Sexual Abuse: Hollywood’s Oldest Horror Story
Over the past two weeks, the power dynamic of Hollywood was shaken to its core upon learning that one of its most influential representatives, Harvey Weinstein, is—for the sake of brevity—a total creep. The worst part? He is likely just the first executive to fall in what’s expected to be a series of new allegations, as women feel more empowered to speak up against their assaulters than ever.
People may wonder how Weinstein got away with his despicable actions for over twenty years, but it’s actually pretty simple. Weinstein took advantage of people he thought had no power in the Hollywood “system.” If you’ve ever worked in Hollywood before, you would know that behind all the glamour it’s a scary place. It’s a sweaty town where people put on their best fronts to impress, but behind the facade is hunger and desperation for fame. You’re expected to take low wages, yet live a lavish lifestyle. Don’t like it? Fine. People are lined up to take your opportunity for even less money.
This level of competition within the entertainment industry gives someone like Harvey Weinstein all the tools they need to take advantage of young actors. It’s even scarier to consider that Weinstein thought his behavior was justified by the fact that he followed up on his promises to those he harassed. Look at Gwenyth Paltrow— Weinstein casted a young Paltrow in many films, one of which she won an Oscar for. If you’re an aspiring actress and a Hollywood executive says he can make you Gwenyth Paltrow, you might feel pressured to comply to his demands, no matter how creepy they may be. Sure, you can speak out against his actions, but will anyone actually believe you? And even if they do, he would make sure you never find work again.
It’s the system of Hollywood, in essence—a system so intricately designed to benefit powerful people like Weinstein that it took decades of swelling and investigative persistence to finally bring down.
As we consider the future of Hollywood and workplace harassment, we should hope we’re living in a watershed moment. With that said, though, we also need to look back and realize what we’ve allowed to go over our heads for decades. It happens in every industry, but the power of Hollywood corrupts many. Harvey Weinstein has been kicked out of the Academy, sure, but not only was Roman Polanski, a man found guilty of pedophilia, not kicked out—he was awarded an Oscar after he was found guilty. We continue to lavish praise onto Woody Allen, who may or may not be also be guilty of the same crime. And do I dare mention our blatant ignorance when it comes to Alfred Hitchcock?
Kicking Weinstein out of the Academy sets a precedent that this behavior will not be allowed moving forward, but can be forgotten looking back. And this is where we find ourselves in that morally dicey area. So many people knew what was going on, but are only speaking out now that it’s a part of the news cycle. Should we judge these people for their cowardice? We absolutely can; but, ultimately, the blame is on the Hollywood system.
If you me asked my opinion of Weinstein a month ago, I would’ve excitedly yelled “The Punisher!” He’s known for his brash style and impeccable taste. He’s cultured, well read, and takes no bullshit from anyone. Too bad he’s some of the worst our society has to offer. How about his work? Can we still look back and enjoy his films, from best-picture winners to Tarantino classics? I think we can. Throughout history we have separated the artist from the art, and enjoying his films gives Weinstein no tangible benefit. Would he benefit financially? Maybe, but he’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Any patronage in his films make no difference towards his net worth nor will repair his reputation.
While I spit out an op-ed on my thoughts on the whole situation, I hypocritically say the best thing we can do is forget about this sick man. We should remember the victims and the lessons we take away from his horrific actions, but forget about the monster who caused them. It’s the only way to give Weinstein the punishment he truly deserves— irrelevance.