As the #MeToo movement evolves, so do our conversations. We’ve gone from just calling out predators to thinking about bigger questions like, what does consent look like, really? Does dating need to change? And what kind of consequences should abusers face? Oh, and a growing number of men are apparently unsure about how to interact with women now. Sigh. But amid this (admittedly complicated) discourse, Olivia Munn’s interviews about her newest movie, The Predator, are a guiding light.
Munn’s interviews aren’t about the movie, exactly. Instead, they’ve been focusing on the fact that the actor spoke up about a #MeToo moment that hit a little too close to home—or, well, soundstage, as the case may be. Last Thursday, the Los Angeles Times broke the story that The Predator‘s director, Shane Black, had knowingly hired Steven Wilder Striegel, a long-time friend of his and a registered sex offender, for a scene in the movie—and that Munn reported the situation to Fox as soon as she found out. The studio cut Striegel’s scene immediately and Black later apologized.
You’d think her co-workers would consider Munn a hero for speaking up, but she says she felt like that wasn’t the case. After the movie’s premier, she told Vanity Fair that speaking up left her feeling isolated from the rest of the cast, because at the time, none of them had reached out to her, offered her support or validated her action by speaking to the the Los Angeles Times, which she encouraged them to do.
“Thank God, honestly, that there is social media because it’s the fans and the news outlets and everybody that is confirming it to me—that what I did was the right thing. Because if I didn’t have that feedback, you’d kind of go a little crazy thinking like, why am I being treated like this?” Munn said. “That’s a lot of times why girls don’t speak up when things happen because they don’t want to be isolated.”
She’s not wrong. Long before #MeToo became a movement, trailblazing women spoke up about their abusers hoping for justice, only to find themselves punished for it. Today, more of those women are opening up again, this time asking us why society didn’t support them then. From Joyce Maynard on J.D. Salinger to Carla Ciccone on Jian Ghomeshi, these women are reminding people that women who call out powerful men have always faced abuse and gaslighting.
For a while, it looked like Munn might follow in these women’s footsteps, until cast member Sterling K. Brown finally commented on Twitter saying, “I’m sorry you’re feeling so isolated, my dear. And I’m sorry you’ve been the only one to speak up publicly.”
.@oliviamunn I’m sorry you’re feeling so isolated, my dear. And I’m sorry you’ve been the only one to speak up publicly. I was not at #TIFF so I didn’t have an opportunity to be there with you. There are two main issues as far as I see it. First, what is and is not forgivable?… https://t.co/NQQpoO9kPa
— Sterling K Brown (@SterlingKBrown) September 9, 2018
The thread is five tweets deep, but he doesn’t get to the most important part of it until tweets #4 and #5, where he says, “I so appreciate that you ‘didn’t leave well enough alone,’ & again, I’m sorry you feel isolated in taking action” and “I hope you don’t feel quite so alone. You did the right thing.”
It wasn’t a perfect apology by any means. Brown goes into the nuance of forgiveness first, noting that Black’s judgment might be clouded by his feelings towards his friend. Only THEN did he say he agrees with Munn, and that they all had a “right to know who they were working with.”
Writer Clarkisha Kent weighed in on Brown’s tweets in a follow-up thread, pointing out that Munn is a survivor of sexual harassment and assault herself, and explaining that, “too many times, the discourse when it comes to predators (let’s call this man what he is) is a rush to ask survivors to ‘forgive first’ (even if it’s unearned) without even analyzing wtf happened.”
Still, it was super important that Brown made a public statement, because it showed that at the very least, one of Munn’s cast members—who are notably all men—supported her. Later, Niall Matter tweeted in support, and Keegan-Michael Key put out a public statement saying he had reached out to Munn privately.
I was not privy to any of this information until today. I’m currently filming on the west coast and didn’t attend #TIFF alongside @oliviamunn and the rest of the cast. I’m deeply sorry Olivia that you felt alone in this…
— Niall Matter (@niallmatter) September 9, 2018
.@SterlingKBrown Hey so I’m a long time fan of your work & I am REALLY glad you said something, because I need you and rest of the cast to understand that before this, Munn was left twisting in the wind by her *all male cast members* for the last 48 hours. That doesn’t look good.
— Clarkisha Kent: Bisexual Woman of Diversity (@IWriteAllDay_) September 9, 2018
The Predator lead Boyd Holbrook came forward in support of Munn next, with a text post on Instagram that said he’s proud of how Munn handled the situation.
He explains his lateness to the conversation, saying that he thought “further discussion could cause unwanted trauma” to Striegel’s victim, who was 14 in 2010, when Striegel tried to entice her into a sexual relationship. He then went on to say, “I now realize that my understanding of the situation was not the full picture and the last thing I want is for Olivia to ever feel abandoned or alone.”
Fair enough—these conversations can often be complicated. But in all our concern about nuance, let’s not forget to make sure we aren’t discouraging those who are brave enough to speak out. It’s good that her co-stars eventually said something, but it would have been better if they had told her from the get-go.
In her Vanity Fair interview, Munn acknowledged this, saying, “If something is happening to you or if you know somebody that is going through something and you speak up, it’s not going to be easy, but it’s worth it.”
There is a lot to learn from #MeToo conversations, and in this instance, one of the biggest lessons is the importance of simply letting survivors know that we’ll have their backs when they speak up. Munn responded to the support she has now received from her co-stars. “It’s been really special for me to receive that,” she told Entertainment Tonight, adding, “I’m just really happy that we’re in a time in the world where people are listening.”
It’s incredible to think that at one point, Munn might have been blacklisted for speaking up, but instead we’re seeing both public and industry support for her actions. After Munn spoke to the press, Black, The Predator director who hired Striegel, acknowledged his position of power and his mistakes. “I’m the captain to the ship, and I’m not allowed to make choices for people. I’m not allowed to just treat this like we’re kids in college and putting friends in movies because this is big leagues, and I felt like I had let people down and caused pain to the cast and that is not acceptable,” he told Entertainment Tonight.
The trajectory of The Predator controversy is *exactly* what we want to see come from #MeToo discussions—Munn was empowered to speak up, her co-stars responded quickly with both apologies and support and the director in error acknowledged that he was fully responsible for the incident. However, the importance of what Munn did was best shown by a recent statement printed in the Los Angeles Times, not from the cast or crew of The Predator, but from the woman affected by Striegel’s abuse, Paige Carnes.
“I was not able to speak for myself when I was 14,” she wrote. “[Olivia Munn] spoke up for me. She took a stance for me. In turn she stood for all who have suffered like I have. To be acknowledged by a stranger, on a public platform about this issue is incredibly empowering.”
Carnes’s statement is powerful proof of what happens when we support survivors. She finishes the statement with this must-read reminder: “I have no shame for what was done to me. I am not the one who needs to carry that shame. My name is Paige Carnes, former Jane Doe. I hope anyone who has suffered like I have regains their voice and their humanity.”