Not just a show­biz thing, up to ev­ery­one to fight it

In Hol­ly­wood, there are hopes that film pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein’s fall will give rise to change, writes

Daily News - - VIEWS & ANALYSIS -

AS AL­LE­GA­TIONS of sex­ual mis­con­duct against Har­vey We­in­stein con­tinue to pour in, many in the film in­dus­try are won­der­ing what this means for a cul­ture that has al­lowed not just the famed mogul but also Bill Cosby, Ro­man Polan­ski, Woody Allen and oth­ers ac­cused of preda­tory be­hav­iour to flour­ish.

While some hope that the sheer num­ber of women com­ing for­ward – and the sub­se­quent fir­ing of We­in­stein from his own com­pany – sig­nals a shift­ing wind, oth­ers re­main un­con­vinced that change will come any time soon.

“This is cor­po­rate cul­ture,” says di­rec­tor Paul Feig ( Brides­maids, 2016’s Ghost­busters), “and all business, all cor­po­rate cul­ture is go­ing to make ex­cuses for the per­son who is mak­ing them a lot of money.”

Al­le­ga­tions against We­in­stein, founder of Mi­ra­max and the We­in­stein Com­pany, have been, ac­cord­ing to many sources, an open se­cret in Hol­ly­wood for decades.

They were first made pub­lic by the me­dia in a scathing ex­posé in the New York Times on Oc­to­ber 5, then bol­stered and ex­panded in a New Yorker ar­ti­cle on Tues­day and a sec­ond Times story the same day.

More than 20 women have now made claims against We­in­stein, in­clud­ing Gwyneth Pal­trow, An­gelina Jolie, Rose McGowan, Rosanna Ar­quette and Mira Sorvino.

Di­rec­tor Maria Giese, who has been out­spo­ken about gen­der par­ity in the film in­dus­try, ex­pects that more ac­cu­sa­tions will fol­low.

“We are at the be­gin­ning of a tsunami,” she says, “It’s rolling, and the force be­hind it is so strong, you can’t stop it.”

Car­o­line Held­man, a pro­fes­sor at Oc­ci­den­tal Col­lege and a sur­vivor ad­vo­cate, worked closely with Cosby’s vic­tims through­out his trial. Once al­le­ga­tions like these start gain­ing steam, she says, more peo­ple feel com­fort­able go­ing pub­lic with their sto­ries.

“The snow­ball ef­fect is a real thing,” says Held­man. “With Cosby sur­vivors, the num­ber reached a crit­i­cal mass of around 10, then sud­denly it shot up to 62. We’ve seen it with Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes as well,” re­fer­ring the Fox News vet­er­ans who left the com­pany in the wake of ha­rass­ment claims.

But there are still plenty of rea­sons that vic­tims stay silent. Women in all in­dus­tries who have ex­pe­ri­enced ha­rass­ment or other forms of sex­ual abuse face po­ten­tially crip­pling reper­cus­sions for speak­ing out – a fact that We­in­stein re­port­edly used to his ad­van­tage, ad­mon­ish­ing women for re­fus­ing him and ter­ror­is­ing those who spoke of his at­tacks to friends and fam­ily. Many are trau­ma­tised by their ex­pe­ri­ences and would find speak­ing out to be re-trau­ma­tis­ing. Plus, there’s no guar­an­tee that go­ing pub­lic will yield any mean­ing­ful change.

“I hope that (the al­le­ga­tions against We­in­stein) will lessen the be­hav­iour over­all, and in­crease the num­ber of men who put an end to the be­hav­iour when they see it,” says Kirsten Schaf­fer, the pres­i­dent of the Los An­ge­les-based non-profit group Women in Film, “but his­tory is not on our side.”

Screen­writer Diana Os­sana ( Broke­back Moun­tain) has also ex­pe­ri­enced this fear first­hand. While she was never ex­plic­itly ha­rassed or as­saulted by some­one within the film in­dus­try, she says, she was raped by a man she knew at the age of 19.

“You’re afraid to come for­ward be­cause you’re afraid peo­ple won’t be­lieve you,” says Os­sana, “and you’ll be blamed for some­thing, and you’ll be dragged through the mud.”

