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The Horrors of Harvey and Hollywood

Harvey Weinstein. If you haven’t heard of the name before now, it’s unsurprising. Although he was the owner of one of the greatest production company’s in Hollywood, unless you’re a huge film lover, I can’t blame you for not knowing who he is because he was also one of the most protected men in Hollywood. Even I (a self-proclaimed film addict) knew very little about him; in fact, on paper he seemed to be a generous man, championing females in the film industry and even starting a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC.  While, in hindsight, this all seems incredibly coincidental and almost as if he was trying extra-hard to create a public persona of himself as a feminist and advocate for females in the film industry, at the time, and more generally throughout his career, to the public he seemed harmless. However, Hollywood has always been rife with gossip and rumours; in fact, a story was killed in 2004 detailing backed-up accusations against Weinstein following pressure from Matt Damon, Russell Crowe and even a ‘personal visit’ from Weinstein himself, a man now known to constantly send threats to anyone willing to expose him.

 

If you don’t yet know, the accusations against him have been horrendous; accusations of rape, unsolicited touching and uncomfortable auditions to name a few. The picture painted of the true Harvey Weinstein, not the man behind the well-protected doors of money and power, is dire – it is of a cruel, disgusting man who thought he was so high up and so much greater than everyone else (and also the law) he truly thought he was untouchable. A man who thought he could use his stature to threaten any female he assaulted or harassed, a man who still believes forcing a 20-year-old actress to give him oral sex through fear and intimidation was consensual, a man who thought he could physically attack employees who did not do his bidding as he wished.

 

And why wouldn’t he? In retrospect, we can now see he believed he could get away with anything and everything because that’s what Hollywood allowed him to do, which brings me onto my greater point… Harvey Weinstein isn’t the big problem, nor is he the only problem. What he did is abhorrent and he will go down in film history as an absolutely disgusting man, but the real problems (and I stress they are multi-faceted and many) run much deeper than Weinstein. Hollywood itself is rife with misogyny, assault and harassment, most of which is not only accepted but also sometimes defended.

 

Harvey Weinstein was defended by the likes of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, men with close personal relationships, who knew what was going on because the rumours were more than rumours and yet stayed silent. Men who are profiteers and protected Weinstein when it suited them and now claim that not only did they not know, but that they would have done better had they been aware; these are all claims we know are BS.

 

But, Weinstein is not the first abuser to be insidiously and inherently protected in Hollywood. Roman Polanski is now facing his 4th accusation of sexual assault against a teen, adding to a list of child rape charges spanning over 40 years. How does a man, a known paedophile, still remain defended by Hollywood, perhaps not verbally but at least through the well-known and respected actors who continue to star in his films. Or how about Woody Allen, whose daughter Dylan Farrow accused him of sexually abusing her when she was seven, something she still maintains, and yet he continues to make movie after movie, even having female stars like Kate Winslet defend him (there’s something very Handmaid’s Tale about having females with a platform defend the actions of abusers, but that’s a rant for another time). Men like Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein can only succeed because Hollywood lets them – Hollywood ignores the blunt accusations against these men and protects them because their talent is seemingly worth more than the women whose lives they destroy. And what hilarious irony that Woody Allen is a man ‘sad’ for Harvey Weinstein and the ‘rumours’ being thrown around so heatedly now. Of course, by damning Weinstein he would also be damning himself and why in the world would he do that?

 

Hollywood has an obvious habit of protecting men who in the real world would be probably spending their time in jail, not in a cushy Beverly Hills pad. Power and talent seem to overshadow basic human decency and the victims’ right to human dignity. While their crimes are all terrible, it is Hollywood itself and, in a larger way, our society in general which are complicit in allowing men like these to get away with what they do for so long. A pervasive, systematic sexism has been allowed to grow in Hollywood which allows men like Weinstein to thrive at the expense of women who risk being ‘ruined’ (Weinstein’s own words) if they speak out.

 

And it is a system that we as viewers also perpetuate – there is a general culture in our society to over-sexualise actresses (stemming from Hollywood’s own sexualisation of them) and then victim-blame them when assault does occur. We even buy into the idea that to land a good part sometimes you need to go along with harassment from creepy sleazes. The idea of this ‘casting couch’ is so well-known it has its own Wikipedia page. This kind of expectation isn’t so removed from us either – I don’t know about you but I’ve worked in a few pubs/restaurants and heard rumours about many more in which there was an expectation of sexual favours to the boss if you wanted to move up in the job.

 

With that in mind, it’s about women started feeling able to speak up. The huge exposition of the pervasive nature of Hollywood will hopefully mean change is coming. Hollywood needs to do better, but so do we.

Edited by Niamh Perry

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