Countless articles, op-eds and hot takes have described the “Me Too” movement and the mounting feminist revolution as a sort of cultural purge, and as with any purge, the entertainment industry has been confronted with some things it didn’t want to look too closely at.
As the movement gained steam and proved that it was here to stay, there were lots of public figures who recognized that it was convenient or even fashionable to voice their support for victims of sexual harassment and their solidarity with the movement.
Some were in for a rude awakening, however, as their histories were dredged up and thrust into the headlines. Many people were then backed into a corner by their promise to listen to, believe and support all women and victims while still trying to defend themselves and save face. What emerged was a number of remarkably similar statements, all including phrases like “while I support the movement,” and “while I think it’s important to believe women,” and, inevitably “unfortunately, in this case, it’s not true.”
The accusations of hypocrisy, political motivations and disingenuous behavior have shaken an already fragile and unlikely movement to its core, yet the Me Too movement and the Time’s Up campaign have endured every twist and turn. More than that, the movement seems to have strengthened over time as people learn how to navigate these conversations constructively.
As many prominent figures have pointed out, an important step in healing from this avalanche of revelations is to make the process uniform and give the accused a vocabulary for apologizing and making amends. With that in mind, here’s a look at supporters of the Me Too movement who learned it was more complicated than wearing a pin.
For many people, James Franco was probably the first name that came to mind when they saw this headline. Franco was lambasted online when he appeared at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards in all black wearing a Time’s Up pin.
The actor has faced allegations of sexual misconduct since at least 2014, when his explicit back-and-forth with a 17-year-old girl was published online. The actor owned up to the incident, though he side-stepped the fact that the girl was underage.
Yet after the Golden Globes, Franco faced a whole new slate of accusations. Former co-stars, employees and even students of his came forward with stories of the actor’s misconduct over the years.
Cute #TIMESUP pin James Franco. Remember the time you pushed my head down in a car towards your exposed penis & that other time you told my friend to come to your hotel when she was 17? After you had already been caught doing that to a different 17 year old?— Violet Paley (@VioletPaley) January 8, 2018
One of Franco’s accusers, Sarah Tither-Kaplan said in an interview on Good Morning America that he is “absolutely not a Harvey Weinstein,” but that he did abuse his professional power over women. Addressing that kind of imbalance is just as much a goal of the movement as ousting the monsters is.
The accusations against comedian Aziz Ansari moved the national conversation forward by quite a lot. Ansari is a self-described feminist, and many of the shows and specials he’s worked on have a strong feminist theme.
Yet no one could deny that they date described by an anonymous woman in the Babe.net article sounded unpleasant. The woman herself said that she had a hard time identifying where the experience fell between a bad date and an assault, but said that either way, Ansari needed to know how uncomfortable she was so that it wouldn’t happen again.
“It’s not a crime, but it’s not cool. And it can still really mess with a woman,” she said.
Ansari’s response walked the tightrope of trying to explain his actions while continuing to support the movement.
“The next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed okay,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable,” Ansari wrote in a statement. “It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.”
“I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture,” he wrote. “It is necessary and long overdue.”
This situation expanded people’s view of “misconduct.” While it caused a lot of outrage initially, it helped push the national discourse past a black-and-white perspective and into a constructive conversation about consent and communication.
Allegations of sexual harassment against Louis C.K. were shocking to people outside of the entertainment industry. Audiences saw him as harmless and fatherly, so the news that he had a decades-long history of misconduct was a bombshell.
Even more mind-blowing was C.K.’s apology. The comedian more or less owned up to all the accusations leveled against him, and promised to back quietly out of the spotlight.
Below is C.K.’s full admission.
“I want to address the stories told to the New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not.
These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.
“I have been remorseful of my actions. And I've tried to learn from them. And run from them. Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions. I learned yesterday the extent to which I left these women who admired me feeling badly about themselves and cautious around other men who would never have put them in that position.
“I also took advantage of the fact that I was widely admired in my and their community, which disabled them from sharing their story and brought hardship to them when they tried because people who look up to me didn't want to hear it. I didn't think that I was doing any of that because my position allowed me not to think about it.
“There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with.
“I wish I had reacted to their admiration of me by being a good example to them as a man and given them some guidance as a comedian, including because I admired their work.
“The hardest regret to live with is what you've done to hurt someone else. And I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought on them. I’d be remiss to exclude the hurt that I’ve brought on people who I work with and have worked with who’s professional and personal lives have been impacted by all of this, including projects currently in production: the cast and crew of Better Things, Baskets, The Cops, One Mississippi, and I Love You Daddy. I deeply regret that this has brought negative attention to my manager Dave Becky who only tried to mediate a situation that I caused. I’ve brought anguish and hardship to the people at FX who have given me so much The Orchard who took a chance on my movie. and every other entity that has bet on me through the years.
“I’ve brought pain to my family, my friends, my children and their mother.
“I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen,” he said.
As promised, little has been heard from C.K. since the story broke.
Timberlake made a clumsy entrance into feminism with a tweet just before the Golden Globes.
“Here we come, and DAMN, my wife is hot!!” he wrote, punctuating the love note with the hashtags “Time’s Up” and “why we wear black.” The tweet included a selfie of the two in black, with a Time’s Up pin visible on Timberlake’s lapel.
