The Oscars Tried to Embrace Time’s Up. It Didn’t Really Work

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On Sunday night at the 90th Academy Awards, Hollywood said, “Time’s Up” to harassment and assault—or at least some harassment and assault.

The awards show made gestures at embracing the #MeToo movement throughout the night: The founders of the Time’s Up movement were honored with a special segment, and female nominees made a point of supporting each other publicly. But the Oscars still promoted and awarded several men accused of harassment and assault, including Ryan Seacrest, Kobe Bryant and Gary Oldman.

Prior to the show, Oscars producers had said that they wanted to shine a light on performances rather than concentrating on politics. The founders of Time’s Up did not ask actors to wear black, though they did encourage people to sport “Time’s Up” pins. This marked a major shift from the Golden Globes, where women, clad in all-black with activists as their dates, pivoted that evening’s narrative from glittering, expensive dresses to issues of inequality.

And yet Jimmy Kimmel did open the Oscars with a #MeToo joke. He said of the Oscars statue, “He keeps his hand where you can see them. Never says a rude word. And most importantly, no penis at all. He’s literally a statue of limitations, and we need more men like that in Hollywood.”

There were some triumphant moments, despite the fact that this year’s Oscars saw the fewest female winners since 2012. Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd and Annabella Sciorra—who all spoke out against Harvey Weinstein last year after his actions adversely affected their lives and careers—picked up on the theme with a special presentation: They introduced a short film in which directors and writers talked about the importance of all kinds of diversity in film. They spoke of the joy that women and black audiences members felt when they watched superheroes who looked like them in Wonder Woman and Black Panther. They encouraged filmmakers with stories about LGBTQ characters, Muslim characters and any other underrepresented characters to pursue their art.

Other female presenters and nominees used their platform on the Oscar stage to promote and support each other. When Emma Stone announced the nominees for Best Director, she introduced them as “four men and Greta Gerwig.” (Gerwig was the only woman nominated in that category that night, and only the fifth female director in history to receive a nod at the Oscars.) And when Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster presented the award for Best Actress together, Lawrence took a moment to thank Foster for giving her one of her first jobs when she was a teenager.

And in a final flourish, winner Frances McDormand asked all the female nominees—from actors to cinematographers—to stand and be applauded during her acceptance speech for Best Actress. What was striking about the scene was not that all the women stood in solidarity, but how few women there were. “Look around because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” she told the audience. “Invite us into your office in a couple days or come to ours, and we’ll tell you all about them.”

Yet these moments, satisfying as they may have felt, were undercut by some regressive rewards and lurking ghosts.

It began on the red carpet with Ryan Seacrest. The host remained E!’s go-to red carpet correspondent despite having been recently accused of sexual abuse by a former stylist. Seacrest has denied the allegations, citing an internal investigation that found him innocent. But his presence was an impediment in the pre-show, given that he couldn’t ask any actors about Time’s Up or #MeToo—two of the biggest issues of the night—without looking hypocritical.

Next, Kobe Bryant won his first Oscar, for the animated short Dear Basketball. Bryant was charged with sexual assault in 2003. At the time, Bryant’s 19-year-old accuser decided not to testify in court about her alleged rape and dropped the criminal charges. However, she did pursue a civil suit. They settled out of court, but on the condition that he read a statement that said, in part, “I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

And finally, Gary Oldman took the trophy for Best Actor, for his performance as Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour. But in 2001, Oldman’s now ex-wife filed papers in Los Angeles accusing him of assaulting her with a phone in front of their children. Oldman denied the allegations.

And then there were the conspicuous absences from Sunday night’s awards. James Franco, who won Best Actor at the Golden Globes for his turn in The Disaster Artist but has since been accused of sexual misconduct, wasn’t even nominated at the Academy Awards.

Casey Affleck, who under normal circumstances—as the winner of last year’s Best Actor Oscar—would have been invited to present the award for Best Actress, did not attend the ceremony. Affleck was sued for sexual harassment on the set of his film, I’m Still Here, by two different women in 2010; he has denied the allegations, and both suits were settled out of court.

Franco and Affleck’s absences haunted the ceremony. But the biggest ghost was producer Harvey Weinstein, who allegedly used his power both to make Oscars dreams come true and to abuse the women around him.

Time was up for these men, but not for others. It’s proof that Hollywood still has a long way to go.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at