The actor told Today that he believes much of the spirit of the movement is to "divide men and women"

By Christina Butan
September 17, 2018 02:09 PM
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Sean Penn called the #MeToo movement “too black and white” during an interview with Natalie Morales on Today, Monday, stating further that he feels the reckoning against sexual harassment and misconduct in Hollywood is meant to “divide men and women.”

The actor, 58, appeared alongside his The First costar Natascha McElhone, 48, to talk about the new Hulu series, which follows astonauts in the race to become the first humans to visit Mars.

During the sit-down, Morales asked if #MeToo has “informed” the show and its characters, including several female astronauts and a woman American president.

“I’d like to think that none of it was influenced by what they call the movement of #MeToo,” Penn said in response. “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.”

Stated Penn, “This is a movement that was largely shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious.”

sean-penn
Sean Penn

“We don’t know what’s a fact in many of the cases,” he elaborated, adding, “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.”

Morales countered Penn’s argument, saying, “Women would say it’s united women.”

Penn said that from the women he’s spoken to — “of all walks of life” — he’s gathered that “there’s a common sense that is not represented at all in the discussion when it comes to the media discussion of it.”

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“The discussion where ‘if Sean Penn says this, so and so is going to attack him for saying this because of that,’ ” he said. “I’m very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed onto in great stridency and rage and without nuance. And even when people try to discuss it in a nuanced way, the nuance is attacked.”

The First
Natascha McElhone in The First
| Credit: Paul Schrimaldi/Hulu

Also in the interview, Penn said he thinks the movement is “too black and white.” He elaborated, “In most things that are very important, it’s really good to just slow down.”

McElhone told Today she and her costar have spoken about the movement “a great deal” on set, and while it’s “terrific that they’ve put a spotlight on it, 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.”