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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Olivia Wilde calls out sexist criticism of her Richard Jewell character

Illustration for article titled Olivia Wilde calls out sexist criticism of her Richard Jewell character
Photo: Theo Wargo (Getty Images for IFP)

Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell seems like a film that should be a little controversial, seeing as how it’s a movie in 2019 from a famously right-leaning filmmaker about a heroic white man who is unfairly vilified by the media (hey, if the media got this one wrong, maybe they’re wrong about some other famous man that they constantly vilify!), but it’s actually generating some controversy for a different reason. The movie is about the eponymous Jewell (played by Paul Walter Hauser), who was a security guard in 1996 and managed to save a bunch of people during the Atlanta Olympics bombing. Shortly after that, though, the media—specifically the Atlanta Journal-Constitution—reported that he had become the FBI’s lead suspect in the bombing, turning him from a hero to a villain overnight (the FBI was wrong, in the end).


As reported by Deadline, the controversial part centers around Kathy Scruggs, the real-life reporter that Olivia Wilde plays in the movie (she, like Jewell, has since died). Recently, Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor-in-chief Kevin Riley heard that there was a plot point in the movie that involved Wilde’s Scruggs having sex with an FBI agent in exchange for the tip that Jewell was their lead suspect, with Riley saying that there was “no evidence that this ever happened” and that “it’s offensive and troubling” for the movie to create something like that “in the #MeToo era.”

Deadline explains that the scene in question doesn’t happen exactly like that, as it’s more implied than outright stated that Scruggs slept with the agent (who is played by Jon Hamm), and now Wilde herself is objecting to the fact that her character is being reduced to this one “inferred scene” while nobody’s criticizing Jon Hamm’s character for having an inappropriate relationship with a reporter. She says it’s “unfair” that her character is being “minimized in this way,” adding that we’re all still “struggling with allowing for female characters who aren’t entirely quote-unquote likable” and that “it’s a misunderstanding of feminism to assume that all women have to be sexless.”

Interestingly, Deadline says Hamm’s character is more of an “amalgamation” than an actual guy, but they specifically used the real name of a real reporter for Wilde’s character even though it seems like the idea of her sleeping with this FBI agent was invented for the movie.