A disturbing aura of influence
‘‘The story sounds so good I want to buy the movie rights,’’ Harvey Weinstein joked before the scandal broke.
Hollywood film mogul exploits his power to sexually harass aspiring actresses and models, buying and bullying his way out of any sign of trouble.
But surely it would be a screenplay too hackneyed to get green-lit? The stuff of tinseltown cliche.
Though the disgraced movie producer embodies a stereotype established in another era, only the naive would have assumed the film industry had rid itself of its ‘‘casting couch’’ before his indecent proposals were exposed bya New York Times investigation.
As loathsome as his conduct was, using the facade of business meetings to coerce his sexual fancies, it didn’t come as a big surprise.
What has been truly disturbing, as the dominos have continued to fall with each new allegation, is the complicit culture of privilege and fear that has allowed Weinstein’s abhorrent behaviour to become a lifestyle for 30 years.
His actions were tolerated and enabled by family, his colleagues, the industry, and the media – and justified through power and wealth.
The New York Times has had to work a lot harder to expose Weinstein than he did to keep his alleged harassment hidden. Because he largely didn’t.
Pay-offs and private settlements proved an effective way to make his accusers go away. But mostly he has ruled due to an aura of influence.
You don’t say no to Harvey Weinstein, and he knew it.
Actress Ashley Judd, the first to publicly name and shame Weinstein, did say no, in 1997. It’s hard now not to notice that her career began to languish soon afterwards.
Other young actresses likely noticed too, and he was probably counting on it. It’s an imbalance of power that has seemingly paralysed the industry.
Only after Weinstein was sacked from his own company, his career in ruins, did the Hollywood A-listers grow a spine and condemn his misconduct. One wonders what other powerful Hollywood players are still being protected.
As his victims continue to come forward, and other Hollywood identities are called out for their own sexually inappropriate behaviour, there is hope Hollywood could be experiencing a metamorphosis. Or it could just be frantic damage control.
This is an industry that has celebrated director Roman Polanski despite his rape of a 13-year-old in 1977, and offered indifference to last year’s confession from Last Tango In Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci that a rape scene was shot without actress Maria Schneider’s consent to make it more authentic.