Although Best Actor front-runner Casey Affleck found his awards campaign briefly sidetracked as past allegations of sexual harassment began resurfacing, the Manchester by the Sea star ultimately nabbed an Oscar nomination on Tuesday morning without much trouble at all. His performance—a very good one—has been celebrated by critics and industry members alike, and it’s all but inevitable at this point that he’ll emerge victorious with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in February.
Fresh Off the Boat actress Constance Wu, for one, wasn’t surprised by Affleck’s consistent success. But she still used the occasion of his nomination to speak out against the prestigious recognition he continues to receive.
Wu is making a very specific point here. The conversation surrounding Affleck—and others this year, including Mel Gibson and, less successfully, Nate Parker—often comes down to the “art versus artist” debate, the notion that holding someone’s art responsible for his or her alleged actions is potentially unfair. Wu pushes against this with a firm rebuttal: The very art being lauded and positioned as worthy of recognition (Casey Affleck’s performance as a man reeling in grief from tragedy) is about the human experience and intends to honor the “dignity” and “the treatment of human life.”
She’s posing an important question, too, about the stock being placed in accolades. As she writes, “The absence of awards doesn’t diminish a great performance.” Indeed, the purpose of awards is in part to celebrate the artist, anyway—it’s why a comeback narrative for a major name like Mel Gibson can be so powerful. This is a contentious issue that is unlikely to find resolution any time soon. But Wu’s comments sharply expose what one side of the debate tends to overlook.