Sean Penn shared some controversial comments on the #MeToo movement during an interview on Monday, including the idea that its intent is to "divide men and women."
While discussing his television debut on the new Hulu series The Firstwith Today's Natalie Morales, the outspoken actor responded to a question about the #MeToo movement and his show's strong female characters, which include a trio of astronauts and a fictional U.S. president, set in the year 2030. While Penn's co-star, Natascha McElhone, affirmed the influence of the anti-sexual-misconduct campaign, calling the lack of powerful female roles "deeply disturbing," the 58-year-old actor was quick to disagree about the movement's clout.
"I’d like to think that none of it was influenced by what they call the movement of #MeToo," he said. “I think it’s influenced by the things that are developing in terms of the empowerment of women who’ve been acknowledging each other and being acknowledged by men. This is a movement that was largely shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious."
When asked to elaborate on his "salacious" comment, Penn added, "Well, we don’t know what’s a fact in many of the cases. Salacious is as soon as you call something a movement that is really a series of many individual accusers, victims, accusations, some of which are unfounded. The spirit of much of what has been the #MeToo movement is to divide men and women."
Morales responded by saying that many would say "it's united women," which led Penn to claim the media's misrepresentation of the movement, which he described as "suspicious."
"I’m gonna say that women that I talk to, not in front of a camera, that I listen to, of all walks of life, that there’s a common sense that is not represented at all in the discussion when it comes to the media discussion of it," he said. "The discussion where if Sean Penn says this, so and so’s going to attack him for saying this, because of that."
The actor continued, "I don’t want it to be a trend, and I’m very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed onto in great stridency and rage, and without nuance. Even when people try to discuss it in a nuanced way, the nuance itself is attacked."
When asked if the #MeToo movement had "gotten too big" with "too many shades of gray," Penn said, "I think it’s too black and white. In most things that are very important, it’s really good to just slow down."
Penn’s remarks aside, McElhone, 48, said the movement was actually discussed "a great deal" on set.
"I think what Sean was maybe alluding to is this sort of bubble of actors or people who are in magazines that have gotten a lot of attention from this,” she clarified. “Of course, it’s terrific that they’ve put a spotlight on it. But now, it’s we need to go into the places where this is happening behind closed doors, and it’s not exposed and those voices aren’t being heard."
Morales also queried Penn on any notable differences between acting for television versus film, to which he replied, "They both suck." McElhone laughed, but also told her co-star that his comment was "quite hurtful."
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