If not for that whole Best Picture mix-up, the biggest controversy to come out of last week’s Academy Awards probably would’ve been Casey Affleck winning Best Actor for his work on Manchester By The Sea. Affleck settled out of court with two women who said he sexually harassed them a few years ago, so some people—like Constance Wu, even before the ceremony—believed that organizations like the Academy were condoning his actions by continuing to lavish him with prestigious honors. (A sentiment presumably shared by Brie Larson, master of the silent protest.)
Affleck isn’t the only one facing criticism, though. Recently, a writer named Connor Aberle wrote an op-ed for Wesleyan University student newspaper The Argus condemning Manchester By The Sea writer/director Kenneth Lonergan for being “complicit” in Affleck’s alleged history of sexual abuse. Lonergan—who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar this year—attended Wesleyan before transferring to New York University, and Aberle took offense to the way the school was making a point to pat itself on the back for producing an Oscar winner while ignoring the controversy surrounding Affleck. Because of this, he said Wesleyan itself is also complicit in “the success of a perpetrator of sexual violence,” declaring that the school can’t “be true to its progressive brand” and also “indiscriminately praise every semi-notable success from alumni.”
It’s a pretty fiery piece, and in a surprising twist, somebody actually cares about this college student’s opinion: Kenneth Lonergan himself. This weekend, Lonergan wrote his own op-ed in The Argus called “How Connor Aberle And The Argus Are Complicit In Slandering Casey Affleck,” and if that title doesn’t give it away, he comes down pretty hard on Aberle’s article. He refers to it as “such a tangle of illogic, misinformation, and flat-out slander” that the only possible excuse for Aberle’s “deeply offensive display of ignorance and warped, PC-fueled sense of indignation” can be his age.
In fact, beyond a few lines, Lonergan doesn’t even really come to Casey Affleck’s defense so much as he tries to pick apart Aberle’s article the way a lawyer would, noting his “random use” of phrases like “sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual violence” as if they’re “legally or physically interchangeable.” He also brings up Aberle’s use of the word “alleged” as if it’s a cowardly attempt to hide from libel laws and not, you know, the word you use when someone allegedly committed a crime.
Unlike Aberle’s story, the tone of which seems pretty standard for an op-ed in a college paper, Lonergan’s piece comes across as an adult yelling at a kid for being too sensitive. After all, this isn’t about a story in The New York Times, it’s a college paper that only Wesleyan people would’ve ever read if not for Lonergan feeling the need to respond to it, not to mention the fact that Aberle is very far from the first person to bring up this controversy. Basically, it’s just a weird thing for an Oscar winner to do so soon after the ceremony, and it’s probably not going to sway people on either side of this thing.