When an al­leged at­tacker is a man like We­in­stein, the deck is stacked even fur­ther against any­one who might pub­licly ac­cuse him. The size, scope and in­flu­ence of Hol­ly­wood is nearly un­ri­valled, even among other white-col­lar in­dus­tries.

Drew Denny, an indie film­maker whose movies have ap­peared in AFI Fest, Out­fest and other fes­ti­vals, says that right af­ter film school, “I was treated in pretty dis­gust­ing ways by men who I wanted to hire me, and that dis­cour­aged me from work­ing in the film business. The sad thing is, if some­thing is your dream, it’s your dream.”

She was par­tic­u­larly dis­turbed by how many We­in­stein ac­cusers quit the in­dus­try af­ter these in­ci­dents.

“You look at this land­scape of sto­ry­tellers and there’s so few women, and you re­alise that some of them are miss­ing be­cause they were ha­rassed and abused,” says Denny.

“Peo­ple like Har­vey are gate­keep­ers to peo­ple’s liveli­hoods, peo­ple’s dreams, peo­ple’s rep­u­ta­tions,” adds Feig.

“He knows that ev­ery­body wants some­thing from him and he has the power to give it to them, and worse yet, he has the power to de­stroy them if he doesn’t get what he wants. That’s what makes this so hor­ren­dous.”

Which means that de­spite the avalanche of al­le­ga­tions against We­in­stein, other pow­er­ful Hol­ly­wood play­ers may be re­luc­tant to speak out. Of the 10 film stu­dios and tal­ent agen­cies which The Wash­ing­ton Post con­tacted for this story, six did not re­spond, three de­clined to com­ment and one failed to pro­vide a spokesper­son in time.

Some in­sid­ers be­lieve that un­til these al­le­ga­tions af­fect com­pa­nies’ bot­tom lines or a mas­sive cul­tural shift takes place, lit­tle will change.

In the mean­time, the high-pro­file na­ture of the story might at least have a chill­ing ef­fect on other preda­tors, or those who are com­plicit.

“I’m op­ti­mistic we’ve turned a cor­ner,” says Held­man.

“The very fact that Har­vey was held ac­count­able by his board, whereas Polan­ski and Allen have been cel­e­brated, in­di­cates that we are in a new place where we take these crimes more se­ri­ously.”

Giese adds that hav­ing these sto­ries go pub­lic takes away a vile tool in at­tack­ers’ ar­se­nals.

“The abil­ity of women to speak out means that peo­ple can’t use black­list­ing any more as a way of forc­ing women to have sex,” she says.

Schaf­fer hopes that the We­in­stein scan­dal will also en­cour­age other men to stand up for vic­tims – even if the per­son be­ing ac­cused, or be­hav­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ately, is a friend.

“Men pay a crit­i­cal role in call­ing this out,” she says. “Some­times it’s as sim­ple as nudg­ing their buddy and say­ing, ‘Hey, cut it out,’ or ‘Hey, leave her alone.’ Those who are com­mit­ted to gen­der par­ity and or a fair and eq­ui­table so­ci­ety have to be com­mit­ted to putting an end to it.”

Chal­leng­ing friends be­comes par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in a cul­ture in which the push for equal­ity is of­ten met with an op­pos­ing push to turn back the clock. Many of the peo­ple The Post spoke to had a hard time avoid­ing com­par­isons be­tween We­in­stein and another prom­i­nent pub­lic fig­ure.

“This is not iso­lated just to Hol­ly­wood,” says Os­sana. “Look at our own pres­i­dent. The way he speaks about women sets the tone for a lot.”

“This is not just a show­biz thing,” adds Feig. “It’s up to ev­ery­body to fight this and sup­port vic­tims, to take it se­ri­ously.”

“It’s 2017,” he adds. “This can­not be go­ing on.” – The Wash­ing­ton Post

Al­le­ga­tions against film pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein, founder of Mi­ra­max and the We­in­stein Com­pany, have ap­par­ently been an open se­cret in Hol­ly­wood for decades.

Claims of sex­ual preda­tory be­hav­iour have been made against ac­tor Bill Cosby, left, ac­tor/ di­rec­tor Woody Allen, cen­tre, and di­rec­tor Ro­man Polan­ski.

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