Opinion: Why No One Noticed That Time Jim Carrey Assaulted Alicia Silverstone At An Award Show

NotYourBonnie

I don’t know who needs to hear this — but kissing someone againt their will is assault. Tell your friends. Tell your sons. Tell the award show producers.

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I nodded in shared disgust last week seeing that Jim Carrey spoke out about Will Smith’s slap. I agreed it was a problematic moment in history. Good for you, Jim Carrey, I thought.

I had never seen Jim Carrey’s problematic moment — he won a 1997 MTV Movie Award and proceeded to come up and claim it from the presenter, 20-year-old Alicia Silverstone. Instead of just, I don’t know, accepting his award, he grabbed Silverstone’s face with two hands and forcibly kissed her. She looked horrified and physically pushed him off, but it doesnt matter if she played it off and winked at the audience and got his number — it was still assault.

Similarly, Halle Berry was the victim of assault when Adrien Brody came up onstage and forcibly kissed her before accepting his Best Actor Oscar in 2003.

You know this is not okay, right? Is this thing on?

“Well if we go back in history we’ll find lots of men assaulted women so we should just let sleeping dogs lie.”

This a tempting point of view, but the truth is, if you happened to have committed assault in a less enlightened time, that assault does not cease to exist. And should someone bring it up, people are going to want to process how they feel about it.

Why didn’t we address this back when it happened? To be fair, it might have made some news, but from what I have read, it was mostly shrugged off. Please correct me if you have reason to believe otherwise!

But there’s an important reason that we have very little cultural memory of this assault. A lot of people (at the time) probably did not look at this as assault.

I mean, I don’t think it’s super confusing — you don’t get to hold people down and kiss them. You don’t kiss someone without their consent.

But what I will say is, there is this period of time, I think specifically mid 90s-m-d 2000s where there was a leaning toward a social acceptance of bad behavior like this. A sort of “just be cool” vibe. This might not be super broad, but I know it’s something that has existed prevalently in the entertainment industry on a large-level with A-list actors, and even in small theatre communities.

You think prop-comedy is funny, how about using a human person as a prop; hilarious! I mean… I can’t blame anyone who wishes we could just forget about these parts of our history, but if we ignore our past, we will never learn.

And here’s one of the most harmful statements I’m seeing in the speculations people have made on the subject: “These things used to be okay, but now they are considered assault.”

This was always assault.

And the truth is, the men doing these things — even if they did not use the word assault — knew they were out of line. They just also knew they could get away with it.

I experienced an assault like this two years ago and quite frankly, I am so SO tired of teaching consent to grown men.

Want to know part of how we need to teach it? By calling it out when we see it. By saying NO.

“UGH STOP BRINGING UP THE PAST” a lot of people say- especially people who used to assault others. I get it, but you also should get that the rules have never changed.

Assault was always assault. Yes, we were less educated about it, and that’s not without significance. And I understand that you’d like to forget it, but what about the people who went through it? They don’t get to forget, and they have a right to bring it up.

So let’s acknowledge it and move forward. Because if it happened, it can’t be erased. And thanks to YouTube and other social media, things have a tendency to resurface.

But it’s not a bad thing. It’s good for us to look back and see where we have come from — what challenges we have faced in terms of creating a healthy understanding of basic boundaries.

And the more we grow and stop ignoring these things, the less likely it will be that we’ll still be having this remedial discussion in another 20 years.

Fingers crossed.

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Writer, Performer, Activist. Founder of That's What She Didn't Say: Creating Healthy Conversations About Challenging Topics.

Los Angeles, CA
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