The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ publicized 10-year ban of Will Smith after he smacked Chris Rock invites examination. While perspectives on the proper response to someone insulting your spouse may differ, a common question is: Does the actor’s punishment fit the crime? The Oscars’ Board of Governors’ vote to exclude Smith following his resignation is being scrutinized, especially upon evaluating their behavior toward 81-time-Oscar-winner and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein. 

As a former member of the Oscars’ Board of Governors, Weinstein is speculated to have believed he had immunity against three decades of sexual harassment and assault allegations. In 2017, the Indie Wire published, “By the count of The Weinstein Company … his [enterprises have] earned 303 Oscar nominations and 75 wins … but [before his trial, he] historically was the second most-thanked person in acceptance speeches, after Steven Spielberg.” Though Weinstein denied having non-consensual sex with women, in 2020, he was found guilty of first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape. 

These facts bring new inquiries surrounding eras before the moment #MeToo went viral — and the printing of The New York Times’ headline, “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.” If critics and bystanders see ongoing digital campaigns to revoke Smith’s Oscar for Best Actor, who else needs to be investigated? In the aftermath of the controversy, the collective saw The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences expel Weinstein. Considerable media figures asked, “How long did that take?” As a whole, what have the Oscars telecasts demonstrated through their consequential conduct policies thus far? 

Promundo-US, a multinational authority in advancing gender equality and preventing violence, confirmed last year — the number of women separated from those who have suffered from an unknown attacker is registered accordingly: “At least 245 million women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a male partner in the past year … We need men … to fully partner in putting in place the policies, supports, resources, and global and local action to end it.”

With acknowledgment of these cases, the aim is not to conflate individual occurrences but to contrast potential solutions. For example, the New York Times facilitated interviews with film industry creatives and some of Weinstein’s former Miramax and Weinstein Company employees. The newspaper discovered, “… after being confronted with allegations including sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact, Mr. Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women.” For onlookers, this information might inspire a question, “Do the powers that be, pick and choose who they see and who they do not?”

Additionally, Lisa Bloom, a lawyer, who previously advised Weinstein, was quoted saying, “… due to the power difference between a major studio head like him and most others in the industry … his words and behaviors can be perceived as inappropriate [and] even intimidating.” Following this year’s ceremony, The Academy tweeted, “The Academy does not condone violence of any form …” However, this sentiment may not entirely check out.

For instance, in response to the Wounded Knee Occupation, Marlon Brando boycotted the Oscars in 1973, declining to accept his Best Actor award for his role in “The Godfather.” Instead, he sent Indigenous actress Sacheen Littlefeather to the podium in his place. She advised that Brando “… very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.” Fellow Best Actor Oscar recipient John Wayne attempted to attack Littlefeather during that ceremony. The UK publication Express noted that Wayne “… had to be held down by a six-man strong security team at the Academy Awards. “

Subsequently, Clint Eastwood mocked the actress, saying, “I do not know if I should present this award on behalf of all the cowboys shot …” His privileged commentaries went unchecked. Eastwood received several Oscars following the initial remark. After his death, Brando was accused of rape by film director Bernardo Bertolucci. Considering all factors, is it possible for The Academy’s leadership to do more to mend its damaged relationship with its audiences, specifically among its minoritized patrons? The ceremonies’ lack of diversity was so profound — it motivated an encyclopedia section by one of the world’s foremost educational institutions. 

Britannica’s “What Is the Significance of the #OscarsSoWhite Hashtag?” archives substantiate, “… activist April Reign first tweeted ‘#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair’ on January 15, 2015, in immediate response to all 20 acting nominations for the year’s upcoming Academy Awards being given to white actors. Within that day, the hashtag became viral and was trending on Twitter — many Twitter users and prominent people of color in the film industry riffed … leveling serious criticisms against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”

Since the hashtag, multiple Oscar programming modifications have been perceived by viewers as fickle and forced. For those confused, let’s review Roman Polanski’s Hollywood records. The actor-turned-film director was arrested for drugging and raping a 13-year-old child in 1977. Polanski, then-43, pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor. “Before he could be sentenced in the US, he fled to Paris and is considered a fugitive in the US criminal justice system. Several other women have accused him of sexual assault,” composed Britain’s newspaper, Metro

Despite this, in 2003, The Academy awarded Polanski in the Directing category for “The Pianist.” He was not expelled until 2018. Next to Polanski are allegations involving children and Woody Allen. Dylan Farrow, the Oscar-winning director’s daughter, accused him of molesting her. The filmmaker considers his child’s claims as part of a grander conspiracy against him by her mother, Mia Farrow. Allen later married Dylan’s mother’s other adopted child, Soon-Yi Previn. Though speculated and pursued, Allen was never charged for inappropriate involvement with minors. 

No form of abuse is excusable. Steps toward healing are contingent upon the vision and circumstances of those targeted. Even so, accountability is one vital solution for those affected by grief or worse in its aftermath. Dissimilarly to the contradictions of those mentioned, Smith apologized to The Academy and global audiences. The evident favor does not stop here. 

Through generations of little to no responsibility being taken by luminaries — there are arguably different levels of grace touching celebrity respectability. Alec Baldwin and Mel Gibson are two distinguished actors who have complicated histories concerning their temperaments. Each has come into question concerning assault and experienced less than amicable divorces. Further, one of Gibson’s victims is his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, Oksana Grigorieva. 

Tapes of an incident surfaced and confirmed the actor used racial slurs and physically abused her. In 2010, HuffPost transcribed from the associated evidence, Grigorieva crying, “What kind of a man … would hit a woman when she is holding a child in her hands, hitting her twice in the face?” Gibson responded, “You know what? You f**king deserved it.” He was later nominated for an Oscar in the Directing category among the 5 others associated with “Hacksaw Ridge” in 2016. 

There are opposing stances on whether or not men should be separated from their art. However, The New Yorker‘s ten-month investigation proved that for over “… twenty years Weinstein [had] been trailed by rumors of sexual harassment and assault… [the report listed] thirteen women between the nineteen-nineties and 2015 [had been] sexually harassed or assaulted [by Weinstein].” So, if Smith acknowledged, “… love will make you do crazy things,” what can the collective anticipate unchecked abuse of power by The Academy — and conglomerates alike — will do to professionals in the entertainment industry?

About The Author

Bianca Alysse is a creatively driven Bronx-born writer and editor. Before becoming The Knockturnal‘s music editor she served as Latina‘s creative coordinator and was a contributor at Billboard. The Boricua scribe has a lengthy resume in the music industry and has penned for Universal Music Publishing Group, Epic Records, G.O.O.D. Music, Compound Entertainment, Artistry & Récords, and Arcade Creative Group. Her work has been seen on platforms like VIBE, mitú, TIDAL, Remezcla, and behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week. As an independent contractor, she has written for Sony Music Entertainment’s global business affairs department, Warner Music Group, and currently Roc Nation.