I recently saw the new trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald splattered across Facebook with excited comments from all us Harry Potter fans everywhere. But my feelings weren’t excitement; they were disappointment.
Disappointment that I either have to boycott one of my favourite film franchises, the film franchise that I grew up watching, that taught me, and many others, important moral lessons. Or, I have to sit and watch a man who has been accused of domestic abuse act in a film that is aimed at a young impressionable audience.
The question shouldn’t fall to our feet. It shouldn’t ever be a question we have to face? Do I watch a film starring a man who is accused of domestic abuse? Do I watch a film directed by a rapist?
In the wake of recent revelations regarding sexual abuse in Hollywood, we, the audience, are faced with the question of whether or not we should boycott certain actors, directors, producers etc. These aren’t our questions to answer, because we already know that of course we shouldn’t watch Harvey Weinstein’s films. Or Roman Polanski films. But above that, they shouldn’t be making films, and they shouldn’t be starring in films.
Since the statutory rape case against Polanski in 1978, he has continued to make films. His adaptation of Macbeth (1971) is still shown in schools nationwide. There’s nothing that sits more uncomfortably with me than the thought of 13-year-old girls watching a teacher-approved film directed by a man who sexually assaulted another 13-year-old girl.
Harvey Weinstein had been accused of misconduct on several occasions, but he was a great director, so nothing was done. The list of women coming forwards and accusing him keeps getting longer. With no shortage of women willing to speak out, it begs the question, how did it remain hidden for so long?
Johnny Depp has been accused of domestic abuse, and yet he’s still allowed to be in films aimed at young people. This, in particular, shocks me, as I believed J.K. Rowling would stop the audience she nurtured with love and magic from a young age, being open to this. Her defence of him has left many fans feeling betrayed.
I know that people respond with “he wasn’t found guilty”. The case was settled with a pay out to Amber Heard, and a joint statement being released. I’m not questioning his guilt. I’m questioning whether young girls should have to watch a film starring a man who potentially abused his wife. I’m questioning whether young boys should watch a film starring a man who potentially abused his wife. I’m questioning what this tells them. It says you can speak out, but it might not matter anyway. It says you can do what you want, and you’ll still get to make films and uphold a successful career.
It’s a dangerous ideology to be teaching.
But whose job is it to stop this? Is it us, who watch the film? Is it the actors who star alongside them? Or is the problem way higher than any of us?
This goes further than Hollywood. We go to galleries and admire the paintings of Caravaggio, a man accused of violent murder. We read and study the philosophy of Heidegger, a supporter of the Nazi regime during World War II. The current US President Donald Trump bragged about grabbing women ‘by the pussy’ and was still allowed to run for office.
What is it this magical skill that overrides their immoral actions? How is there something of such importance we can forget their past, and applaud their successes anyway?
And it’s not just crimes of a violent nature. It’s crimes against representation too. Should we be okay with putting money in the pockets of producers who only support white actors, largely men. Should we support films who don’t pay female and ethnic minority actors an equal wage?
The point I’m trying to make is, watching a film may be fun. It might be a nice way to unwind on a weekend. But it also comes with a moral weight.