Current Affairs editor Rebecca Stone questions the longevity of Hollywood’s ‘Me Too’ campaign.
Everyone remembers the rise of the ‘Me Too’ movement at the start of the year, as well as the accompanying ‘Time’s Up’ protest. Dozens upon dozens upon dozens of A list Hollywood stars and entertainment big shots came out with brave statements on the abuse they had suffered during their careers. Terry Crews, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Lupita Nyong’o and many more came forward with accusations against many important Hollywood producers, a trend now coined as the Weinstein effect. At the head of the Weinstein accusations was Italian actress, Asia Argento who, along with Rose McGowan, led a crusade against Weinstein and those who they felt were complicit in his abuse.
Unfortunately, now Argento is facing her own accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse. Actor Jimmy Bennett has recently accused Argento of sexually manipulating and abusing him in 2013, when he was just 17 and she was 37. Bennett had previously played Argento’s son in the 2004 film ‘The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things’ and Bennett has claimed that in 2013 Argento had sex with him and then paid him $380,000 dollars in settlement, which has been widely interpreted as hush money. Whilst Argento has denied the accusations, pictures have emerged showing both Bennett and Argento in a state of undress as well as a text chain in which Argento seems to admit the sexual intercourse.
So what does this mean for the ‘Me Too’ movement? Obviously, as a campaign used to highlight and support victims of sexual abuse, Jimmy Bennett’s recent accusations seem to mean that Argento, at least for the foreseeable future, is no longer the poster girl for the movement. But speaking in broader terms, what does this mean for future victims. How can people trust the ‘Me Too’ movement when their leaders are getting accusations of their own? As is seen too often in the entertainment industry, it’s all good and well until it happens to you. One remembers Lena Dunham’s infamous defence of Murray Miller who was accused of sexual assault by Aurora Perrineau (again whilst she was underage). Dunham quickly renounced her support for Miller but it showed a particular brand of ‘activism’ in Hollywood. People began wondering if this accusation against Argento could actually be true, due to her active involvement in the Weinstein scandal and whether or not she would face the same repercussions as Weinstein.
Rose McGowan has now distanced herself from Argento but the latter has also been marred by controversy. What are massive movements like ‘Times Up’ to do when their movements get bogged down by their own controversies?
Jimmy Bennett is among a small minority of male victims who have spoken up, and it is widely hoped that his bravery will encourage others. The ‘Me Too’ and ‘Time’s Up’ groups have made amazing strides with giving victims a voice to be heard and recognise but had their specific brand of activism reached its expiry date? Actress and comedian Emma Thompson said in 2017 that ‘Weinstein is the tip of a very specific iceberg’, and it begs the question, could Asia Argento be the one who sinks the ship?