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Jimmy Kimmel Doesn’t Want to Talk About the “Me Too” Movement at the Oscars, But His Justification is Lacking

Jimmy Kimmel is hosting this weekend’s Academy Awards, but he says that during the show, he won’t bring up the biggest issue looming over Hollywood today: sexual harassment, assault, and the Me Too and Time’s Up movements.

Kimmel spoke with ABC News’ Paula Faris, and said he won’t be bringing up these issues because he doesn’t want to make the evening “unpleasant.”

Now, to his credit, the people he’s talking about here—the ones he doesn’t want to subject to unpleasantness—are, from the sound of it, the victims of sexual harassment and abuse, not the perpetrators. Kimmel says of the Oscars, “This show is not about reliving people’s sexual assaults. It’s an awards show for people who have been dreaming about maybe winning an Oscar for their whole lives.”

But that argument feels flimsy. For starters, it’s women that have been spearheading these movements. Women of Hollywood have been wanting to talk about these issues. They’ve insisted on it. They don’t need or even want Kimmel’s protection of their big night.

More likely is that Kimmel just isn’t the right person to tackle these issues in this setting, which he seems to know. He says in the interview that he has trouble “striking the right tone” in general. Kimmel has no problem being politically provocative, but he tends to do so when it comes to issues that he feels strongly about personally, like healthcare or pretty much everything having to do with Trump.

I am a fan of Kimmel’s, but honestly, I wouldn’t trust him to take on issues of sexual misconduct with the same incisive grace that Seth Meyers did at the Golden Globes. And I believe it is far better to stay silent in a situation like this rather than botch it. When it comes to jokes about sexual assault and harassment, it is easy to miss the mark and end up making victims your punchline. No one wants that.

But the hosts of awards shows do not work alone. They have pretty huge writing teams, and Kimmel could, if he wanted to, collaborate with writers that could guide him through relevant material. Meyers, for example, had a team made up of much of his Late Night team, as well as (according to IMDB) Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and Crooked Media’s Jon Lovett, just to name a few. As of now, Kimmel’s writing team for the event only credits three women (out of a team of 17). That’s incredibly disappointing.

As is Kimmel’s justification for not addressing these issues, saying,  “I’m not going to stop any bad behavior with my jokes.” I cannot think of a lazier excuse. As a late-night host and comedian who regularly talks about issues related to politics, does he really think jokes don’t make a difference? Does he really not see how jokes are used to shine a light on injustice, or how keen mockery can keep that injustice from being normalized?

He cannot possibly believe these things. Otherwise, he would do what Fox News commentators have been telling him to do for years and stop talking about Trump, the GOP, and the country’s battle for healthcare. Because what’s the point?

No one stopped any bad behavior by not making jokes, or by refusing to talk about this epidemic within Kimmel’s own industry. If he doesn’t think he’s the person to address these issues, that’s fine. I agree with him. But, as big a fan as I am, that probably just means that he was not the right choice of host for this particular event at this particular time.

(image: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.