It’s time to stop asking famous women endless #MeToo questions
People need to understand that simply being a woman doesn’t make you an automatic #MeToo spokesperson.
This week one of the biggest events in the entertainment calendar has kicked off with a flurry of red carpet appearances and panels stacked with famous faces: the glamorous, star-studded Cannes Film Festival.
However the glitter of opening night was somewhat overshadowed by a growing online campaign in the days prior, protesting against Johnny Depp’s appearance with the hashtag #CannesYouNot.
Depp was booked to kick-off Cannes with the premiere of his new movie Jeanne du Barry, but following two highly-publicised court cases concerning abuse allegations from ex-wife Amber Heard, supporters of the actress launched a campaign condemning his appearance and highlighting the festival’s questionable history. For the record, Depp lost the case in the UK in 2020, with the court ruling he had assaulted Heard in 12 of the 14 alleged incidents, but subsequently won his defamation case against his ex-wife Amber Heard in the US in 2022.
Although the festival is no stranger to controversy with a regrettably sexist slant (see the 2015 red carpet debacle that saw women allegedly turned away from the Carol red carpet because their heels weren’t “high enough”), this latest spate of backlash has ignited my feminist ire – and not only because of the appearance of Depp.
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Prior to Depp’s appearance at opening night, the Cannes Film Festival jury held a press conference to discuss this year’s festival. Brie Larson, star of Marvel’s Captain Marvel and 2015’s Room – which won her an Academy Award for Best Actress – was asked her opinion on Depp’s opening night cameo, and was left confused by the question. “You’re asking me that? I’m sorry, I don’t understand the correlation or why me specifically,” she replied to the journalist, looking perplexed.
To be clear, Larson has no connection to Depp, the movie, or Heard, beyond the fact that… Larson was at Cannes to work, and Depp was, uh, also at Cannes? Look, I’m being facetious – yes, Larson has been a vocal advocate of the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, but does that make her an official spokesperson for every issue that arises under that banner? Why is the journalist asking Larson this question exclusively, and to the exclusion of the men on the panel, who should – arguably – be even more vocal about balancing equality and eradicating sexism at Cannes?
Brie Larson was surprised to be asked about Johnny Depp's opening film: "You’re asking me that? I’m sorry, I don’t understand the correlation or why me specifically." https://t.co/5Ec2S23051 #Cannes pic.twitter.com/QPfO1Yb4qS
— Variety (@Variety) May 16, 2023
Sadly, this is an all-too-familiar situation for minorities in the public eye; dragged into trending topics to comment on events that have no connection to them beyond the generic link of also being a member of whatever particular minority is being persecuted at that moment in popular culture.
When we look at #MeToo and #TimesUp in particular, asking famous women to comment on unrelated stories in the media, simply to generate headlines, isn’t just lazy journalism for clicks – it’s sexism at its finest. The weight borne by women (and other minorities) to be continuously expected to educate in or comment on these issues is emotionally exhausting and oftentimes re-traumatising – and the patriarchal expectation that our collective trauma should be fodder for media headlines borders on sadistic.
That Larson should be attacked for pointedly avoiding such a question – asked of her solely because of her gender – a question that was an affront to her ability to remain unlinked to a controversy that had nothing to do with her in her professional capacity as a Cannes judge, speaks loudly of all women’s reputation being intrinsically intertwined with the usual damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t rhetoric. Meanwhile, Depp's reputation remains solidly intact, having received a seven-minute standing ovation for his film.
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