Examining the cultural legacy of the #MeToo movement in 2022

By Liv Barry

Lifestyle Editor

After a decade-long stall in his film career, actor Brendan Fraser is celebrating a triumphant return to stardom following the festival run of his newest film, “The Whale.”

Fraser, who is best known for starring in 90s blockbusters like “The Mummy” and “George of the Jungle,” was one of the many celebrity men who shared his story of sexual abuse during the height of the #MeToo movement.

According to a 2018 interview with GQ, Fraser was blacklisted from Hollywood after accusing Phillip Berk, the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), of sexual assault in 2003. 

Following the accusation, the actor’s career suffered. He was barred from the HFPA and its events, including the Golden Globes, and saw few leading roles.

Almost 20 years after suffering Berk’s abuse, Fraser is seeing a comeback. 

His career was reinvigorated in 2021 after the actor starred in Steven Soderbergh’s crime drama “No Sudden Move” alongside stars like Dons Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro, to which he received critical acclaim. 

After this performance, Fraser received roles in a number of anticipated films. Within the past year, the actor finished shooting for Martin Scorscese’s upcoming “Flowers of the Moon,” as well as “The Whale.”

During the Venice Film Festival premiere of “The Whale,” the film received a six-minute long standing ovation. According to Variety, Fraser responded to the standing ovation with tears.

Between his reportedly powerful performance and the high-profile names attached to “The Whale,” including acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky and indie film distributor A24, Fraser is likely to receive a nomination at this year’s Academy Awards according to Variety.

While Fraser’s story is vindicating for survivors of sexual assault, his comeback is just one instance of the #MeToo movement’s return to the public consciousness.

Another potential 2023 Academy Awards contender is “She Said,” which details the story of New York Times investigative journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, who broke the story of Harvey Weinstein’s abuses. The film is slated for a Nov. 2022 release, and is produced by Plan B Entertainment, Brad Pitt’s production company.

While many look forward to the film, its denouncement of abuse is muddled by Pitt’s involvement.

Mere days before Aneglina Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt in 2016, Pitt was accused of physically abusing his son, Maddox, following an argument between Pitt and Jolie. 

According to BuzzfeedNews, Pitt’s court filings accuse Jolie of having, “‘no self-regulating mechanism’ to prevent sensitive information from being placed in public record, and of her having ‘other motives’ for doing so.”

Pitt’s accusations ring familiar to Johnny Depp’s accusations against his ex-wife, Amber Heard. 

In May, Depp and Heard’s public defamation trial sparked conversations about the cultural legacy of the #MeToo movement.

While Pitt and Jolie’s many court cases have not been publicized, Depp v. Heard was a public spectacle.

Throughout the televised trial, millions turned Heard’s accusations of physical abuse into TikTok content, while brands like Milani and Lidl used the trial to advertise their products. 

After the verdict, Depp walked away with $15 million in damages and Heard received $2 million. In response, a spokesperson for Heard said, “As Johnny Depp says he’s moving forward, women’s rights are moving backward. The verdict’s message to victims of domestic violence is…be afraid to stand up and speak out.”

Since the #MeToo movement was popularized in 2017, Hollywood ousted a handful of abusers and welcomed back victims like Fraser with open arms, but there has also been a number of high-profile cases like Depp vs. Heard where victims received mass online harassment.

Some claim this to be the death of #MeToo, but Tarana Burke, the founder of #MeToo, insists that the movement expands far beyond Hollywood, publicized trials, and the American justice system.

“[The movement] means something to millions and millions of folks. It means freedom. It means community. It means safety. It means power. You cannot kill us. We are beyond the hashtag. We are a movement,” Burke said on Twitter.

While the state of victim’s rights is in constant flux, Burke’s calls to take care of one another resonate just as much in 2022 as they did at the beginning of the movement.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo Caption: Founded in 2006 by sexual assault survivor Tarana Burke, the #MeToo movement was popularized in 2017 following Alyssa Milano’s accusations on Twitter against film producer Harvey Weinstein.

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