Affleck has been accused of sexual harassment, and Brie Larson seemed less than thrilled with his 2017 Oscars win.
Casey Affleck (left) and director Kenneth Lonergan at the Santa Monica Pier on Feb. 25, 2017, in Santa Monica, Calif.(Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images)
Manchester by the Sea director Kenneth Lonergan left Wesleyan University 23 years ago but he's returned — in the pages of the school newspaper — to do battle with a current student over his Oscar-winning screenplay and his Oscar-winning star, Casey Affleck.
Words like "complicit" and "pathetically tone deaf," plus "deeply offensive display of ignorance" and "reckless sloppiness of thinking" were exchanged. It is not at all clear that anything was resolved by the tiff, but it's made for lively reading for consumers of the Wesleyan Argus, the twice-weekly student paper at the private liberal arts university in Middletown, Conn.
More seriously, the conflict suggests the unease expressed in recent months over Affleck, 41, and the allegations of sexual harassment made against him by two female employees years ago (and settled out of court), continues in the wake of his winning the best actor Oscar for his moody role in melancholy Manchester.
At the same time, it shows that Affleck's friends and co-workers are still willing to stand up for him. Lonergan, 54, won the Oscar for best original screenplay for Manchester, and the movie he directed also was one of the best picture nominees.
The student, Connor Aberle, class of 2019, wrote an op-ed published March 2 in The Argus under the headline: "How Wesleyan is complicit in Affleck's sexual misconduct by endorsing Lonergan '84."
In it, he says Affleck's win is "severely problematic" because of the never-proven allegations. He takes Lonergan to task for defending Affleck during awards season, and he takes the university to task for crowing about Lonergan's connection to the school.
"Wesleyan University cannot insist on claiming credit for Kenneth Lonergan unless they also acknowledge their complicity in the success of a perpetrator of sexual violence," Aberle wrote.
The problem, however, is that Affleck is not a convicted "perpetrator of sexual violence," and sexual harassment is not a crime, as Lonergan sharply pointed out in his rebuttal published March 4 under the headline, "How Connor Aberle and The Argus are Complicit in Slandering Casey Affleck."
Aberle's article "is such a tangle of illogic, misinformation and flat-out slander that only the author’s presumed youth can possibly excuse his deeply offensive display of ignorance, and warped PC-fueled sense of indignation," Lonergan wrote. "His random use of the terms 'sexual misconduct,' 'sexual harassment,' 'sexual abuse' and 'sexual violence,' as if they were legally or physically interchangeable, only indicates the reckless sloppiness of his thinking."
Lonergan tried to school Aberle about the U.S. legal system: how people are innocent until proven guilty, what constitutes proof, and the permanence that unproven allegations can have in the online public record.
"How does Mr. Aberle dare to write as if he knows who was telling the truth and who was not? Anyone can sue anyone for anything in this country; the unsubstantiated details go in the public record and stay there," he lamented. "Somebody as interested in actual as opposed to merely vocalized social justice as Mr. Aberle presumably is, should unwind his tangled, immoral chain of reasoning and start over at the fundamental precept that an allegation is not an indictment."
photo of Kenneth Lonergan defends Casey Affleck against 'ignorant' attack by student
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