There’s little subtlety left within the Harvey Weinstein story, the disgraced studio exec who, according to in-depth NY Times and New Yorker reports, has been exposed as a serial sex predator. Even with the plethora of allegations that are stacked against the co-founder of Miramax and former co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, his allusions to righteous fortitude say everything we need to know about guys like him: the powerful unfailingly will measure the immensity of the self, and belief within one’s own influence, against all of the smallness of other people, no matter how much suffering it’ll cause.
Weinstein, for decades, preyed on women’s vulnerabilities, a network of abuse that is so complex that several reports identified all the lengths to which he had gone to suppress the virulent crusade of sex assault; it involved employing private security companies like Black Cube and Kroll that would spy on potential accusers, which include Rose McGowan (actress), as well as the Times and New York reporters who investigated the claims.
Paralleling with Weinstein’s history of sex abuse is his climb as a formidable movie exec, one with a lot of sway and success to back it up. Although he might be amongst its most prolific, he was not Hollywood’s sole deviant — directors Brett Ratner and James Toback, Roy Price, former Amazon Studios head, as well as actors Dustin Hoffman, Casey Affleck, Kevin Spacey, and Andy Dick, all were accused of subjecting other people to undue sex advances, with more names more than likely to be aired in the future. Outside Hollywood, journalist Mark Halperin, NPR senior Vice President of News Michael Oreskes, and Leon Wieseltier, longtime New Republic editor, also were publicly condemned for sex misbehavior. Powerful men now must reckon with their past sins, and so must we. Plus, in the aftermath, ensuing questions are as obvious as they are complex: Can a system that is as entrenched as this really change? And if it can, what might it look like?
For guys like Spacey, Toback, and Weinstein, the moment, as well as its fallout came with a surprising suddenness: companies ditched clientele; colleagues spurned the accused in a public manner. All over “town,” as the industry of entertainment still insists on calling itself, streaming platforms, movie studios, and brands severed ties and abandoned projects — stalling careers, if not efficiently sidelining most of them for years down the road.
Though, a truer reality, is that sexual harassment and discrimination have knowingly endured in these types of institutions for quite some time, and likely may go on. The careers of Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, and Bill Cosby were derailed, while Trump’s insolent attitude toward females transmogrified to a badge of honor within the campaign cycle — defenders shrugging off his notorious “grab ’em by the p—y” statements as simply “locker room talk.” For a while now, celeb culture diminished the carnivorous habits of males. In spite of several reports of sex misconduct with minors which spanned decades, R. Kelly, R&B singer, still appreciates the trappings of musical stardom. One thing is for sure of American life that has certainly worked in his favor: the fact that young black females hold very little to no authority within a society that is still governed by males.
Within this particular case, to answer the question if a system such as Hollywood may change is to inquire just how much females are valued on each level inside the industry. It is all about the recalibration of power. However, just how should it be done? One recent roundtable discussion amongst five female film and TV execs uncovered a roadmap to what creator and writer Mara Brock-Akil explained as “reprogramming what we’ve permitted”— which is to say, the patriarchal, old methods of the entertainment biz. The females agreed that it all boiled down to representation inside corner offices and boardrooms, in leading roles and director chairs, in production studios and writers’ rooms.