The recent firing of movie Producer Harvey Weinstein from the very company which he and his brother created, is a watershed moment for Hollywood. It is much more than that for the rest of us in free societies ruled by law and order. We are now required to look at the repeated misbehavior of those who attain power, and assess what has gone so terribly wrong in Western culture.
The movie SPOTLIGHT focused on the efforts required to unmask the sexual deviation among Roman Catholic priests which became endemic to their lifestyle. Other religions all have their predators as well. Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi was enmeshed in multiple sex scandals. President Bill Clinton was not only proven to have used the oval office for sex with a lovely young intern, but was brought up on charges for Impeachment, only to continue his political life unimpeded. His wife has the unmitigated “chutzpah” to pretend she cares about women’s rights, while remaining married to her own in-house predator. Sexual impropriety exists in all religions, races and every strata of society. Somewhere along the way, this has become acceptable.
It is not a pleasant thought, but the facts remain indisputable. Most of us think of our leaders from JFK and Bill Clinton in the USA , to Dominique Strauss-Kahn in France, to Moshe Katsav in Israel and blush at the repetition of similar charges against them all. Harvey Weinstein is at least not a democratically elected official.
There is clearly an inclination for men of power to wish to prove to themselves that their sexual prowess is intact. The use of their ability to coerce women into embarrassing and compromising situations seems to be out of control among those who wield authority. There is in fact a difference between coercion and enticement. Many women are flattered and excited when a man of power (be it financial or political) shows interest in them. For some women it is their own weakness which allows a relationship to go forth with married men in these spheres of influence. The pivotal word in the last sentence is “relationship.” Crude advances are nothing more than abuse by those who have no fear of repercussion.
Enter Hollywood…a scene which I know well from living and working in Los Angeles for 25 years. Hollywood obviously makes its own laws. It claims to believe in women’s rights while keeping silent about sexual abuse on the proverbial “casting couch.” Hollywood is a fraud. It cares only about its bottom line. For the actors it is their employment and fame. For the producers it is ticket sales. For the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences it is about self-perpetuation and promotion of the product- film. The Weinstein scandal is Hollywood’s shame. Even American sitcoms made jokes about Mr. Weinstein’s behavior over the years. Whilst “the Academy” was happy to slap Mr. Weinstein’s face by “un-membering” him, what else do they intend to improve their image? In L.A. (lovingly referred to as LA-LA Land since the film by the same name), venues such as the “Playboy Mansion” were hubs of sex and drug activity. The mansion was never raided or investigated. The stories abound. What else could one expect from Hugh Hefner, his silk pajama daytime garb and love of the profits from all things sexual?
I would like to suggest that sexual impropriety in society in general, which became acceptable with the Hippie Generation in the sixties, has brought this scourge upon women (and no doubt upon men as well.) A sexual code which has brought to a banal level, the sharing of one’s body with multiple partners one might never see again – (be they heterosexual or homosexual), has ultimately undermined the individual’s feelings of self-worth. There is no other explanation for the lack of accountability which seems acceptable throughout multiple societies. Laws exist on books, but are only successfully implemented when a team of accusers unite to prosecute their oppressor. The odds are stacked in favor of the predator. If society did not tacitly accept that sexual impropriety was somehow the norm, it would not have ballooned so out of control.
Most men as unattractive as Mr. Weinstein would consider themselves beyond blessed to have gorgeous models and actresses at their beck and call…and a stunning wife at home. His wealth and power super-ceded his natural appeal. Years ago, Henry Kissinger was interviewed and laughed at his own success with women He labeled power as the “ultimate aphrodisiac.” That having been said, to my knowledge, he was never accused of taking advantage of such opportunities.
Somehow the sexual revolution has brought with it a disrespect for individual dignity. It is a condition accepted by young teenagers as they throw themselves into situations where sex is expected and relationships are irrelevant. I have often wondered how one goes from treating his/herself as a valueless commodity when young -and then is expected to mature into a person who can either give or command respect. The two conditions seem contradictory at best.
It is said that there is a sexual pendulum in the life of a free society. Periods of prudishness always are followed by hedonistic periods. Hedonism is then followed by more conservative mores. It does seem that Western societies have currently stooped sexually about as low as they can go. Individuals are treating one another as objects and the lack of reaction and objection to this impropriety is a measure of where current callousness has brought people who deserve much more.
Hollywood shapes expectations. Their movies create illusions which can enrich us or damage us. The actors and leaders of this creative art hold themselves up to be the moral beacons for us all. They tell us what is right and wrong on a daily basis. A bit of stardom makes one an authority of just about everything. It seems time that these same mega stars do a bit of soul searching. We await their creation of an ethics committee for the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to which their aspiring young actors and actresses can file their complaints against those who abuse their innocence and dreams of success in the world of make-believe.
None of us can pretend that we are unaffected by what is happening around us. The combination of sexual promiscuity and the desensitization of the internet as a substitute for” in person” human communication is severing many of our relationship skills.
We all need to take heed. Let Hollywood be the “canary in the mine” which warns us of a new cold level of human insensitivity which has evolved in every nation and in every level of society. A concerted effort will be required to change this tide of unbridled impropriety. Respect for one another begins with respect for ourselves.