On Hollywood: A Cruel Tradition

“Hollywood” is a general term that people in entertainment use to describe the industry as a whole. Hollywood is a macrocosm of actors and directors, writers and producers; all people who have essentially “made it” into an exclusive world of stardom. The journey to the elite is one of immense sweat and tears and rejection, particularly on the behave of the actors and actresses. Actors are required to endure the pressures of those in power in order to succeed in their careers despite their great capabilities as talent. More than often, this endurance includes uncomfortable and inappropriate situations with people who control the industry, and in turn, have the power to control you.   

The insidious behavior that I am speaking of is that of Harvey Weinstein and other men in Hollywood that have besieged the trust and careers of women for decades. This past week I have read numerous articles from those who have chosen to share their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse. This includes actresses such as Lupita Nyong'o, Gwyneth Paltrow and filmmaker Sarah Polley whose stories have been able to enlighten the public on the horrid behavior that Hollywood has blatantly ignored for years.

Aside from the personal stories that have been shared by valiant women in all levels of the industry, what has surprised us the most is the number of people who were aware of what was going on. This brings us to question the industry as we know it, as many people know it. The reason no one has spoken out about this in the past is because the behavior of Weinstein and others like him has become normalized in the business. Actresses are wary of this type of conduct because of the warnings they get --“go to the meeting but don’t accept the hotel invitation”, “make sure your agent stays with you”, and “try not to be left alone with him”. While these small remarks of good wisdom may seem like cordial tips from those more experienced, they are all but acceptable. Women should not be afraid that their director or producer/collaborator is going to assault them on Tuesday afternoon just because “that’s the way things work” in Hollywood.

This idea that powerful men can reside over the dignity and fate of these women is a disease that has plagued the business for far too long. That type of behavior is not isolated; it does not operate in a vacuum. The accusations against Weinstein, Woody Allen, Lars von Trier and many others are an ever-present problem with the infrastructure of Hollywood. What this tells us is that even though people (people with a lot of power) know this is going on, they persistently do nothing about it. Essentially it’s a chronic endorsement of an insatiable need to manipulate those within the industry.

This manipulation comes at a great cost. Those who are assaulted and abused, sometimes for years, are left with the mortification of knowing that brilliant people who are praised and adored by the public are actually monsters. But as the story goes, no one ever seems to be held accountable for anything. There has been some discussion about removing Weinstein’s name from every movie he has ever taken part in and changing the name of his company, which he was fired from earlier this month. The problem with this is that it will not change anything that he has already done. This man has had a prolific career all while degrading women and forcing himself upon them, how is taking his name off of the credits going to hurt him now? Should we also take the directing credits off of Woody Allen’s films even though he stars in half of them? Will Lars von Trier be less well known and critically acclaimed if they remove his films from the Criterion Collection? No, the answer to all of these questions is no. These men have made their mark in the industry with all their wit and talent and wicked manipulation of those beneath them. Discrediting them from their work will do nothing for the women they have already humiliated.

So how do we bring about change the heinous system that is our source for entertainment? In the words of John Stewart "The best defense against the bulls--t is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something." Although John Stewart was not specifically talking about sexual harassment in Hollywood, he does make a valid point: Vigilance and action from those in charge is what we should strive for from now on. That being said, I wish that I could believe that good will and merit by those who speak up will change anything in the near future, but I am doubtful. I am doubtful because even as a young student filmmaker, even I see the bulls--t every day and unfortunately my voice is not the only one being ignored. 

Harvey Weinstein's accusers