Last year Brie Larson presented Casey Affleck with the Oscar for Best Actor, and it was ... uncomfortable.

Just a year earlier, Larson had won the Oscar for her powerhouse performance in "Room," playing a woman who was held kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and forced to live in captivity with her young son. Hers was a moving performance that reflected a lot of Larson's own advocacy work for victims of sexual harassment and violence. But then she was asked to present one of acting's top honors to Affleck, who had been sued on multiple occasions for sexual harassment years earlier.

The audience erupted in applause as Affleck's name was announced and he took the stage — with one very notable exception: Larson. After offering Affleck a polite hug, she stood off to the side, motionless. In a pre-#MeToo, pre-Time's Up environment, her reluctance to follow the unspoken rules of being a presenter was a statement in itself.


[rebelmouse-image 19532043 dam="1" original_size="450x280" caption="Larson stands still as Affleck takes the stage in 2017. GIF from Oscars/YouTube." expand=1]Larson stands still as Affleck takes the stage in 2017. GIF from Oscars/YouTube.

"I think that whatever it was that I did onstage kind of spoke for itself,” she told Vanity Fair when asked about whether she was trying to make a statement by not clapping. "I’ve said all that I need to say about that topic."

Since then, a lot has changed in Hollywood — and Affleck will be absent from the Oscar stage this year as a result.

It's Academy Award tradition that the previous year's Best Actor winner presents this year's Best Actress award (and the past Best Actress presents Best Actor). But Affleck, who was scheduled to present, will not be in attendance when Hollywood gathers for the show on March 4.

Deadline reported that "Affleck did not want to become a distraction from the focus that should be on the performances of the actresses in the category and that is why he made the proactive move," calling it "a no-win situation."

Affleck accepts Best Actor during the 2017 Oscars. Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

Thanks to the activism of the past year, actors like Affleck are finally being held accountable for their actions.

It's proof that, when journalists, witnesses, and survivors speak out, they have the power to change the world for the better.

Without Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey's bombshell New York Times exposé detailing megaproducer Harvey Weinstein's history of sexual assault and harassment, and without some of the brave actresses willing to go on record for it, it's hard to imagine that the #MeToo movement would have taken off the way it has.

In a world without the #MeToo movement (which was founded years ago by Tarana Burke, but given fresh life post-Weinstein), it's easy to picture Affleck on stage this year, again receiving cheers from a complicit audience. It's easy to imagine his past sexual harassment suits being brushed off as ancient history, or for audiences to be urged to separate the artist from the art; it's easy to picture a culture that has continued to laud the likes of Roman Polanski or Woody Allen treating Affleck the same way.

[rebelmouse-image 19346263 dam="1" original_size="750x555" caption="Tarana Burke poses with Affleck's "Manchester By the Sea" co-star, actress Michelle Williams at this year's Golden Globes. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images." expand=1]Tarana Burke poses with Affleck's "Manchester By the Sea" co-star, actress Michelle Williams at this year's Golden Globes. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

But activists, journalists, and regular, everyday people helped change that. Continued pressure and momentum can help reshape culture in powerful ways. The fact that Casey Affleck will not be on stage is a reminder that we can make the world a better place if we use our voices to advocate for a more just society.

In a world where cynicism and despair often win out, stories like these might just lend a little hope.

#MeToo demonstrators. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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