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Two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn has opened up about the #MeToo movement, saying it divides men and women and "it's too black and white."
Penn, 58, and actress Natascha McElhone, 48, who co-star in the new Hulu show "The First" about a dangerous mission to Mars, had a frank discussion about the movement empowering women, with Natalie Morales on TODAY Monday.
The new show, set in the year 2030, features a host of strong female characters, including three of the five astronauts and the president of the United States. McElhone plays an unapologetic visionary overseeing the mission, a character she said is informed by the #MeToo movement.
"Yeah, and for me in life, that's not unusual,'' she said. "I don't see that as aberrant. I get that in TV and in a lot of our media women haven't been depicted in that way, and I find that deeply disturbing."
Penn disagreed with that assessment.
"I'd like to think that none of it was influenced by what they call the movement of #MeToo,'' he said. "I think it's influenced by the things that are developing in terms of the empowerment of women who've been acknowledging each other and being acknowledged by men. This is a movement that was largely shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious."
Natalie asked him what he meant by "receptacle of the salacious."
"Well, we don't know what's a fact in many of the cases,'' he said. "Salacious is as soon as you call something a movement that is really a series of many individual accusers, victims, accusations, some of which are unfounded.
"The spirit of much of what has been the #MeToo movement is to divide men and women."
Natalie disagreed, saying "Women would say it's uniting women."
Penn expanded on his criticisms of the movement.
"I'm gonna say that women that I talk to, not in front of a camera, that I listen to, of all walks of life, that there's a common sense that is not represented at all in the discussion when it comes to the media discussion of it, the discussion where if Sean Penn says this, so and so's going to attack him for saying this, because of that."
"I don't want it to be a trend, and I'm very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed on to in great stridency and rage and without nuance. And even when people try to discuss it in a nuanced way, the nuance itself is attacked."
Penn believes that lack of gradation is a problem.
"I think it's too black and white,'' he said. "In most things that are very important, it's really good to just slow down."
It remains a regular topic at many workplaces, including the set of "The First."
"We talked about it a great deal,'' McElhone said. "I think what Sean was maybe alluding to is this sort of bubble of actors or people who are in magazines that have gotten a lot of attention from this."
"Of course it's terrific that they've put a spotlight on it. But now, it's we need to go to the places where this is happening behind closed doors, and it's not exposed and those voices aren't being heard."
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