Since the #MeToo movement picked up steam last fall following the Harvey Weinstein allegations, we’ve heard problematic commentary from several members of Hollywood’s male community. Woody Allen, himself embroiled in plenty of controversy, said in June that he should be the “poster boy” for the movement simply because none of the actresses he’s worked with have accused him of sexual misconduct. Now, Sean Penn, who was once accused of assaulting his then-wife Madonna, has criticized #MetToo for its “salaciousness” and so-called “dividing” nature.
“This is a movement that was largely shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious,” Penn said during an interview on Today this morning (via The Hollywood Reporter). When asked to explain what he meant, the 58-year-old actor pointed to the blurry line between fact and fiction when it comes to accusations.
“Well, we don’t know what’s a fact in many of the cases,” complained Penn. “Salacious is as soon as you call something a movement that is really a series of many individual accusers, victims, accusations, some of which are unfounded.”
Penn also characterized #MeToo — whose main purpose is to expose the inappropriate sexual behavior of powerful men in the entertainment industry — as a hurtful movement that pits men against women. “The spirit of much of what has been the #MeToo movement is to divide men and women,” he commented (perhaps not taking into consideration that whatever “division” exists is actually a result, or even necessity, due to the alleged actions of these men).
Today host Natalie Morales disagreed with Penn, saying, “Women would say it’s uniting women.” Penn replied by claiming he’s spoken to women who have said the media covering #MeToo isn’t properly representing all sides of the story.
“I don’t want it to be a trend, and I’m very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed onto in great stridency and rage and without nuance,” Penn criticized. “And even when people try to discuss it in a nuanced way, the nuance itself is attacked. I think it’s too black and white. In most things that are very important, it’s really good to just slow down.”
This is not the first time Penn has spoke out against #MeToo. As The Guardian points out, in his debut novel, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff, he ended with a poem that seemed to defend Louis C.K. and Charlie Rose, both of whom have been hit with accusations of sexual misconduct. “Once crucial conversations/ Kept us on our toes;/ Was it really in our interest/ To trample Charlie Rose?” he asked later adding, “Where did all the laughs go?/Are you out there Louis C.K.?”
“And what’s with this ‘Me Too’?” Penn continued in the poem. “This infantilizing term of the day… Is this a toddlers’ crusade? Reducing rape, slut-shaming, and suffrage to reckless child’s play? A platform for accusation impunity? Due process has lost its sheen?”
Also, in an interview with The Guardian this past spring, Penn described the movement as “not intellectually honest” and one “led by mania.”