Is Maggie Gyllenhaal's message of women's empowerment just a lip service?
In 'The Deuce', Maggie Gyllenhaal stars alongside James Franco who has been accused of sexual harassment by five women
Maggie Gyllenhaal stuns in 'The Duece' as Candy, the ambitious hooker-turned-adult-film-director who refused to back down in the face of rampant misogyny. Candy was a feminist voice in the porn industry of the 1970s and, in the show, Maggie portrays the character perfectly. Her quiet elegance, her burning ambition and her refusal to stay beneath men make Candy an empowering character.
The character has its roots in the life of late porn star and director Candida Royalle. Royalle is a legend in the history of female-centric porn — she made films that counteracted the typical misogynistic nature of sex films back then. Candy's determination and her vision is similar to Royalle's.
Maggie has been vocal about and is an avid supporter of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. She dressed in black at the Golden Globes to show her support for the cause and calls herself a huge supporter of equality. However, what is really ironic is that she still chooses to work with a star who has been accused of sexual harassment by not one but five women. Yes, we are talking about her 'Deuce' costar James Franco.
In an interview with Marie Claire, Maggie stressed on how much of a feminist she is. She said, "I was a part of organizing it. One of the things I thought was amazing about it was that all of these actresses — some of whom are much younger, some of whom are much older, many of whom are my contemporaries who most of the time are in competition with each other — joined together. All of us in one room, many people saying very smart, interesting things. We raised money for a legal defense fund to pay for women in all sorts of industries who need legal protection. So, that’s amazing, right? And I have said and tweeted, 'I am a feminist for due process.' I hope that this energy, and this anger, and this pain, and this hopefulness can turn into something that is codified."
Truly uplifting, isn't it?
The same interview, however, turned into the prime example of lip service. When asked about her co-star James Franco, she dodged the question skillfully and called her feelings "complicated".
Talking about her the Globes red carpet, where she must have been asked questions about working with Franco, she said, "I found it difficult to discuss this because my feelings about it are very, very complicated. And the conversations that have been most exciting to me are ones that have gone on for 45 minutes. I found it difficult on the red carpet to respond to questions about how I was feeling in a way that felt honest to me. But, like I said, it’s in my movie. It’s also in 'The Deuce'. 'The Deuce' is about misogyny, and it's about how we use sex as currency."
When the #MeToo movement took over Hollywood, a lot of notable, powerful men fell. It was a time of reckoning and many were forced to face the ugly things that they had done in the past. Sadly, they were only a few men. While the movement brought awareness like no other, it remains to be seen how much has changed in the industry.
There are a number of networks and shows that still feature men like Franco. And women like Maggie only raise their voice when it is convenient for them. Do we pick favorites amongst the men accused of sexual harassment?
Even at the Golden Globes this year, Franco was honored with an award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Film for his film 'The Disaster Artist'. Director Ally Sheedy at the time said in a now-deleted tweet with a #MeToo hashtag, "Why is James Franco allowed in? Said too much," and, "James Franco just won. Please never ever ask me why I left the film/tv business."
Soon after the awards, Franco gave a very lukewarm statement about the accusations talking on the Stephen Colbert show. He said, "The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long. So I don’t want to, you know, shut them down in any way. It’s, I think, a good thing and I support it."
All five women who came out in January this year with their stories about Franco were students at the film school Franco founded. He was accused of removing protective plastic guards covering other actresses' vaginas while simulating oral sex on them. Two student actresses also recounted incidents where Franco allegedly lost his temper if they refused to go topless.
It is clear that Maggie's social media persona does not match her actions at all. Her pinned tweet is from the Women's March in 2017 shows her sporting buttons with slogans like "Deeds not Words". She's shared content following Brett Michael Kavanaugh's sexual assault allegations quite rigorously too. But, Maggie, is your money where your mouth is?