Harvey's Not Alone
Turns out Harvey Weinstein is a garbage human being. Though, perhaps "turns out" is the wrong phrasing, as Weinstein actually has a decades long record of paying women off for sexual harassment, assault and everything in between. The "revelations" have been brought to light by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker. More on why Ronan Farrow as the messenger is so important further down, but in the piece, he relays the accounts of several women who are accusing Harvey Weinstein of a variety of behaviors from the inappropriate to the predatory. The latest to speak out is Lupita Nyong'o in an Op-Ed for the New York Times this week. Legal investigations are ongoing, but the court of public opinion has weighed in. Harvey is trash. Already, he has been removed from the Academy, fired from his company and faces a crumbling personal life. Make no mistake; Harvey is and has been a monster who is rightfully being removed from all manner of esteemed institutions. But to understand my real gripe in all of this, let's take a step back and consider the context.
Harvey Weinstein was a titan. Between his time at Miramax and The Weinstein Company, movies he either produced or distributed were nominated for 341 Oscars and won 81. That is an astounding record of Oscar success, which makes sense when you consider that Harvey is largely credited for inventing what we now know as the "Oscar campaign." In a few short decades, he became so powerful in Hollywood that Meryl Streep once referred to him as "God" in a Golden Globes acceptance speech.
It's really this power beyond measure that makes this story even sadder. There are all sorts of sick people in the world doing perverse things, but few get to be as brazen about it as Harvey did. He reportedly even had a clause in his contract that made the behavior at issue acceptable as long as he paid fines to the company and settled with his victims. Think about that. Such an arrangement presupposes that there will be human victims, with human pain, who will be sucked into this vortex of human evil, and as long as there is no financial burden, business as usual.
I have written about this topic in the context of Woody Allen, Bill Cosby and Nate Parker. I am sick of writing about this topic. But more sick is the way Hollywood protects and inculcates cartoonishly deviant behavior. My heart breaks for the women (and men) who are just trying to do their jobs well in an environment where it is par for the course that they will encounter people who expect more than that. It is beyond time for those in Hollywood to check their own behavior and make sure they are not enabling anyone to take advantage of others in this way. That it took so long and so many women coming forward for Harvey to be stopped is a shame.
Lately, Harvey's role in Hollywood is not what it used to be. Would this story have come out if he was still near the peak of his powers? Hard to say. Yes, our politics are changing rapidly on these topics, but he has a documented history of getting stories like this killed. This should be a moment for Hollywood to be introspective. Individuals must make sure they are doing what they can to create environments where victims are believed and predators are stopped. We are all getting smarter about these topics, but some of this stuff is low hanging fruit and it is time to have an honest conversation about what is simply unacceptable.
Roman Polanski is a member in good standing of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Read that sentence again. Roman Polanski, of child rape fame, is a member of this prestigious body. He's even had Oscar glory in a world where everyone knew the ways in which he is a morally bankrupt person. Simply unacceptable.
Bill Cosby is a member in good standing of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Bill Cosby, who has been accused of sexual misconduct and/or assault by nearly 60 women. And while the rebuke of him has been more severe than certain others, it is curious that this is only the case long after his performing peak. Like Harvey, he is well beyond the peak of his powers and we should all start asking why it's only at that point these kinds of men are stopped.
Woody Allen. His son, Ronan Farrow, is the person responsible for finally publishing the piece that brought Harvey Weistein down after all these years. He has tried time after time to bring the same attention to the allegations against his father, but power is power and Woody Allen is untouchably elite in Hollywood circles. This year, he has yet another movie that likely glances at the May-December romances he is so grossly fond of for your Oscar consideration. His thoughts on the Harvey Weinstein situation is that he hopes it doesn't lead to a "witch hunt," presumably because he would right be the next witch on the list. It is vital that Hollywood recognize that the only way to move forward is to call out reprehensible behavior, not embrace the perpetrators.
The most important thing right now is that we should all be on the same page about certain standards. This conduct and these people are totally unacceptable and it shouldn't take their best days being behind them for them to be rebuked. The work is not that important. The Earth would continue to rotate if we never see Woody's 50th film. We will all be okay if we never hear from Roman Polanski again. Same goes for literally every single person in Hollywood. If their work disappeared, we would find a way to keep going. The stories that matter aren't the ones on the silver screen. They are the ones lived by real people. And when art brings real life pain, Hollywood has to ask if it is worth it. For my money, the answer is no.
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