Is Hollywood's Reaction To Harvey Weinstein The Birth Of A Less Complicit Industry?
Everybody comes to Hollywood... how could it hurt you when it looks so good? As Madonna sung in her 2003 single, to the outside, Hollywood is the only place you could ever want to be, but on the inside, it can be a lot darker. For many musicians and actresses, the road to stardom is long and winding, with abuse, coercion and threats hidden amongst the scenery. People, more specifically men, in senior positions are commonly found abusing their power when it comes to the young women desperately trying to make a name for themselves, using promises of career advancement in exchange for their own sick agendas. Whilst sexual abuse in the form of harassment and assault has played as part of the Hollywood narrative for so long, the recent news of actresses stepping forward to accuse producer giant Harvey Weinstein of sexually assaulting them is undoubtedly changing the discourse surrounding the seedy underbelly of the movie industry.
Claims of Weinstein's abuse span back to when he co-founded production company Miramax with his brother, which they sold to Disney back in 1993. Since then, he's stayed strong in the film industry, working with his namesake production firm, the Weinstein Company and has continued working with Hollywood greats. As actresses including Ashley Judd and Romola Garai stepped forward to tell their stories of harassment and 'humiliation', a strong case was being built against the producer. In the following days, Weinstein Company's board made the decision to fire Weinstein, and have since announced that they're exploring a name change and will be removing him from all future project credits. In fact, whilst I'm sat writing this, a notification has flashed up on my phone to announce that a further three women have accused Harvey Weinstein of rape in an exposé in the New Yorker. A reign of abuse on this scale leaves me to wonder if this is enough to tempt the entertainment industry away from the immoral - but albeit easier - route of being complicit in the more sinister aspects of Hollywood.
Weinstein's lawyer, Lisa Bloom, originally said that some of the accusations were 'patently false', and went on to say that the producer 'has acknowledged mistakes he has made. He is reading books and going to therapy. He is an old dinosaur learning new ways.' Since then, Bloom resigned as his advisor, probably wishing to avoid having to provide any form of defence for Weinstein. Besides, books and therapy don't cure rapists.
Initially, the movie industry was criticised for not speaking out sooner, but since then many high-profile stars have spoken out about the claims. Meryl Streep, who worked with Weinstein on The Iron Lady in addition to some other projects, said that she was 'appalled' by his 'disgraceful' behaviour. Speaking to Huffington Post, she praised 'the intrepid women who raised their voices to expose this abuse', calling them 'heroes'. Dame Judi Dench spoke of how she was 'completely unaware' of the 'horrifying' goings-on, and in a similar sentiment to Streep, stood in solidarity with the victims. The actress, who's had a working relationship with Weinstein spanning over two decades, said, 'I offer my sympathy to those who have suffered, and wholehearted support to those who have spoken out.'
Kate Winslet, who starred in Weinstein's The Reader, also released a statement, even admitting that she'd heard rumours about Weinstein in the past and ignored them. Reflecting on how she thought accusations were merely hearsay, the actress said, 'maybe we have all been naive'.
'The fact that these women are starting to speak out about the gross misconduct of one of our most-important and well-regarded film producers, is incredibly brave and has been deeply shocking to hear,' Winslet began in her statement. 'The way Harvey Weinstein has treated these vulnerable, talented young women is not the way women should ever, ever deem to be acceptable or commonplace in any workplace.'
Also whilst writing, reports of Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie have emerged, with both actresses claiming that they too were harassed and had 'a bad experience' with the film mogul.
Many Hollywood stars including George Clooney, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Lawrence, Olivia Wilde, and more have made statements to press or via social media condemning the producer that kickstarted and helped so many of their careers. But this is not new to Hollywood. Sexual abuse and rape claims have rocked Hollywood before, with allegations being made against Woody Allen and Casey Affleck, just to name a couple. But people still want to star in Allen's films, and Affleck still went on and won an Oscar. Also, despite sacking Weinstein when everything came to light, we have to ask ourselves if the Weinstein Company would've ever got rid of him had the accusations been kept under wraps. But with buried paperwork indicating that Weinstein had been involved in a series of financial settlements in exchange for victims anonymity dating back decades, the firm's complicity to Weinstein's actions is clear. As celebrities step forward to condemn Weinstein and his actions, will the industry actually learn anything going forward?
Sexual abuse on any level is unacceptable, regardless of the industry or situation, or the number of people that are aware of it. The violation of power - and of victims - that Weinstein felt was allowed given his position deserves this level of uproar - if not more - but it's a shame that this is the first case of an abusive male figure in Hollywood that's truly having their ass handed to them. Naomi Wolf described the sacking of Weinstein as 'a landmark in penalties for this kind of eruption of testimony' against a man in such a position of power. Attitudes towards sexual abuse in Hollywood need to change, and it's common knowledge that it often goes unreported, or not taken further to avoid bad press. One of the actresses who had been previously paid out by Weinstein, Rose McGowan, said: 'Men in Hollywood need to change ASAP. Hollywood's power is dying because society has changed and grown, and yet Hollywood male behaviour has not.' With that in mind, we can only be hopeful that it will set an example for the industry's future when it comes to having a no-tolerance policy for this kind of thing, but until the next time, I guess we won't be sure.