Stop judging Olivia Wilde’s relationship and start judging her morals

Illustration+by+Hailey+Akau

Photo: Illustration by Hailey Akau

Illustration by Hailey Akau

By Christina Horacio, Copyeditor

Olivia Wilde’s upcoming film Don’t Worry Darling, starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, has generated quite the controversy. With rumors of affairs, costars spitting on other costars, and general mean-girl behavior on set, Wilde has undoubtedly been subject to widespread criticism across social media. There is an ongoing online and public debate about whether Wilde deserves this criticism. While the blatant harassment directed at Wilde is uncalled for, her recent actions are certainly contradictory to her vocalized feminist ideals.

Wilde’s relationship with famous pop musician Harry Styles does not warrant the public outcry it has received. If Wilde was a man dating a younger pop star, her relationship likely wouldn’t be spoken about in the same manner. 

One Twitter user actually points out that even if Wilde did cheat on former fiancé Jason Sudeikis—which Wilde has denied—male directors have done this for ages, yet they have not received half of the backlash she has. While a good chunk of the hate towards Wilde is rooted in misogyny, audiences shouldn’t simply gloss over her other rightfully questionable actions in relation to the new film. 

The assertion that all of her criticism is ‘misogynistic’ is ironic because she originally casted Shia LaBeouf in Styles’ role, despite his very public abuse allegations. LaBeouf’s history of racist and violent behavior dates back to 2007. Most notably, musician FKA Twigs filed an official lawsuit against LaBeouf for sexual battery and assault in December 2020. 

“A lot came to light after this happened that really troubled me, in terms of his behavior,” Wilde said of LaBeouf in an interview with Variety magazine. “Particularly with a movie like this, I knew that I was going to be asking Florence [Pugh] to be in very vulnerable situations, and my priority was making her feel safe and making her feel supported.”

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LaBeouf then reported he was not fired, but quit, citing a video and text messages as proof. The most incriminating evidence is the video footage of Wilde essentially begging LaBeouf to stay on her film. Wilde can be heard saying that she is “heartbroken” and is reluctant to give up on LaBeouf. She even goes as far as saying that this could be a “wake-up call for Miss Flo,” referring to Pugh, if LaBeouf decides to move forward with the film. 

Her statements display an utter disregard for Pugh’s feelings and safety, especially as she so condescendingly refers to Pugh as “Miss Flo.” With the assertion of Pugh needing a “wake up call,” it seems as though Wilde is equating her reluctance to work with LaBeouf as mere diva behavior. Writing off Pugh’s concerns should be seen as an extreme breach of safety on-set—which Wilde previously claimed she cared so earnestly about.

In response to the leak, Wilde did not address the video and merely said, “This issue is so much more nuanced than can be explained in private texts released out of context.” She went on to say LaBeouf was “replaced”’ rather than “fired,” and that she wished him the best.

It seems Wilde’s attempt at painting herself as a fierce protector of her cast was a last ditch effort to save her reputation in the midst of a PR nightmare, which is utterly disappointing. It is absurd to dismiss Wilde’s evident support of a known abuser and racist as well as her subsequent effort to cover it up, particularly because Wilde served as something of a ‘feminist icon’ in the film industry ever since the massive success of her directorial debut, Booksmart, in 2019. 

In regards to Wilde and Pugh, it is equally troubling that they have two different interpretations of what Don’t Worry Darling is about. Wilde insists it is a sex-positive film geared towards women, and has marketed it as such. Pugh, on the other hand, disagreed. 

“When it’s reduced to your sex scenes, or to watch the most famous man in the world go down on someone, it’s not why we do it,” said Pugh in a rare statement about the film. “It’s not why I’m in this industry. [This movie is] bigger and better than that. And the people who made it are bigger and better than that.” 

Pugh’s distaste of the oversexualization of herself in the trailer—which Wilde praises—warrants some raised eyebrows in Wilde’s direction, especially in conjunction with Wilde pushing Pugh to work with an abuser she was understandably uncomfortable with. Wilde’s actions are not in line with her outspoken initiative of empowering women in the industry.

Wilde also took to Instagram to praise Styles for signing onto a female-led film with such “humility” and “grace.” Even though her notion that it is rare to find male actors willing to star in women-led films is likely true, it is counterintuitive to praise Styles for simply being okay with not being a part of a male-dominated cast. 

Such a comment is not only disrespectful, but nonsensical because Styles is not by any means a seasoned actor, yet was given the opportunity to work with the likes of Oscar-nominated Florence Pugh. The goal is to normalize women-led films. Extending excessive praise to the objectively privileged men who merely meet bare expectations makes it seem like human decency is a big ask. 

With that said, it is important to take note of these grievances, rather than paying attention to all the discourse surrounding the alleged affair. A smear campaign against Wilde is unjustified, especially since it is true that male directors can get away with more whilst maintaining a good image. However, Wilde—just like every other director—should be legitimately promoting a safe space for women in the film industry. Being outwardly vocal across the media should be encouraged rather than shut down. At the very least, audiences should factor Wilde’s behavior into their consumption of her content.