Asia Argento Scandal Makes for Open Season on #MeToo in Italy

ROME — Even as she emerged as one of many main figures in the #MeToo motion — raised fist and all — the Italian actress Asia Argento was by no means a media favourite in Italy’s unbendingly patriarchal society.

She was for probably the most half portrayed neither sympathetically nor heroically, however somewhat as a disingenuous climber effectively versed in her nation’s usually transactional relationship between intercourse, energy and the pursuit of ambition.

Now, with reports that Ms. Argento quietly organized to pay $380,000 to Jimmy Bennett, an actor who stated she had sexually assaulted him when he was 17, she has gone from being the imperfect spokeswoman of a motion already having difficulty gaining traction in Italy to 1 who might have broken the trigger irreparably, not less than in her personal nation.

This week, Ms. Argento was the goal of a broad and savage public pillorying on the entrance pages of just about each newspaper in the nation. The headlines had been cruel. “Asia Minor” was one; “Et tu, Asia,” one other; and, naturally, “Asia Weinstein.”

It might need made no distinction that on Tuesday Ms. Argento launched an announcement denying that she’d had sexual relations with Mr. Bennett.

“I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false,” she stated in an announcement first circulated on social media. “I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.” His declare, she stated, “constitutes a longstanding persecution.”

Ms. Argento additionally stated that her boyfriend — the chef, tv character and creator Anthony Bourdain, who dedicated suicide in June — had helped “Bennett economically, so that he would no longer intrude in our lives.”

Soon after, Mr. Bennett’s lawyer stated that Ms. Argento’s denial was false.

The New York Times, which reported on the matter on Sunday, launched an announcement saying, “We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting, which was based on verified documents and multiple sources.”

Ms. Argento, 42, has been in the media highlight for some three a long time. She debuted in the cinema at 9. She received the Italian equal of the Best Actress Oscar whereas nonetheless in her teenagers. Her marriages and affairs raised eyebrows, and envy.

It was a 12 months in the past that her fame shifted. She turned a well-known determine at rallies in Italy, on tv speak reveals and at red carpet occasions after turning into one of many first ladies to publicly accuse the producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault.

But Ms. Argento had by no means warmed Italian hearts, in half a mirrored image of the nation’s abiding resistance to the advances the #MeToo motion has opened for ladies in another nations.

The stridently conservative and intentionally provocative Italian newspaper Libero, for occasion, had adopted her accusations in opposition to Mr. Weinstein with an article that urged, “First they give it away, then they whine and pretend to regret it.”

Similarly, after Mr. Bourdain’s suicide, Ms. Argento was once more unfavorably profiled in Italian information media due to a sequence of images that confirmed her dancing with a French good friend a number of days earlier than Mr. Bourdain’s dying.

The newest takedown, then, got here as no shock.

Ms. Argento is basically “antipatica” to Italians, Flavia Perina wrote in Il Giornale on Tuesday. Right or flawed, Ms. Argento has been tagged with a “live fast” mentality, and the eccentricities that peg her male counterparts as charismatic or unconventional are frequently used in opposition to her as “nails with which to crucify a disorderly career,” Ms. Perina wrote.

In a front-page editorial in the Turin day by day La Stampa, Mattia Feltri wrote, “She immediately ended up like Robespierre: guillotined because she ordered some guillotined.”

The daughter of a grasp of horror movies, Dario Argento, Ms. Argento made her debut in a 1985 movie alongside Giulietta Masina. She received Italy’s high honor for finest actress twice in 4 years earlier than she was 22. She wrote poetry, she recorded data, she turned to directing.

But in basic, Italians had been extra in her bohemian way of life. Her tattoos. Her lovers, from the Italian musician often called Morgan to Mr. Bourdain, and plenty of in between.

Her directorial debut, the semi-autobiographical “Scarlet Diva,” which she additionally wrote and starred in, is described thus in the film database IMDB: “A young Italian actress embarks on a self-destructive spree of sex, drugs and other excess while doing some soul-searching to find the path for redemption.” It sealed her repute as not the lady subsequent door.

In chronicling Ms. Argento’s troubles on Tuesday, Italian newspapers got here up with supposed outrages from the previous. There was the time in 2009 when she and tons of of others signed a petition supporting Roman Polanski, who had been arrested in Switzerland on an excellent warrant for an underage intercourse case. And there was the 2007 movie by Abel Ferrara in which she kissed a Rottweiler.

Then there was the overt smugness of some commentators, as if Ms. Argento’s presumed fall from grace nullified everything of the #MeToo motion.

“Who will recompense the ruined men?” requested Antonello Piroso, writing in the day by day La Verita.

Mr. Piroso’s article additionally saved tabs on the fallout of Italy’s #MeToo motion. “Two to zero.”

Two to zero. Because practically a 12 months after the start of the worldwide motion to carry males to account for their abuse of energy over ladies, just one Italian man of observe, a film director, was publicly accused of constructing undesirable sexual advances. But final month, a Rome prosecutor requested for the case to be dismissed. The critics of #MeToo rejoiced.

The two in the equation could be Ms. Argento.

The collapse of the case in opposition to the Italian movie director and the accusations in opposition to Ms. Argento don’t assist the reason for ladies combating sexual harassment in Italy, stated Cristina Sivieri Tagliabue, the president of Non Chiederci la Parola, an affiliation that screens ladies and the media.

“The #MeToo Movement never happened here, and now this will be used as an excuse to blame all women,” Ms. Tagliabue stated.

Even some who as soon as vocally defended Ms. Argento had little to say on Tuesday.

Laura Boldrini, the previous president of Italy’s decrease home of Parliament who used her to place to shine a highlight on a pervasive tradition of sexual harassment, declined to be interviewed for this text. A spokesman stated she didn’t wish to intervene.

“There’s a desire in today’s Italy for public lynching, not just Asia, but any scapegoats,” stated Francesca Koch, the president of the International Women’s House in Rome. She was referring to the mudslinging and accusations which have adopted the collapse of a bridge in Genoa final week that left not less than 43 lifeless.

The method Ms. Argento has been humiliated in the press recalled the assaults of protection attorneys in rape trials “slurring the reputation of the victims,” she stated.

“I think this phenomenon gives a measure of the reaction of the male establishment which found a road for a ferocious vendetta” in opposition to the #MeToo motion in Italy, she stated.


An earlier model of an image caption with this text misstated the month that Asia Argento and Rose McGowan attended a march this 12 months in Rome. It was March, not April.

Kim Severson contributed reporting from Atlanta.

A model of this text seems in print on , on Page A5 of the New York version with the headline: Italy, Already Wary of Unorthodox Star And #MeToo, Pounces on Actor’s Claim. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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