What will it take for awards shows to finally ban nominees accused of sexual violence?

Written by Amy Beecham

France’s César film awards has banned anyone being investigated for sex crimesfrom attending. When will the Oscars, Baftas and Golden Globes do the same, asks Stylist’s Amy Beecham. 

Content note: this article contains discussion of sexual assault and harassment that readers might find upsetting.

We’ve made it to 2023, and all eyes are turning towards the upcoming awards season, kicking off on 5 February with the Grammys. And oh, how we love it. The glamorous red carpet looks, watching our favourite shows and actors get recognised and, let’s be honest, the drama of it all. Awards shows are rarely without some kind of controversy. From the wrong winner being announced à la Moonlight in 2017 to Will Smith’s 2022 Oscars slap, there’s always sure to be a stand-out moment.

But in post #MeToo Hollywood, the focus increasingly turns to how the fight for justice against sexual violence can continue its momentum.In December, disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape and sexual assault in a second trial, following on from his initial conviction of rape and sexual assault at his first trial in New York in 2020.

And this week, the César film awards, known as ‘the French Oscars’, has announcedits plan to ban nominees who are being investigated for sexual violence from attending the ceremony on 25 February.

The César film awards will be held on 25 February

It’s a decision that has caught the attention of the industry, and it means that actor Sofiane Bennacer, who is nominated for his role in Les Amandiers, will be excluded from the ceremony. Bennacer, 25, is currently being investigated by police on two allegations of rape and one of violence against a partner. He has denied any wrongdoing.

“Out of respect for the victims… it has been decided not to highlight people who may have been implicated by the judiciary in acts of violence,” the awards ceremony said in a statement, noting that this included “presumed” victims in cases under investigation. The rule change also applies to anyone who has been convicted of such an offence in the past.

The awards are yet to vote on whether to make a permanent change that bans people under investigation from being nominated entirely, with a decision due in the coming weeks, but it is not the first time they’ve taken a hard stance on abuse allegations. In 2017, controversial director Roman Polanski stepped down from presiding over the César awards after 61,000 people signed a petition calling on the public to boycott the event. The 83-year-old is currently wanted for sentencing in the US over a historic child sex charge.

But while the César awards’ decision marks some important progress, the fact is that powerful men in Hollywood continue to be recognised and lauded regardless of the allegations against them. 

Casey Affleck wins Best Actor in 2017

In 2017, Casey Affleck was awarded a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Manchester By The Sea, despite a string of past sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him. That same year, he also won a Bafta, Golden Globe and National Society of Film Critics Award. Affleck repeatedly denied the allegations and settled both lawsuits out of court.

In the same year, the Academy nominatedMel Gibson for a Best Director award after he was caught on tape in a drunken anti-Semitic rant in 2006 and later pled no contest to misdemeanour battery in 2011 for hitting his ex-girlfriend repeatedly in the face. Director Woody Allen has also been repeatedly accused of sexually abusing his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow when she was seven years old in 1992, but remains largely revered in Hollywood. Over the course of his 50+ year career, Allen has won four Oscars and has been nominated 24 times.

It’s clear that the Academy and its counterparts have a longstanding tradition of ignoring harassment allegations. While Weinstein was removed from the Academy following his sex crime convictions, it has yet to rescind memberships for other accused sexual predators, such as Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Allen and Polanski.

According to charity Rape Crisis, the highest ever number of rapes – 70,330 – was recorded by police in the year ending March 2022 in the UK. In that same time period, charges were brought in just 2,223 rape cases. We know that prosecutions for sexual crimes are falling dramatically, providing all the more reason why we should see justice for victims play out in the public sphere, on some of the world’s biggest stages.

More than making a weak statement of solidarity orwearing a #TimesUp badge on the red carpet, the César awards are taking a true stand against sexual violence. It’s about time the rest of the awards shows finally followed suit.

Images: Getty

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