Hap­pily Har­vey We­in­stein is de­throned, sadly it ex­poses how pow­er­less Hol­ly­wood’s most pow­er­ful ac­tresses are

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION - Renuka.Bisht@

Some­times vic­to­ry­has the bit­ter taste of de­feat. Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein got fired this week, as an NYT in­ves­tiga­tive story into decades of his preda­tory be­hav­iour un­chained an es­ca­lat­ing se­ries of com­plaints of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. Among fem­i­nists, this tak­ing down of a mon­ster should feel very plea­sur­able but some­how it doesn’t.

One rea­son is that it has left the fe­male he­roes more rather than less em­bat­tled. Look at the com­ments sec­tion of any me­dia or so­cial me­dia and you will find such a mass of dis­il­lu­sion­ment di­rected at the A-list su­per­stars who are role mod­els for so many women, be­cause of their por­trayal of em­pow­ered women.

Meryl Streep has had more Os­car nom­i­na­tions than any other ac­tor, her ca­reer cham­pi­oned for 20 years by “God Har­vey We­in­stein” as she now in­fa­mously pro­claimed him. To her, the an­guished ques­tion is, did you just look the other way?

Gwyneth Pal­trow has dis­closed that when she was 22 years old the pro­ducer led her to his room, for a mas­sage. It pet­ri­fied her. In re­buff­ing him she feared for her ca­reer. But she was the god­daugh­ter of Steven Spiel­berg! So how come she didn’t do more to make sure that “Un­cle Har­vey” as she called him then, didn’t ex­ploit other ac­tresses, who didn’t have rich and suc­cess­ful par­ents for backup or Brad Pitt for a boyfriend?

Even Ash­ley Judd whose rev­e­la­tions re­ally set the ball rolling on the de­thron­ing of We­in­stein, is be­ing cru­elly to pre­vent sex­ual abuse in the first place, they are the ones be­ing held re­spon­si­ble for not mak­ing sure it didn’t hap­pen to oth­ers.

The big­ger rea­son for dis­quiet is how sex­ual ha­rass­ment was in­sti­tu­tion­alised so that com­pany ex­ec­u­tives, lawyers, mem­bers of me­dia and the Hol­ly­wood fra­ter­nity served as “hon­ey­pots” and col­lab­o­ra­tors. The si­lenc­ing, the abuse of power and priv­i­lege, the sys­tem of pro­tect­ing the abuser not the abused, we just don’t know how wide and deep this toxic su­per­struc­ture runs in our in­dus­tries, com­mu­ni­ties, fam­i­lies. One mon­ster down, we worry how many oth­ers are prey­ing away un­touched.

In the Mira Nair film Mon­soon Wedding, when it first comes to light that an un­cle whose mu­nif­i­cence lifts the boat of many in the fam­ily, also mo­lests young girls in the fam­ily, they don’t quite know what to do about it. Sex­ual crimes within the fam­ily cause so many ca­su­al­ties. In be­ing un­cov­ered they throw up so much filth that no one in the vicin­ity es­capes soil­ing. In stand­ing by her hus­band, the un­cle’s wife be­comes tainted with guilt even though hers may be just an­other sort of vic­tim­hood.

But in the face of all the tur­moil, one fact re­mains pure and true: in the light the next gen­er­a­tion will be safer than the last was in the dark. In the Mira Nair film the oust­ing of the un­cle from the fam­ily means its younger girls are less at risk. You can ar­gue the pu­n­ish­ment is not enough but it is de­ter­rence for the crime. The pil­lo­ry­ing of We­in­stein in the peo­ple’s court means a safer work­place for young fe­male ac­tors, not all of them, but many of them. Enough for it to re­ally, re­ally mat­ter.

Think­ing through the metaphor of Hol­ly­wood as one big fam­ily spread far and wide, a woman feel­ing hap­less in the face of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in Dehradun or Ben­galuru can ex­pe­ri­ence a con­nec­tion with Eve­lyn Salt, Lara Croft, Pep­per Potts that gives her the strength to protest, or at least sur­vive and thrive. Hence the de­gree of dis­ap­point­ment with say An­gelina Jolie or Gwyneth Pal­trow. The logic goes, with great power comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The most sor­row­ful rev­e­la­tion of the We­in­stein scan­dal is how lit­tle power even the most pow­er­ful ac­tresses have. Al­though here at home A-lis­ters like Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Cho­pra, Alia Bhatt and Anushka Shetty ap­pear too strong to be silent vic­tims, the scan­dal has taught that ap­pear­ances can be ex­ceed­ingly de­cep­tive. It’s dif­fi­cult to be happy that We­in­stein is toast be­cause of an atavis­tic fear that mon­sters like him are se­cretly feast­ing away all around.

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