In case you missed it, Hollywood bigwig executive Harvey Weinstein has been hit with some major allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault by over 30 women. These allegations have been ongoing for decades, but were only recently unearthed thanks to two major investigative reports, one from Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at The New York Times and the other from Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker.
One pervasive theme throughout all this is that it was apparently an “open secret” in Hollywood for years. Members of his company told Farrow there was a “culture of complicity” in his company to help hide the allegations. In 2004, The New York Times reporter Sharon Waxman had a story in the works about Weinstein’s sexual harassment before it was gutted, after Weinstein reportedly visited the Times office, and after actors Russel Crowe and Matt Damon called Waxman to vouch that Fabrizio Lombardo, an Italian film executive whose actual job, according to several sources, was to secure sex workers and escorts for Weinsten, was really a film executive and nothing more.
Many actors who reacted to the news admitted to having heard rumors about him for years but they never publicly discussed them. Kate Winslet, for one, wrote in a statement that she had heard of such rumours but “had hoped that these kind of stories were just made up rumours, maybe we have all been naïve.”
There’s a bitter irony in hearing Winslet say that Weinstein’s behavior is “reprehensible and disgusting”, considering that she had this to say about Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, an alleged child molester and a convicted child rapist respectively: “I didn’t know Woody and I don’t know anything about that family. As the actor in the film, you just have to step away and say, I don’t know anything, really, and whether any of it is true or false. Having thought it all through, you put it to one side and just work with the person. Woody Allen is an incredible director. So is Roman Polanski. I had an extraordinary working experience with both of those men, and that’s the truth.” Hey, I bet lots of people could say the same about Weinstein! What’s all the fuss about? He’s an incredible executive producer (he’s had a hand in classics like Good Will Hunting and Pulp Fiction). Why can’t we all just push these pesky rape rumors aside and work with these men! (Oh, and here’s a fun fact: back in 2009 Weinstein wrote an article in defense of Polanski and called his rape conviction a “so-called crime”. I guess sexual abusers stick together?)
Winslet isn’t alone in this utter hypocrisy. Ben Affleck released a statement on Twitter condemning Weinstein, but has neglected to say much about the allegations of sexual harassment against his younger brother Casey Affleck, and has some harassment allegations of his own.
Weinstein got away with these kinds of bahavior for so long because an army of fellow executives, PR managers, lawyers, and famous Hollwood types kept it from getting out. Because of willful silence on the part of other powerful players in Hollywood, and because of the deliberate intimidation of anyone who would be open about this, especially the victims of harassment and assault.
I’m not surprised to hear about Weinstein, but I am surprised that he seems to be facing actual consequences. He’s apparently been fired from his company, his wife Georgina Chapman is leaving him, and police in London and New York are looking into investigating him. While it’s good that something is happening to Weinstein, I can’t help but think about the women who had to watch his enormous success, all too aware of what he did to them in private. I can’t help but think about how it took this long for us to talk about this. Or to think about the fact that if comedian Hannibal Buress didn’t bring up the Bill Cosby allegations back in 2014 during a comedy routine, Cosby’d probably still enjoy the same reputation he had before, even as the rape allegations were of public record for years. And I also can’t help but consider how many other Hollywood bigwigs aren’t facing such scrutiny. Polanski is still a free man. Allen is still making movies with top actors. Casey Affleck got an Oscar for Best Picture. Christian Slater was convicted of assaulting his former girlfriend Michelle Jonas back in 1997 and currently stars in the critically acclaimed TV series Mr. Robot. Johnny Depp “allegedly” verbally and physically abused his now ex-wife Amber Heard and is still set to be a major part of the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them franchise, among other upcoming projects. And despite the fact that there is literally a section of director/producer Bryan Singer’s Wikipedia page entitled “sexual abuse allegations”, almost nobody discusses this about him and he has multiple upcoming film projects, including many in the X-Men franchise.
None of these powerful men, or any others who we don’t know about (including an unnamed film executive who sexually assaulted actor Terry Crews, as Crews bravely revealed over Twitter recently), could possibly keep their abuse under wraps for years without some help. It takes a village to keep sexual abuse, assault, and harassment allegations from getting around.
So what do we do? I’ll tell you what: look this stuff up. Most of the allegations are public information. Next time you hear a rumor about a beloved actor or director, google them. And if it checks out, talk about it. I know, it’s easier to say nothing. But we owe it to the survivors of abuse, assault, and harassment to not let their stories fall through the cracks.