight, celebrities have a responsibility to be role models. By working with Allen, these celebrities are condoning sexual assault, sweeping aside victims’ suffering and undercutting their voices.
Dunham, the creator and star of HBO’s “Girls,” has a long history of controversy. The self-proclaimed feminist’s TV show revolves around four white girls’ escapades around New York City with characters of color only making appearances as maids or homeless people. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Dunham said that she’s not racist because she wanted to have sex with rapper Drake. Unbeknownst to her, black people are not points to be used on an I’m-not-racist score card. Not being racist is more than wanting to sleep with black people, it’s using your privilege and power to uplift and amplify marginalized voices. Additionally, in November 2017, when former “Girls” writer Murray Miller was accused of sexual assault, Dunham came to his defense. If Dunham truly understood the feminism she champions, she’d know that feminism means not stereotyping people of color or victim blaming. Feminism exists for all types of women, not only when it’s convenient for rich white women.
The Kardashian-Jenner Family
Since shaking up reality TV with “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” in 2007, the Kardashian-Jenner clan has proven they’re not ones to shy away from the spotlight. And with over 10 years as public figures, their missteps are well-documented. The Kardashian-Jenners have stepped out wearing cornrows multiple times, as well as niqabs and traditional Native American headdresses. In October 2017, Kim Kardashian West responded to flak she received for dressing up as black R&B singer Aaliyah for Halloween by releasing a statement on her website that stated “We don’t see color in our home,” despite having two biracial children with Kanye West. By not seeing race, it ignores the fact that people of color and white people have vastly different experiences in the United States. White people have the privilege of being independent of their whiteness but people of color are constantly reminded of their race. Whether it be being randomly selected in an airport for a security screening, being targeted by immigration laws or the threat of looking suspicious in a hoodie, people of color can never be independent of their melanin.
While promoting his film “Downsizing” in an interview with Business Insider, Matt Damon was asked his opinion on the recent wave of actresses coming forward with sexual assault allegations. Damon gave two exceptionally cringeworthy quotes: “You know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?” and a classic “not all men” quote: “I think one thing that’s not being talked about is there are a whole s—load of guys … who don’t do this kind of thing.” Not all men are sexual assaulters, but by choosing to focus on those men, it detracts from the very real problem that a lot of men assault people. When victims come forward, the “not all men” response diminishes what happened to them and downplays the courage they displayed in sharing their stories. “Not all men” ignores the role that everyone plays in upholding rape culture, from those who commit the act, to those who sweep it aside and make jokes about it and those who turn the other cheek. On Tuesday Jan. 16, Damon responded to the backlash on the “Today” show. He said that when talking about the #MeToo movement he needs to “get in the back seat and close my mouth for a while.” It’s great Damon acknowledges he should take a back seat, but it will only be meaningful if he listens to survivors’ stories and recognizes dismissive statements like his are a part of the problem. That recognition takes work and time will tell if he follows through.
It’s time we start questioning and critiquing those who are part of our favorite movies and TV shows. The media shapes our perceptions of ourselves and those around us and what media we choose to engage with speaks volumes about ourselves. The Kardashians, Matt Damons and Lena Dunhams of the world only have careers because we gave them careers. May 2018 be the year the public becomes more mindful when choosing which celebrities to support.
Gabriella Trinidad is a sophomore majoring in English