Harvey Weinstein, the serial sexual predator, is now assured of a prominent place in the rogue’s gallery of the Hollywood film industry.
Having been accused of harassment, assault and rape by a succession of aspiring and established actresses, the rapacious movie producer has been banished from his own company and the citadels of power in Tinseltown, which, actress Uma Thurman recently observed, is a place of “contempt and dismissiveness toward women of all kinds.”
Since his ignominious and richly deserved fall from grace, more sexual harassment victims have come forward to point an accusing finger at their hyper masculine tormentors.
Not too long ago, sexually abused women were usually loath to report such incidents, fearing their careers would be ruined by the perpetrators and their slick enablers. In cases where women had the courage and the gumption to lodge complaints, their accusations tended to be hushed up, filed away and forgotten, leaving them in a state of pain and anguish. In still other instances, discreet payments would be made to achieve the desired result, absolute silence.
In the post-Weinstein era, however, self-entitled ogres like Weinstein do not enjoy immunity and cannot get away with the grotesque notion that women can be toyed with and undervalued. In this new age of accountability, they must now face the consequences of their disgusting misbehavior. In our evolving culture of zero tolerance for such crimes, they most likely will be publicly shamed and lose their multi-million dollar jobs.
Since the Weinstein debacle, several major figures in the entertainment industry and beyond have been removed from their respective positions following plausible reports of sexual misconduct.
The actor Kevin Spacey, the lead in the House of Cards, was not only sacked. Netflix also cancelled the popular series. And in a parallel development, Spacey was cut out of a forthcoming movie, his scenes reshot with a replacement.
On the heels of these disclosures, Charlie Rose — the cerebral television personality who elevated the art of the interview to a new level in his PBS current affairs show — was fired, while CBS-TV pulled the plug on Jeremy Piven’s crime drama, Wisdom of the Crowd. In the wake of these high-profile purges, the comedian Louis CK and the anchor of the morning Today program, Matt Lauer, were given the boot.
On other fronts, the physician of the U.S. gymnastic team, Larry Nasser, was arrested after being charged with assaulting seven of its members, including the Olympic Games gold medalist Aly Raisman, and the longest-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Conyers Jr., was forced to vacate his seat on the Judiciary Committee following accusations that he had harassed aides. In a sign of the times, Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the House, called for his resignation. The U.S. senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, accused of acting inappropriately with a number of women, may have to resign as well.
Judging by these incidents, we’ve come a long way from the bad old days when sexual predation was treated relatively lightly.
In 1991, Anita Hill told the U.S. Congress that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had harassed her when he was her boss. Thomas, having denied the accusation, was confirmed. Several years later, Bill Clinton, the U.S. president, managed to cling to office even after his sexual escapades with Monica Lewinsky in the White House had been exposed. Much to his discredit, Clinton had used his enormous power and prestige to take advantage of a powerless, though consenting, woman.
One suspects that neither Thomas nor Clinton would have fared well back then had they been judged by the standards of 2017.
The good news is that the sordid Weinstein affair has caused a sea change. In short, it has begun to alter the moral climate in the United States. If the sexual harassment of women was once considered a sport and assumed to be within the bounds of “normal” male behavior, this is no longer the case in contemporary society. The notorious casting couch mentality, an accepted facet of doing business in Hollywood for decades, has been shaken to its core. The talent mangers and casting agents who were aware of this loathsome practice but remained conveniently and conspicuously silent may have second thoughts in the future.
Certainly, the rise of the #MeToo movement has been partially instrumental in exposing and highlighting the misconduct of monsters like Weinstein, Spacey and Rose. It’s encouraging to think that their misguided values are twisting in the wind and crumbling before our eyes.
In civilized societies, this is called progress.