A bombshell New York Times story revealed that superstar Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been paying off women who accused him of sexual harassment for over two decades. The ensuing fallout, not to mention Weinstein’s wildly offensive mea culpa, prompted his namesake Weinstein Company to can him this week. This revelation didn’t surprise me much, although for some weird reason I’d always thought Weinstein was gay.
Weinstein came to prominence as the head of Miramax, which produced some of the most popular films of the past 25 years. I always found him distasteful and smarmy since he purchased the Academy Award in 1999 for his mediocre and forgettable “Shakespeare in Love” and its “It Girl” star Gwyneth Paltrow.
According to the report, the accusations that Weinstein made unwelcome sexual advances to young women in his employ came mainly from former staff and associates; in other words, no-names. Ashley Judd was the first high-profile actress to go on record as having been propositioned by Weinstein back in the 1990s, but in the days since the story broke other famous names including Mira Sorvino, Angelina Jolie, and even Weinstein muse Paltrow, have joined the chorus. The question is why they all waited until now. Weinstein's behavior was clearly the most open secret in Hollywood.
Like Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, Weinstein and his attorneys paid his accusers big money to go away. And they did, for the most part. I’ve often wondered if I were in the same position, a struggling and vulnerable young person starting my career, if I would take the money and run. A hundred grand would do a lot for me then and now. Or if I would do the right thing and refuse the bribe in order to call the predator out and protect other potential victims. It’s a hard call, and one I can’t answer.
But I do know that because the unknown, aspiring female reporters at Fox News waited until they were financially secure, established personalities to out Roger Ailes, and because all but a couple brave Bill Cosby accusers were afraid to come forward about a powerful and beloved celebrity until it was safe to do so, these predators were allowed to continue preying on many more innocent women for many more years.
This is true of Weinstein. Except in his case, there is an added twist. The Hollywood twist. Weinstein flaunted his supposed liberalism and devotion to liberal causes, and was a contributor to Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emmanuel’s campaigns. And Hollywood is endlessly lecturing us on how it is the arbiter of all things progressive and enlightened.
I’ve always found this ironic coming from an industry that practices extreme age discrimination, shamelessly discards female actors once they turn 40, and glorifies rampant gun violence in its productions. I’ve long since stopped watching awards shows, because I don’t care to sit through a three-hour political tirade by self-righteous, overprivileged children who are not qualified to preach to me.
Being the cynical sort in general, my B.S.-o-meter spikes when I observe the newfound disapproval on the part of Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet, among others, who protest that they had no idea Harvey had a predilection for being a pervert, but now that it’s all out in the open, they consider it unacceptable! Unless one lives in an ivory tower, which they do not, it’s very hard to believe that they and other established film stars never heard rumors about his behavior, even if they had not personally experienced it. Hollywood has been called the smallest town in America. Weinstein’s lechery was a punch line years ago on Tina Fey’s “30 Rock.” Did she know too? Was it just a source of good material?
What did all these celebrities know and when did they know it? Why was nothing said or done? Why did no one come forward with what they knew? Established actors and other Tinseltown professionals had more clout and less at stake than some 22-year-old unknown ingenue.
I suspect it was because they wanted to keep those Oscar roles coming, and Harvey doled those out like candy to the favored few. Hollywood is notorious for protecting its own, going all the way back to Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato.
And of course liberal Hollywood hypocrisy came into play. When it’s Clarence Thomas, Donald Trump or Bill O’Reilly, it’s misogynistic victimization of women, but this was just Harvey being Harvey, after all. It’s okay when it’s one of us. Actress Rose McGowan is now one of those belatedly accusing Weinstein of sexually harassing her unsophisticated younger self; I have a clear recollection of her defending then-President Bill Clinton’s behavior on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.
Remember all the faux outrage over Trump’s groping scandal? Meryl Streep bitch-slapped Trump for something like ten minutes from her pulpit at the Golden Globe awards. On behalf of untold others, I would like to say something to Streep and her Hollywood brethren: Shut the fuck up and act. You have absolutely no moral high ground to stand on from which to proselytize and lecture the rest of us about how people and politicians should behave and about how compassionate you are. In fact, you stand on lower ground. You knowingly protected and enabled a sexual predator, through your actions or silence or willful ignorance, because that predator was one of your own.
People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
I suspect this is only the tip of the iceberg. Now that it’s finally out we’ll begin hearing more not only about Weinstein but other powerful Hollywood movers and shakers, maybe even famous actors, who have engaged in similar behavior. I say bring it on.
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