Sean Penn fires again at #MeToo, says it's 'to divide men and women'
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Sean Penn fires again at #MeToo, says it's 'to divide men and women'

Sean Penn courted controversy yet again on Monday, with another round of remarks about the #MeToo movement.

Penn's highly anticipated TV debut in new show The First was quickly eclipsed when he broached the hot-button topic with Natalie Morales on the Today show.

The First touts a cast filled with woman as they embark on a dangerous mission to Mars. But Penn said he doesn't think the prevalence of women nor their stories in the series had anything to do with trends coming out of the post-Weinstein era.

"I'd like to think that none of it was influenced by what they would call the movement of #MeToo," Penn said. "I think it's influenced by the things that are developing in terms of the empowerment of women acknowledging each other and being acknowledged by men."

The movement is "largely shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious," the two-time Oscar winner said.

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"We don't know what's a fact in many of the cases," he clarified. "'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," he said.

Sean Penn.

Sean Penn. Credit:AP

The #MeToo campaign sprang up nearly a year ago in the wake of bombshell sexual-misconduct allegations levied against film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Penn echoed remarks he'd made in March to the Guardian Weekend when he slammed the social-media campaign as not being "intellectually honest," calling it filled with "self-aggrandisement and venting."

Co-star Natascha McElhone, who was by his side during Monday's interview, appeared blank-faced in the clips of his latest diatribe - even as Penn said that many women have told him that the media discussion of #MeToo hasn't represented common sense.

"I don't want it to be a trend," he said. "I'm very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed on to - in great stridency and rage - without nuance. And even when people try to discuss it in a nuanced way, the nuance itself is attacked."

"I think it's too black and white," he added.

(Penn is no stranger to being vilified in the media over unfounded allegations, notably those that accused him of domestic violence against ex-wife Madonna, which both parties have denied.)

McElhone eventually weighed in on his remarks and tried to help clarify them.

"I think what Sean was maybe alluding to is this bubble of actors or people who are in magazines that have gotten a lot of attention from this," she said.

"Of course it's terrific that they've put a spotlight on it. But now we need to go into the places where this is happening behind closed doors and it's not exposed and those voices aren't being heard," she added.

Los Angeles Times