It seemed like the controversy surrounding Bohemian Rhapsody's initial director, Bryan Singer, reached a whole new level on Wednesday when a scathing report from The Atlantic detailed four new allegations of sexual assault against him.
It lead to the GLAAD announcing on Thursday in an exclusive with Variety that they pulled the Queen biopic from consideration for an Outstanding Film nomination at the GLAAD Awards to stand with survivors. On the same day, Time’s Up released their own statement urging the industry to take his accusers seriously. The fallout’s timing puts the upcoming Academy Awards in an awkward position considering the movie is up for five awards, including Best Picture.
The Oscars attempted to incorporate Time’s Up briefly into the ceremony in 2018, inviting three Harvey Weinstein accusers—Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd, and Annabella Sciorra—to introduce a video montage dedicated to the movement. Considering the political statements made last year around the #MeToo movement at last year's ceremony, it seems there's still much to be done by the Academy and Hollywood as a whole when it comes to handling assault accusations within the industry.
Heavily-nominating Bohemian Rhapsody certainly doesn’t help that cause considering allegations against Singer had already existed, but they also nominated the film before The Atlantic’s big story took off. The Academy could have side-stepped much of the Singer controversy if Bohemian Rhapsody didn’t win in major categories, but after GLAAD’s decision to pull it from consideration and encouraging the rest of the industry to take a stand ahead of the Oscars, even their nomination remaining in tact is subject to question. But this begs the question that's been dogging our culture in the last few years: how do you separate the art from its controversial maker?
GLAAD powerfully weighed in on the running debate about whether an artist's personal life should interfere with judging art. Even though the organization is dedicated to celebrating people and projects that advance the LGBTQ community, the detailed accounts of assault by Singer were impossible to ignore.
Singer’s defiant response to The Atlantic’s story also compounded GLAAD's frustration. He told Deadline via his representative that the Atlantic story was “written by a homophobic journalist who has a bizarre obsession with me dating back to 1997.”
“The impact of the film is undeniable. We believe, however, that we must send a clear and unequivocal message to LGBTQ youth and all survivors of sexual assault that GLAAD and our community will stand with survivors and will not be silent when it comes to protecting them from those who would do them harm," GLAAD told Variety.
The statement also responded to Singer's accusations: “Singer’s response to The Atlantic story wrongfully used ‘homophobia’ to deflect from sexual assault allegations and GLAAD urges the media and the industry at large to not gloss over the fact that survivors of sexual assault should be put first.”
Time’s Up’s statement on the matter didn’t mention GLAAD’s decision or the Academy Awards specifically, although outlets have interpreted it as a motion of solidarity. Time's Up also called on the industry to take action: “The recent allegations against Bryan Singler are horrifying and MUST be taken seriously and investigated.”
Time’s Up getting involved raises another complicated issue. If the organization supports GLAAD’s decision, it’s hard for the Oscars to continue nodding to Time’s Up in the same ceremony where Bohemian Rhapsody is a contender for Best Picture, regardless of the results. And on the flip side, if Time’s Up doesn’t come out with a stronger statement about whether the Academy should rescind Rhapsody’s nomination, they could end up looking ineffective.
The Academy rarely retracts nominations and awards, but when they do, it’s usually for violations of explicit rules. In 2017, they retracted a sound mixing nomination the night before the ceremony for campaign lobbying violations, and in 2014 they took back a nom for Best Original Song after learning composer Bruce Broughton used his position as former Academy governor to promote his work on the song "Along Yet Not Alone" from a small film of the same title.
The storm around Singer is continuing to escalate. Just last night, Brain May, one of the original members of Queen, was criticized so harshly for saying Singer was “innocent until proven guilty” that he issued an apology the next day, even unfollowing Singer on Instagram seemingly to appease critics.
Whether the Academy decides to follow in GLAAD's decision is still up in the air and up for debate, but if they do decide to revoke any nominations from the film it would it would come to be a defining moment in the #MeToo movement.
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