Massive outrage when Matt Damon uses common sense to talk about sexual misconduct

Close up of actor Matt Damon on the red carpet at the Suburbicon premiere held at the Village Theatre in Westwood, Los Angeles, California, Oct 22nd, 2017. Credit: Alex Millauer / Shutterstock

Matt Damon gave an interview with ABC News about Harvey Weinstein, sexual harassment and the appropriate retribution for offenders, and his comments have quickly divided the internet.

Damon was simply sharing common sense when suggesting “there’s a spectrum of behavior” and punishment needs to fit the crime. This is certainly not consensus opinion, with mainstream media referring to Damon’s “car-crash interview” and “mess of an interview”.

Twitter erupted with an avalanche of criticism:

The reaction is surprising, as Damon expressed a number of valuable insights in this wide-ranging discussion.

I’ve shared his controversial points below along with some reactions on Twitter. It’s worth reading to the end to get the full perspective shared by Damon.

There’s a “spectrum” of sexual misconduct

Here’s Damon’s first insight that unfortunately has been sorely lacking in the public outcry over sexual misconduct in Hollywood (and elsewhere).

“I do believe that there’s a spectrum of behavior, right? And we’re going to have to figure — you know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right? You know, we see somebody like Al Franken, right? — I personally would have preferred if they had an Ethics Committee investigation, you know what I mean? It’s like at what point — you know, we’re so energized to kind of get retribution, I think.”

It makes sense that we want to evaluate cases of sexual misconduct on a case-by-case basis. It’s reasonable to distinguish between the actions of Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K., especially when figuring out what retribution is required.

Not everyone agrees with this, as seen below.

There’s difference between Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K.

“The Louis C.K. thing, I don’t know all the details. I don’t do deep dives on this, but I did see his statement, which kind of, which [was] arresting to me. When he came out and said, ‘I did this. I did these things. These women are all telling the truth.’ And I just remember thinking, ‘Well, that’s the sign of somebody who — well, we can work with that’ … Like, when I’m raising my kids, this constant personal responsibility is as important as anything else they learn before they go off in the world.”

There were some voices of wisdom on social media.

Men are encouraged to deny it rather than take responsibility

Damon makes the point that the current political climate causes men to deny what they’ve done rather than take responsibility.

“And the fear for me is that right now, we’re in this moment where at the moment — and I hope it doesn’t stay this way — the clearer signal to men and to younger people is, deny it. Because if you take responsibility for what you did, your life’s going to get ruined.”

There’s a continuum that we need to consider

“There is a continuum. And on this end of the continuum where you have rape and child molestation or whatever, you know, that’s prison. Right? And that’s what needs to happen. OK? And then we can talk about rehabilitation and everything else. That’s criminal behavior, and it needs to be dealt with that way. The other stuff is just kind of shameful and gross, and I just think … I don’t know Louis C.K.. I’ve never met him. I’m a fan of his, but I don’t imagine he’s going to do those things again. You know what I mean? I imagine the price that he’s paid at this point is so beyond anything that he — I just think that we have to kind of start delineating between what these behaviors are.

Not everyone knew about Harvey Weinstein

Damon contradicts what many have said about everyone knowing what Weinstein was up to. He says:

“A lot of people said, ‘Well, Harvey — everybody knew.’ As you were saying, that’s not true. Everybody knew what kind of guy he was in the sense that if you took a meeting with him, you knew that he was tough and he was a bully, and that was his reputation. And he enjoyed that reputation, because he was making the best movies out there …

“[With regard to the rape allegations,] nobody who made movies for him knew … Any human being would have put a stop to that, no matter who he was. They would’ve said absolutely no. You know what I mean? … I knew I wouldn’t want him married to anyone close to me. But that was the extent of what we knew, you know? And that wasn’t a surprise to anybody. So when you hear Harvey this, Harvey that — I mean, look at the guy. Of course he’s a womanizer … I mean, I don’t hang out with him.

If nobody’s committing a crime…

“So the question is, at what point does somebody’s behavior that you have a professional relationship with … away from the profession bother enough that you don’t want to work with them? For me, I’ve always kind of, you know, as long as nobody’s committing a crime — well, that’s your life, and you go live it. I don’t need to be spending time with you, away from my professional life, at least.”

An optimistic spin

“I would like to point out, though, that even though it feels like there’s this avalanche of men … Well here’s my optimistic spin, this is like 1 percent of the guys who are losing their careers. It’s not everybody. It just feels like it. There’s so many great men and women in the movie business. So many great people. It’s such a wonderful collection of people overall. And these rotten horrible apples are getting weeded out right now.

“And that’s fine. That’s a good thing. That’s progress. But again, when we go back to talking about our own growth and development as human beings. We have to get to a place where we’re looking at one end of the spectrum and saying, ‘Well, let’s deal with this with some reflection and dialogue and some reconciliation, and let’s all grow together and move on.’ And then I’ll think we’ll be making progress.”

Update: I posted this article on Facebook and the reaction was intense. Join the conversation by going into the comments section below.

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