Hollywood has long been a symbol of fame, wealth and glamour, but under that glittering surface it can also be a place of scandal and corruption. For years, dozens of powerful men in Hollywood have sexually harassed and abused women in the industry with impunity, using their fame to escape the consequences of their actions.
However, after being silenced for so long, many victims of sexual assault have begun sharing their stories and looking for justice. In the past year or so, dozens of producers, directors and actors in Hollywood have been accused of sexual assaulting their female coworkers, including the actor James Franco.
Franco is known for his performances in films such “Pineapple Express,” “127 Hours” — which earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor — and “Oz the Great and Powerful” to name a few. In addition, he has occasional tried his hand as a director. Earlier this year, Franco publicly supported Time’s Up, a movement against sexual abuse in the film industry. However, at the same time, Franco himself was under fire for harassment, having been accused of sexual misconduct by five different women.
The Time’s Up movement was established on Jan. 1, 2018, in response to the overwhelming number of sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood’s leading men. The organization is looking to expand the conversation of sexual harassment and to show support for those victims who have been silenced.
Rape and abuse have no place in any industry, but they’ve been rampant in Hollywood for years. Young stars were taken advantage of because of their youth, inexperience and desire to make it from the normal world to the world of red carpets and movie screens — and until recently, many victims kept silent about the assaults or were ignored.
However, in part due to the Time’s Up movement, more and more stories of harassment are being unveiled, sometimes years after the incidents occurred. Franco is one of many men who were accused of using his power and influence in the film industry to take advantage of women. Part of the controversy surrounding him in particular comes from the fact that Franco, one of the men accused of sexual misconduct, supported a movement that was created to prevent it.
At the 2018 Golden Globes Award show, the red carpet was not graced with the usual array of gorgeous multi-colored gowns and tuxedos. Almost all of the attendees chose black attire, as a sign of solidarity with victims of sexual assault, and many also wore Time’s Up pins to support the cause. Franco was in attendance and accepted the award for best actor in a musical or comedy for his performance in “The Disaster Artist.” He was sporting a black suit and tie, along with a Time’s Up pin he borrowed from Scarlett Johansson.
Because of the scandal surrounding James Franco, many actors and actresses supporting the movement were appalled that he wore the pin. How could someone who is accused by not only one, but five women, publicly support a movement such as this one? Scarlett Johansson spoke during the Women’s March, saying, “How could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps to provide support for victims of sexual assault while privately preying on people who have no power?” Johansson went on to shame Franco more by demanding the pin back.
In an interview on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, James Franco described the allegations against him, saying that they were inaccurate. He even went on to say “I have no idea what I did to Ally Sheedy.” Sheedy is one of the accusers that Franco directed in an off Broadway production of “The Long Shrift.”
Twitter comments began to surface about how appalling it was to see Franco wearing the Time’s Up pin during the Golden Globes. Franco stated in an interview with Seth Meyers, “I have my own side of this story, but I believe in these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out enough that I will hold back things that I could say, just because I believe in it that much.”
Still, although Franco insisted on his innocence and continued to support the movement, he never offered any evidence to prove he was telling the truth. Possibly, he was worried that “what he could say” might be come out as more evidence against him, digging his grave even deeper.
This isn’t even the first time James Franco has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior towards women. Back in 2014, he came under fire after he pursued a 17-year-old British girl on Twitter, asking her to meet him outside of a theatre, and whether or not she had a serious boyfriend. Even after learning that she was a minor, he still asked for her hotel, even going as far as to ask if he should rent a room.
These allegations won’t be swept under the rug for Franco anymore, though. Vanity Fair magazine publishes an annual Oscar issue that depicts all of Hollywood’s stars. This year’s campaign shoot was originally supposed to feature none other than James Franco himself, along with stars Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Zendaya, Harrison Ford, Gal Gadot and Reese Witherspoon.
However, because of the scandal surrounding him, Franco was digitally removed from the photoshoot. A Vanity Fair spokesperson issued a comment, saying “We made a decision not to include James Franco on the Hollywood cover once we learned of the misconduct allegations against him.”
Victims of sexual assault and harassment have been ignored for far too long. Whether they were scared of the repercussions of accusing such a powerful figure, the damage it might do to their up and coming careers, or the belief that their stories would be discredited, victims should be able to come forward and speak against their attackers.
Rape culture is something that can no longer be tolerated. The Franco scandal is just one of many, many stories of sexual assault and harassment in the film industry, but hopefully the Time’s Up movement will be the beginning of the end for the tolerance for such horrific behavior.