Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What Happens After Weinstein?

I've been debating with myself over what to write about the recent string of entertainment media figures who have been outed as sexual harassers and abusers recently.  After the allegations about AICN's Harry Knowles, I felt like I should say something, and after Harvey Weinstein it became a matter of "when" instead of "if," and now it's Roy Price, and James Toback, and Chris Savino, and Mark Halperin, and Kevin Spacey, and on and on and on.  And, of course, they're dwarfed by the staggering amount of victims who have come forward.  Everyone from Ashley Judd to Terry Crews - Terry Crews! - has shared an appalling story over the last few weeks.  

We've seen other scandals like this before, of course.  I was gutted to learn about Bill Cosby, and I admit that I enjoyed seeing Roger Ailes' downfall.  However, those were largely self-contained incidents, where we could write them off as aberrations, something out of the norm.  This latest situation is something very different.  One scandal has lead to another scandal, like toppling dominoes one after another.  Victims have been emboldened this time like I've never seen before, because the public finally seems to be receptive to their claims.  There was no fish in the Hollywood pond bigger than Harvey Weinstein, and if he can be held accountable, now anyone can.  Names are being named, and accusations are finally being taken seriously.  And I'm hoping that it means that we're finally seeing the Hollywood culture of permissiveness and silence about these heinous acts start to change.  

We're heard about the predatory behavior of powerful entertainment industry figures for as long as there has been an entertainment industry.  The casting couch has been such a long-running joke, it doesn't even ping as outrageous anymore.  And yet, aside from the occasional scandal, people avoid talking about the real incidents of assaults and rapes and harassment.  The Weinsteins and the Tobacks got away with their awful behavior for decades.  There's been a lot of chatter about who knew and who should have known about what Harvey Weinstein was doing, but I believe most of the people who claim that they weren't aware of the particulars.  Hollywood is constantly awash with dodgy gossip, and bad reputations are not always deserved.  There are legal implications to making false accusations, not to mention the likelihood of career suicide.  If you didn't have firsthand knowledge about the behavior about one of the accused, I can understand the urge not to seek it out or rock the boat.

And yet, we've seen people like Kevin Smith and Jane Fonda publically deliver mea culpas for not speaking out or doing more, and the speed with which Hollywood has exiled Harvey Weinstein has been swift.  His defenders have been few, and heavily criticized.  I take some comfort in that.  People aren't shying away from engaging in the discussions this has raised, even if it's only to deliver a carefully crafted soundbite for the cameras.  It's been eye opening to read some of the heartfelt op/eds and thinkpieces that have been circulating in the wake of the scandals, and the accounts of the behind-the-scenes drama at the various news outlets that broke the Weinstein story (or failed to).  I want to believe that the culture is shifting in favor of the victims, that sunlight really is the best disinfectant, and the exposure of Harvey Weinstein and his ilk will lead to a less toxic Hollywood.    

It won't happen immediately, of course, even if the worst offenders are being removed by the scandals.  As with all systemic problems, they're deeply ingrained into the way the business works, and it's going to take a lot of time and effort to fix.   The Weinstein Company seemed to have deals with everyone in town, and severing ties to them has been messy.  James Toback, a writer/director of far less discretion and far fewer credits, still managed to harass women with impunity for ages.  Going back over the list of the men who have been implicated in these scandals over the past few weeks, they're in every corner of Hollywood, new and old: directors, producers, agents, executives, writers, web content creators, and website owners.   

And I hold out hope that if Hollywood can clean up its act, maybe other industries can too. 

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