Hollywood’s ongoing series of high-profile sexual harassment and sexual assault revelations has likely been the defining entertainment story of 2017, and at times it’s difficult for any fan of cinema to know what the hell they can possibly do about it. With figures such as Harvey Weinstein or actors such as Kevin Spacey so connected to the legacy of cinema in recent decades, which pieces of art can one still enjoy without feeling like some kind of taint has infected it?
A new website called “Rotten Apples,” a rather obvious Rotten Tomatoes double entendre, seeks to at least give viewers some tools when having these discussions. The simple site functions as what is more or less a film abuse search engine—you just enter the name of any given movie, and the site tells you how many, if any, alleged abusers past and present are connected to it. For instance, if you enter 1960’s Psycho, the site will remind one of the allegations of impropriety associated with director Alfred Hitchcock. If you enter Dances With Wolves, it links to allegations against Kevin Costner. And so on, and so forth. Sites with no connections to alleged abusers are thus “fresh apples,” such as the image from The Dark Knight displayed above.
Although the site is apparently striving to offer some kind of valuable service, we can’t help also being vaguely perturbed by its implications. It is true that it may be of value in informing users of allegations they were previously unaware of, or connections in the Hollywood system they didn’t realize existed, but the fact remains that it doesn’t bother to distinguish whether the allegations in any given case are proven or still pending some kind of further review. There is also the question of what the user is meant to do with the information, exactly—not watch the film? At what point does the association of an abuser mean it’s time to disavow the work of art or entertainment? When it’s the director? When it’s an actor? What if it’s just a producer, or a line editor, or a VFX artist? Does that make a difference?
Rotten Apples obviously doesn’t attempt to answer any of those questions, but it fulfills its basic function well. The film archive is surprisingly deep—I typed in a variety of silent and early sound era films off the top of my head just to see if they would work, and was surprised to find that it not only worked but was able to pull photos from films such as Broken Blossoms or Safety Last. Give Rotten Apples a try yourself by clicking here.