This year's Oscars are breaking the mold in more ways that one. Changing up the tradition where the previous year's Oscar winners in the acting categories present awards to the following year's acting nominees, Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster will present the Best Actress category at the 90th Academy Awards, replacing Casey Affleck, who withdrew from presenting the award back in January.
Affleck won Best Actor last year for his performance in Manchester by the Sea, a drama about a man who becomes the sole guardian of his teenage nephew after his brother's death. Any victory in the Best Actor category is normally cause for celebration, but Affleck's win sparked controversy among film lovers and viewers of the ceremony, due to sexual harassment allegations that have followed the actor for several years now. (Affleck has denied these allegations through his lawyer.)
After appearing in the 2010 film, I'm Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix, Affleck was accused of sexual harassment on set and later sued by the film's producer, Amanda White, and cinematographer, Magdalena Gorka. He eventually settled both lawsuits, but according to Variety, the actor tapped out of presenting Best Actress this year "to avoid becoming a distraction." His reps also confirmed he won't even be attending the ceremony.
This is a pretty smart move considering that, just a year after his win, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are empowering women and men in Hollywood to speak up about abuse and harassment at the hands of some of the industry's most powerful and well-known figures. Since then, the animosity and controversy surrounding his win has only escalated. Following Affleck's withdrawal from the 2018 ceremony, an Academy spokesperson told Bustle via email in January:
"We appreciate the decision to keep the focus on the show and on the great work of this year."
Affleck may have delivered an incredible performance in Manchester by the Sea, but that didn't make seeing him win last year any less frustrating for viewers who took the allegations against him seriously. Many seemed to agree that his win reinforced the notion that men in Hollywood are still likely to move ahead and be rewarded, even in the face of allegations of abuse and sexual harassment.
Still, after last year's show, what appeared to be more of a trending topic than his win was Brie Larson's refusal to clap for the actor after presenting him with his award. As an outspoken advocate for sexual assault survivors, her silent but powerful gesture stuck with fans long after the ceremony concluded and was looked at as a silver lining in a questionable situation.
Though she didn't speak on the issue too much immediately following the show last year, Larson eventually confirmed to Vanity Fair that her reaction (or lack thereof) to Affleck's win was intentional. She said,
"I think that whatever it was that I did onstage kind of spoke for itself. I've said all that I need to say about that topic."
Just as Larson's gesture was appreciated, fans on Twitter are already applauding the decision to swap out Affleck with Lawrence and Foster.
The 2018 nominees for Best Actress include Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Margot Robbie, (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan, (Lady Bird), and Meryl Streep (The Post). While the award will be presented by Lawrence and Foster, Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren are also switching things up this year by presenting the award for Best Actor. Other presenters for Sunday evening include Chadwick Boseman, Gal Gadot, Dave Chappelle, and Gina Rodriguez.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.