Sidney Flanigan as Autumn in NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS, sits on a bus staring out the window.

This Academy Member Emailed a Director To Say He Refuses To Watch Her Movie & Mansplain Abortion To Her

Sure seems like he should be disqualified from voting, no?

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The voting process for Academy Awards nominees starts next week and while not nearly the complete disaster that is the Golden Globes, we do know that there are multiple issues with the Oscars process—not the least of which is members who don’t or won’t watch all of the movies they’re supposed to be considering. Usually, those members try to argue about time constraints or other logistical problems. But this year, one member, Keith Merrill, chose to email a writer and director to let her know he was refusing to see her movie due to his stance as a “pro-life advocate.”

Here’s the email he sent to Eliza Hittman (whose name he can’t even be bothered to get right) about her heartbreaking drama, Never Rarely Sometimes Always:

Merrill, a practicing Mormon according to the internet, says he has “ZERO interest in watching a woman cross state lines so someone can murder her unborn child.”

“There is nothing heroic about a mother working so hard to kill her child,” he writes, adding, “Think about it!”

I imagine Hittman has thought about this, a lot, given that she wrote and directed an entire movie about the subject. She also has a better understanding of character development than Merrill could ever hope to attain, since she clearly doesn’t believe everything a protagonist does needs to be “heroic” or that their actions always need to be aspirational.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always centers on a 17-year-old girl named Autumn who finds out she’s pregnant and has to overcome an infuriating number of obstacles to obtain an abortion. She is unable to receive abortion care in her state without parental permission; she violently tries to induce miscarriage; she is lied to by a fake crisis pregnancy center; she doesn’t have the money or resources needed to get the abortion she needs.

So what Merrill sees as a woman who is “working so hard” to get an abortion is actually the story of a teenage survivor of sexual abuse who is forced to fight against a mountain of obstacles designed to keep her from accessing reproductive health care.

I don’t know what an Academy member has to do to be disqualified from voting but it sure seems like publicly declaring a refusal to watch a movie (and an incredibly highly-reviewed one, at that) based on your own willful misogynistic ignorance should be enough.

(via @awards_watch on Twitter, image: Focus Features)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.