Sean Penn Calls #MeToo A “Receptacle Of The Salacious”; Tells ‘Today’ That Movement Is Too “Black & White”


On NBC’s Today Show this morning, Sean Penn waded, literally barefoot, into the #MeToo floodwaters, and if he’s not in over his head he’s certainly standing on tiptoes.

“It’s too black and white,” Penn said of the movement, describing #MeToo as a “receptacle of the salacious.” What’s more, Penn seems to appoint himself the purveyor of what women really believe about the movement that brought down Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and, most recently, Les Moonves.

Watch a clip below.

“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,” Penn told Today’s Natalie Morales, “the discussion where if Sean Penn says this, so and so’s going to attack him for saying this, because of that.”

Penn, sans shoes and socks, was on Today to promote Hulu’s new The First, about a future mission to Mars. Alongside him was actress Natascha McElhone (ironically enough, unnamed and identified by Today‘s chyron only as “co-star”).

With a stretch that was either impressive or just a stretch, Morales broached the #MeToo movement by noting that McElhone’s character is “visionary,” and The First, set in 2030, features a female president. Morales wondered if such roles can be chalked up to #MeToo.

McElhone said yes – “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” – while Penn, well, didn’t.

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

Pressed to define “receptacle of the salacious,” Penn said, “We don’t know what’s a fact in many of the cases. 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.”

Responded Morales, “Women would say it’s uniting women,” prompting Penn’s revelation about what those women from all walks of life have been telling him off-camera.

And he continued: “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.”

McElhone then attempted to do some explaining of her own. “We talked about it a great deal,” she said about her co-star. “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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