We­in­stein’s seat at the Os­cars

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

Har­vey We­in­stein’s spec­tac­u­lar plunge into dis­grace has been astounding to watch. Not only has a who’s who of Hol­ly­wood de­nounced him, but his com­pany has fired him, his brother called him a “sick man” and a “liar” and his wife left him. The Bri­tish Academy of Film and Tele­vi­sion Arts sus­pended his mem­ber­ship, USC turned down a $5-mil­lion gift from him and the Bri­tish govern­ment may strip him of an honorary or­der of chivalry.

The re­jec­tion that may hurt the most, how­ever, could come Satur­day, when the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­tures Arts and Sci­ences’ Board of Gov­er­nors meets to con­sider whether to re­voke the pro­ducer’s mem­ber­ship. The or­ga­ni­za­tion re­leased a state­ment this week call­ing the sex­ual ha­rass­ment and sex­ual as­saults he has been ac­cused of “re­pug­nant, ab­hor­rent, and an­ti­thet­i­cal to the high stan­dards of the Academy and the cre­ative com­mu­nity it rep­re­sents.”

If half the sto­ries about We­in­stein are true, the academy’s state­ment is en­tirely jus­ti­fied. And if, as a re­sult, the or­ga­ni­za­tion wants to boot him from its ranks, it should by all means do so. In our view, the speed and fury with which the Hol­ly­wood com­mu­nity has re­pu­di­ated We­in­stein in re­cent days has been a good thing, send­ing a strong mes­sage to oth­ers that sex­ual ha­rass­ment and sex­ual as­sault are cor­ro­sive and in­tol­er­a­ble.

But academy mem­bers also should move for­ward thought­fully. If they’re go­ing to oust We­in­stein be­cause his be­hav­ior is what they call “an­ti­thet­i­cal to the high stan­dards of the Academy,” then why do they re­port­edly al­low Ro­man Polan­ski to be a mem­ber — and why did they give an Os­car to him in 2003 — even though he is a fugi­tive who fled the coun­try to avoid more jail time for drug­ging and rap­ing a 13-year-old girl? And where were the emer­gency meet­ings to dis­cuss Bill Cosby, who is re­ported also to be a mem­ber of the academy and who is await­ing a re­trial for sex­ual as­sault — and has faced dozens of al­le­ga­tions at least as hor­ri­fy­ing as the ac­cu­sa­tions made against We­in­stein.

The be­hav­ior of which We­in­stein has been ac­cused is de­plorable, but if the academy is go­ing to be­gin polic­ing its mem­bers for be­hav­ior that meets its “stan­dards,” it needs to think about what those stan­dards are and ap­ply them con­sis­tently. Any in­dus­try group can es­tab­lish a code of con­duct for its mem­bers and en­force that code, but fair­ness re­quires that it not be used se­lec­tively or capri­ciously or when head­lines are swirling and out­rage is in the air.

We’d like to be­lieve that the in­dus­try (and, frankly, so­ci­ety) is turn­ing a cor­ner. But ex­pelling Har­vey We­in­stein from the academy has value only if it is backed by a real com­mit­ment to change.

The academy, the stu­dios, the stars and the rest of the in­dus­try need to make it clear that even af­ter We­in­stein slinks away, they will stay on this. There needs to be a ze­ro­tol­er­ance pol­icy for sex­ual as­sault and sex­ual ha­rass­ment. That, in turn, will be more achiev­able only when there are more women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions — mean­ing ex­ec­u­tives, pro­duc­ers, di­rec­tors. (The We­in­stein Co.’s board was all male.) Maybe some­one should step for­ward to re­place the $5 mil­lion We­in­stein was go­ing to give USC to train fe­male di­rec­tors. Also, there should be fewer nondis­clo­sure agree­ments that pro­hibit peo­ple from speak­ing up about sex­ual mis­con­duct. And there should be more eth­i­cal cor­po­rate lead­ers who are will­ing to con­front problems head on, rather than just buy­ing the si­lence of ac­cusers.

Blame Har­vey We­in­stein, by all means. But don’t stop there.

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