Why are Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, and Casey Affleck still in the academy?

Harvey Weinstein was immediately voted out. Why are other alleged sexual predators still in?

From left: Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, and Casey Affleck. CREDIT: AP Photo/Art by Adam Peck
From left: Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, and Casey Affleck. CREDIT: AP Photo/Art by Adam Peck

Does Harvey Weinstein have any friends left in Hollywood? It appears not: His wife, Georgina Chapman, is divorcing him, his brother, Bob, is aggressively distancing himself, and all his former colleagues are issuing statements about how disgusting they, fathers of daughters and non-fathers of not-daughters alike, find his allegedly predatory misconduct. Weinstein has been accused by legions of women of sexual harassment — including two of the entertainment industry’s most established, prominent female stars: Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie — and by several women of rape. The total number of accusers has risen to nearly 50. He has fallen far and fast.

Perhaps the most official of these rejections came from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the governing body of the film industry. Earlier this week, the academy expelled Weinstein from its ranks. From the L.A. Times:

The film academy’s 54-member board of governors, which includes such industry luminaries as Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Kathleen Kennedy, and Whoopi Goldberg, voted in an emergency meeting on Saturday morning to remove Weinstein from the organization’s ranks in an unprecedented public rebuke of a prominent industry figure. The move marked the latest blow in Weinstein’s stunning downfall and, in symbolic terms, amounts to a virtual expulsion from Hollywood itself.

Surely this exile stings more than most for Weinstein, whose movies have raked in over 300 Oscar nominations and whose name has been mentioned more frequently in Oscar acceptance speeches than God’s. What modern audiences likely take for granted now as the standard practice for Oscar hopefuls was really Weinstein’s creation. As Vulture put it, Weinstein was the “pioneer” behind the full-court-press-style push for an Oscar statuette –“big schmoozy events, whisper campaigns, and old-school cold-calling” — that is now deployed, to some degree, by anyone who wants a shot at the trophy.

The last time the academy kicked somebody out was in 2004, when Godfather actor Carmine Caridi was banished “for sharing promotional copies of films that were later pirated.” (He talked about the experience with The Hollywood Reporter back in February: “I was doing a guy a favor and he screwed me.”) The L.A. Times reports that “sources close to the academy say that other members had been more quietly suspended in years past for selling their tickets to the Oscars ceremony, but nothing ever rose to the level of attention surrounding Weinstein.”

In a statement, the academy announced that Weinstein was voted out by “well in excess of the required two-thirds majority” of the board (emphasis added):

“We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.”

Given such a valiant declaration about this being the end of an era and all, it may come as a surprise to review who is in the academy. Members still in good standing include Roman Polanski, who has admitted to raping then-13-year-old Samantha Gailey in 1977 and has since been accused by three other women of rape; Casey Affleck, who was sued by two female colleagues for sexual harassment in 2010; and Bill Cosby, who has been accused by nearly 60 women of sexual misconduct and, this coming spring, will be retried on criminal charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand in 2005. (The first trial, in June, ended with a hung jury.)

Aside from confirming their membership status, the academy did not immediately return a request for comment about Polanski, Affleck, and Cosby.

Why Polanski, who has been living in exile from the United States since 1978, is still not just a member but a celebrated one — he took home the best director honor in 2003 for The Pianist, which also won best picture — is anyone’s guess. That Affleck’s Oscar dreams were realized in spite of the publicity surrounding the 2010 allegations against him is less surprising, for a number of reasons; Affleck, as the most recent best actor winner for Manchester by the Sea, will almost certainly give out the award for best actress at next year’s ceremonies. And unlike Weinstein, whose brother lobbied for his removal, Affleck’s big brother Ben, academy member and Oscar winner, has stood by Casey’s side. (Casey denies all the allegations against him; he and his accusers settled for an undisclosed amount.)

With Cosby, though, the timing is telling: Though several of the allegations against him have been public since 2005, awareness of his alleged crimes exploded in October 2014, after a joke by comedian Hannibal Buress went viral and, in the months that followed, dozens of women came forward to claim they had been drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby.

Three months after Buress’ set hit the internet, with the number of public Cosby accusers well into the double-digits — and only days after Golden Globes co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler joked that Cosby “put the pills in the people” — the Oscar nominees were announced. Zero actors of color received nominations. It was the whitest slate of nominees in two decades, and the academy found itself scrambling to explain such a glaring failure to recognize the work of non-white talent. The hashtag became the headline: The Oscars were so white. Which meant, naturally, that the academy was also so white: 94 percent white, according to a 2012 analysis by the L.A. Times.

In 2016, for the second year in a row, only white actors received Oscar nominations. Later that month, the academy announced massive changes to increase the diversity of its membership with the goal of doubling the number of female and minority members by 2020. In June, the academy inducted 774 new members, its largest-ever class, 232 of whom — 30 percent — were people of color. As the L.A. Times reported, this was a very slight improvement: It brought “minorities’ share of total academy membership from 11 percent to 13 percent.”

All of which is to say: Did the academy keep Cosby to avoid compounding their racism PR problem?

Maybe the only thing that can be certain, based on Weinstein’s swift removal, is that Weinstein was widely reviled in the industry he loved and only tolerated at best by the voters whose validation he so desperately hungered for. He was, by almost all accounts, an abusive, vitriol-spewing nightmare with whom to work. Surely his shtick wore thin on even those who averted his violence and benefited from his influence. Maybe one of the academy’s most aggressive winners was a loser all this time.

What scans as certain hypocrisy — this alleged sexual harasser and rapist is out, but this admitted rapist is in, etc. — just reveals what it feels impossible to pretend isn’t true: Weinstein’s expulsion doesn’t really have anything to do with sexual mistreatment of women, because Hollywood, by and large, is wholly indifferent to the sexual mistreatment of women, is indifferent to women altogether, is so deeply, systematically misogynistic that sexism within the industry may well constitute a civil rights violation.