While some male actors have been criticized for their comments about sexual harassment in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein fallout, one has shown an unusual combination of empathy and good sense. In a recent interview to promote the upcoming season of his hit show Luther, Idris Elba had the perfect response when asked about the #MeToo movement, the crusade started by Tarana Burke to give voice to those who have experienced sexual assault. The Sunday Times asked Elba “how hard it is to be a man in Hollywood now, with #MeToo raging.”
“It’s only difficult if you’re a man with something to hide,” Elba replied.
This is not the first time Elba has shown he’s an ally to the movement—and that it’s easy to be one. While promoting his film Molly’s Game in 2017, the actor told Den of Geek that the film’s timing coincided with “a liberation movement” by women against “atrocities.” And while the actor has voiced his support, he has also acknowledged that his is not the most important voice in the discussion, telling Screen Daily in January, “This isn’t an opportunity just to voice something; this is an opportunity to make change. The people and actors who are leading that dialogue are the ones who should talk about it and they are doing that.”
Elba’s comments are a breath of fresh air in a year that has included some, let’s say, less-than-supportive comments by others. Matt Damon was one of the first to apologize for boneheaded remarks about #MeToo after imposing a hierarchy on the bad behavior victims experience (“You know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?”) and shifting the focus away from the issue at hand:
We’re in this watershed moment, and it’s great, but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is there are a whole s–load of guys—the preponderance of men I’ve worked with—who don’t do this kind of thing and whose lives aren’t going to be affected.
Damon is hardly alone there: Henry Cavill was concerned that #MeToo would interfere with his dating life, telling GQ Australia, “stuff has to change, absolutely,” before revealing the new set of challenges the movement presents to him, personally.
It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it’s like: ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to be called a rapist or something. Now? Now you really can’t pursue someone further than, ‘No’. It’s like, ‘OK, cool’. But then there’s the, ‘Oh why’d you give up?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, because I didn’t want to go to jail?’
Both Damon and Cavill later apologized for their comments. Sean Penn declined to do so after suggesting that the #MeToo movement’s spirit is to “divide men and women” and that he knew of women who had lied to incriminate men, though he did not name specific examples.
Male actors in particular have struggled to talk about sexual misconduct without sparking a backlash, even when they’re not accused of wrongdoing. But if Elba’s comments demonstrate anything, it’s that it’s really not that hard to avoid the missteps of Damon, Cavill, and Penn. Elba acknowledges that sexual misconduct is a real problem, and he doesn’t make the movement about himself or his friends. Those qualities, as well as his desire take a backseat to female actors leading the movement, are a good model for the men of Hollywood: Speak less, listen more, and offer support to those who have lacked it for so long.
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