Not only did fans cringe at the awkward mixture of commenting on his wife’s body while supporting feminism, but they didn’t see Timberlake as a strong ally after he starred in Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel in 2017.
Timberlake never even responded to the controversy, as he rolled right into his performance at the Super Bowl halftime show, where he faced an entirely different slew of problems. Fans remembered his performance at the 2006 Super Bowl, and felt in retrospect that he hadn’t taken enough blame for the mishap.
In addition, fans rolled their eyes at Timberlake’s apparent tone-deafness in including a projection of Prince in his performance.
The Me Too movement and Time’s Up campaign have shown a remarkable solidarity in high profile women, especially those in entertainment. There have been few exceptions, but Lena Dunham seems to be one of them.
The young writer, showrunner and star of HBO’s Girls has often been accused of a self-righteous, self-serving brand of feminism. Her detractors felt vindicated in November, when she defended her friend, Murray Miller, who was accused of sexual assault, despite claiming to be a die-hard feminist.
"During the windfall of deeply necessary accusations over the last few months in Hollywood, we have been thrilled to see so many women’s voices heard and dark experiences in this industry justified," she wrote in a statement on Twitter. "It’s a hugely important time of change and, like every feminist in Hollywood and beyond, we celebrate. But during every time of change there are also incidences of the culture, in its enthusiasm and zeal, taking down the wrong targets. We believe, having worked closely with him for more than half a decade, that this is the case with Murray Miller."
“While our first instinct is to listen to every woman’s story, our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year,” she went on. “It is a true shame to add to that number, as outside of Hollywood women still struggle to be believed. We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue."
Dunham realized her error the very next day, issuing an apology for defending Miller.
Unfortunately, the damage to Dunham’s reputation was already done. Many fans walked away from the star after her slew of mixed messages.
In late January, Jay-Z expressed his support for the Me Too movement, saying that it "had to happen for the world to purge itself."
"It's like racism -- it existed the whole time. ... It's almost like we normalized it. The normalization of the things we have to do to survive,” he continued in an interview on CNN.
Fans didn’t like the sound of the rap icon supporting the movement, however, as huge portions of his catalogue contain diminutive and even violent rhetoric against women.
In addition, Jay-Z just recently had to own up to his infidelity after Beyonce’s Lemonade was released. The rapper has yet to say more on the Me Too movement, and some doubt he ever will.
Jeremy Piven lost his show, Wisdom of The Crowd, after three women came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment and assault over the years. The actor, best known for his work on Entourage, gave a textbook response to the allegations.
"What I am not able to do is speculate as to the motivations of these women," Piven wrote on Twitter. "As a human being I feel compassion for the victims of such acts, but I am perplexed as to the misdirection of anger and false accusations against me and hope they do not detract from the stories that should be heard."
Piven so badly wanted to be exonerated in the public eye that he took a polygraph test and published the results himself.
"We seem to be entering dark times — allegations are being printed as facts and lives are being put in jeopardy without a hearing, due process or evidence. I hope we can give people the benefit of a doubt before we rush to judgment," he wrote.
Through the course of his allegations of sexual assault, rapper Nelly has been summarily accused of hypocrisy.
A young woman named Monique Greene filed a police report against Nelly the day after the alleged assault occurred. However, she dropped the case after the backlash from fans overwhelmed her.
The rapper couldn’t let it go, however. He denied the charges while simultaneously claiming to support the Me Too movement, then threatened to countersue Greene for defamation.
In desperation, Greene made her identity public and launched a new lawsuit against Nelly. The two are now locked in a legal battle, and the “Hot In Herre” singer’s statement of solidarity with the feminist movement isn’t holding up to much scrutiny.
Legendary music producer Russell Simmons had one of the most bizarre responses to being accused of sexual assault.
Allegations against Simmons surfaced early on in the Me Too movement, with a young woman claiming that he and Brett Ratner had intimidated her in a New York City apartment while repeatedly assaulting her.
Simmons denied these allegations with a long, vaguely spiritual statement, originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.
"Humanity is going through a powerful and wrenching shift of consciousness that I believe will ultimately lead to a mass awakening in all humankind," Simmons began. The essay goes on like that — reflecting on the changes in our world today through a macroscopic lens while addressing Keri Claussen Khalighi's accusations against him only briefly.
"Three witnesses have signed statements that our experiences that weekend with Keri Claussen Khalighi 26 years ago were consensual," Simmons wrote. "In our meeting many years later, and subsequent conversations, Keri never accused me of what she has said publicly. She insisted I was not violent. She did tell me her boyfriend and many others found out about our long weekend together and she said she was ashamed by that discovery. I am sorry for the embarrassment she recounted to me."0comments
"I have made choices that have offended some of the women in my life... Though never abusive in any way, my remarks were often cavalier and thoughtless, and for this I am humbled. I am a work in progress. I am human," he added.
Simmons mentioned Khalighi in only two out of the eight paragraphs in his “apology.” In addition to the allegations against him, he was blasted online for an e-mail he allegedly sent to Terry Crews, encouraging him to drop his accusations against Adam Venit.
Message Russell Simmons sent to me regarding my sexual assault case against Adam Venit of @WME:
Dear @UncleRUSH——— terrycrews (@terrycrews) November 19, 2017
NO ONE GETS A PASS pic.twitter.com/DmEvqWVxkc