The man; the myth; the mogul. For decades, Harvey Weinstein has, literally and figuratively, been an imposing figure in Hollywood. He was the star maker; the Oscar winner. A chance to be in one of his lucrative films was seemingly a surefire way to have a lengthy and successful career. He’s the man who took a chance on ground-breaking films such as Pulp Fiction and churned out a series of award winners, such as Good Will Hunting and The King’s Speech.
This week, however, he has been outed for what he really is: An alleged rapist, serial pervert and overall nasty piece of work. He is allegedly responsible for some truly appalling, seedy and grimy behaviour. Yet, despite the outpouring of accusations – everyone from actresses to studio temps to scriptwriters and producers has spoken out against him – he has emerged defiant. Pictured in the press, with his middle fingers firmly in the air, Weinstein barked, “Everybody makes mistakes!”
And, when you look at the history of Hollywood itself, he’s actually correct. Particularly evident since the might of the studio system, vulnerable young starlets have been sexually harassed and assaulted by powerful executives who promised them a career. Hollywood has long been a male playground – even just the fact that male actors are allowed to age gracefully and still have a career is a big double standard – but the Weinstein allegations have only served to highlight something we already know an awful lot about: The casting couch.
Everyone – and by that I mean, even us normal folk – has heard the stories about casting couch situations. Alfred Hitchcock famously harassed his glamorous female stars; frustrated by his own impotence and desires. Hollywood has been sending actresses off for abortions and covering up private lives for decades. This is not something we don’t already know about.
You would be wrong to think that sexual harassment had come a long way since then. Weinstein’s alleged appetite for female attention has been reported in the news as something of an “open secret”. It was a case of “You shouldn’t really be alone with him but, don’t worry, because that’s just Harvey.” You can easily draw comparison with the various BBC scandals wherein the inappropriate behaviour of male staff was simply dismissed owing to their celebrity stature.
The worst of it is, since this scandal broke, I have heard people say things as “Yeah but it’s only actresses whose careers are fading that are suddenly piping up” or “Why have they all stayed silent all this time?” or “Some of those allegations are ridiculous – how can you force someone to receive oral sex?” I don’t understand how there can be any doubt. On a base level, you only need to look at the height and build of Weinstein compared with your average actress to know that fighting someone that size off would be no mean feat.
All of the actresses and actors rushing to speak out now against the man they once adored does seem far too little, too late. In staying silent for decades, they have permitted a truly odious man to allegedly abuse, rape, harass and threaten scores of women; many of whom had to walk away from Hollywood altogether. I understand why many of them were so scared of raising their voice; perhaps they felt betrayed by a system that is so unapologetically stacked against them anyway.
What’s more is – if we are going to pursue Weinstein as a society of outraged liberal thinkers – we really have to perform a bigger clear out. For fuck sake, Casey Affleck was awarded an Oscar soon after he was splashed all over the papers being accused of sexual assault. His fellow actors stood and applauded him – like they still stand and clap for Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. People are still working with these men.
Weinstein has already been fired from his company. But a clearer message would be to shun absolutely all of these vile individuals and their degrading behaviour.
And, if you think this is nothing more than a feminist rant, then you’ll be interested to know that two actors – James Van der Beek and Terry Crewes – have also come forward to say that they have been victims of groping and inappropriate comments. If two fully grown men – who may well be more physically capable of defending themselves than a seven stone actress – are incapable of pushing someone away, what chance do the women have? Moreover, the fact that they, too, remained silent about their attacks proves just how far the twisted grip of abuse in Hollywood reaches. These men were every bit as scared.
The message that comes from the Weinstein allegations is that victims of inappropriate conduct in any line of work shouldn’t have to put up with it because “that’s the way someone is.” Wrong is wrong, no matter how you look at it. Whilst it might seem daunting – especially if the behaviour is coming from someone in a position of authority – the best way to stamp it out is to speak up; repeatedly, if you have to.
Whilst I’m sure that Weinstein will engage a legal team worth millions, there is no sum of money that will repair what’s left of his reputation. Hollywood has always had its rumours and demons – it just needs to get better and faster at casting them out.