Notes on a Scandal
Miramax in 1979, Weinstein, who could make or break a career with the snap of a grubby finger, had routinely been getting away with sexually assaulting and harassing his female employees.
As disclosed these these last few weeks, victims of Weinstein’s lewd conduct include Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and others. Horrifically, the list keeps growing.
Weinstein has been fittingly blacklisted from Hollywood. He’s been fired by his own company and expelled from the Academy. Celebrity statements have been universally condemnatory. Amazon even pulled the plug on a David O. Russell television series simply because Weinstein’s name was attached. He’s also been vilified by his family: His brother Bob (now ironically accused of harassment himself) says he’s “ashamed” to be related to him, and Weinstein’s wife has left him. Clearly, Hollywood isn’t taking these allegations lightly. But is the reprimanding of Weinstein a step forward for the industry?
Part of me wants to say yes. Studio executives, from Darryl F. Zanuck to Harry Cohn, have been getting away with sexual and emotional atrocities for more than a century. As such, this new-found accountability makes it appear as though Hollywood is finally taking responsibility for its callous treatment of women.
But the more I think about members of the entertainment machine who continue to be celebrated in lieu of purported sexual predations — with Casey Affleck, Woody Allen, and especially Roman Polanski coming to mind — the more I cynically ponder if Hollywood’s banishing of Weinstein has more to do with a concern for public image than morality.
Actors and financiers know, for instance, that Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s. They know that Allen had an affair with, and eventually married, his adopted daughter — whom he first met when she was 9 years old — and that there are allegations that he molested another one of his adopted children, Dylan, when she was 7. They know that Affleck sexually harassed two female employees on the set of I’m Still Here.
Yet these men continue to thrive. They still get A-listers to work with them, and they still win Oscars. So what will it take for them to be banished in a fashion similar to Weinstein?
Answers don’t come easily. To help make sense of it all, I recommend reading actress-turned-director Sarah Polley’s op-ed in The New York Times, in which she comes to terms with the situation and calls Weinstein “just one festering pustule in a diseased industry.”
In the piece, Polley admits that she knew of Weinstein’s sins long before they became public. But like so many, she felt so powerless that she likened whistleblowing to being “as distant an ambition as pulling the sun out of the sky.”
That feeling of helplessness is familiar to everyone. So, like Polley, one can only hope that this scandal will change the industry, and that it will encourage people to speak up when an authority figure uses their title as an excuse for their evils.
Given the rise of #MeToo and the increasing number of individuals sharing their encounters with sexual assault and harassment in the aftermath of the scandal, it looks like we’re already making progress. After all, there’s no reason misogyny should be undefeatable.
- OCTOBER 20, 2017
This piece also appeared in The Daily.
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esides the assortment of class deadlines gnawing at the back of my brain, the thing most frequently on my mind these days has been the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which has understandably set the entertainment industry, the media, and the public alight.
As revealed by nauseating the New Yorker and the New York Times investigations, Weinstein’s tenure as a studio executive has been something of a reign of terror. Since co-founding