The Woeful Mr. Weinstein

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Image courtesy of Thomas Hawk via Flickr

*Content Warning for sexual assault and harassment

Decades of speculation and rumour concerning gross abuses of power by Harvey Weinstein against young actresses have finally come to light in the last month, as an avalanche of exposés and interviews. It’s been hard to keep up with the slew of new testimonies from Gwyneth Paltrow, Heather Graham, Eva Green, Cara Delevingne and many more. Six women have directly accused him of rape, including Rose McGowan. Other stories began to flood out, including complaints about Ben Affleck’s past behavior. He made a public apology on Twitter, to which McGowan replied “Fuck off”.

McGowan, often outspoken but well within her rights, was controversially suspended from Twitter afterwards. What began to take shape through many press outlets was an oppressive blanket that attempted to frame the victims as at fault, either for not talking sooner or for speaking up at all. Thankfully, the mainstream media responded with disgust. But, it’s endemic of a deeper issue. The story of sexual harassment has roots many never want to tear up, uncomfortable with where they lead.

Why do some people attack the victims over the abuser? Possibly they can’t empathise with the victims because they have been the abuser in the past. However, Affleck quickly spoke out to condemn Weinstein before his own controversy began, suggesting he wanted to partake in some shallow virtue-signaling to distance himself from his own actions. The Weinstein Company has evicted Harvey, but McGowan again called for Tom (Weinstein), who has also been marred by similar controversies, to receive the same treatment.

Some have tried to paint the firing as a hugely progressive step for Hollywood, but it’s simply not true; Jennifer Lawrence recently came forward with her own story about a cabal of shady executives, none of whom were named Weinstein.
Whilst the right-wing outrage is hypocritical, the liberal elite of Hollywood are hardly any better. Sexual harassment is a nonpartisan issue.

It has been an open secret in the industry for years. Yet, actors still queue up to defend or work with director Roman Polanski despite him raping a child. These left-wing monoliths appear to have rather flexible morality. Even Meryl Streep, one of Hollywood’s biggest advocates for equal pay and women’s rights, has defended Polanski. If Corey Feldman’s accounts of wide-spread child abuse are to be believed, Hollywood has a scary problem with pedophilia, alongside the rampant sexism and harassment. What is often touted, with disgust or with admiration, as the most representative and liberal institution in the USA today, has a truly rotten core.

Is it in those who continue to support artists and public figures who have committed assault or rape? Personally, I find the continued love for Soundcloud superstar XXXTentacion to be disturbing, given the accounts of movie villain-level violence levelled against him.

Harassment will not stop in even the most ‘liberal’ of institutions without a more constructive and combative stance being taken by everyone who can do so. Sadly, we are bad at being inflexible. Much like Streep cannot seem to condemn everyone with the same stringency she uses towards men like Donald Trump or Harvey Weinstein, our moral imperfections create leniency where there should be absolution.

I’ll finish with a question about actor Jason Momoa, famous for portraying Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones and now Aquaman in Justice League. He’s a tomahawk-throwing, guitar-playing 6-foot mountain with a truly unfair amount of charisma. To use an old adage, men want to be him, and women want to be with him. He’s one of Hollywood’s brightest emerging stars. So, when a 2011 video emerges of him stating the best thing about his Thrones role was being able to “rape beautiful women”, what do we do?

He was obviously joking; it was a bad line from an early interview, but you can see his fellow castmates looking embarrassed. Lena Headey, sat beside him, was one of Weinstein’s targets and has been a vocal activist for women’s rights for many years. However, Momoa apologized, both then and now, and has never made similar comments since.

So, do we move on? Would our response be different if Momoa were not such a hot commodity? The least we could do would be to respond immediately, rather than wait six years to do so. If the past weeks of reports has taught us one thing, it is that we have to do something.