When the Harvey Weinstein story came out a societal dam broke. The terrible stories kept washing over flooding the news. This guy and his tactics were widely known for decades and had many enablers inside the industry. Then the new stories about other entertainment executives doing the same thing. NBC and Ronan Farrow had the story about Weinstein and then NBC brass decided not to run it. Obviously making the decision to protect one of their own. Rose McGowan sued and settled in 1997. Seth MacFarlane made a joke at the Oscars a few years ago. Quentin Tarantino came out and said he knew and so did Ben Affleck. Ashley Judd has stories and so does Jessica Barth. This weekend Annabella Sciorra made public her story as did Daryl Hannah. The Sciorra story very detailed and disturbing. Over 50 in all and too many to list with more to come. This morning Anthony Rapp has an anecdote about Kevin Spacey from 1985. Bill O’Reilly pays $32 million for behaving badly at work. Brad Pitt threatened Weinstein but then remained in his movies. Last week we had the George Bush David Copa-feel story. New stories every day.
Multiple panels stated this was another example of powerful white men doing what they do. One end of the reaction spectrum. Other corners slammed so many of the victims that decided to do interviews in the last two weeks. They waited till it was safe and now they appear and get Hollywood hero badges. They received fierce backlash from one fringe in addition to the hero sentiment on the opposite fringe. As usual America drifted away from the important part which is how powerful people get away with this and the networks of stakeholders that protect them. Mayim Bialik wrote a piece she was later forced to apologize for. I read and liked it. Not because there is one right or wrong way to look at things. But because she told her story from the point of view that she knew what Hollywood was and is. Knew that objectification of women and sex were a big part of the culture and could get you a career and powerful men used that as a tool. But knowing that, she played the Hollywood career game differently fully aware. She received fierce backlash from feminists who felt she was making the case that beautiful woman are asking for it. I saw in the headlines a couple days later her apology. Another US citizen brave enough to put their opinion out there and then apologizing for it shortly thereafter.
Now that some time has passed to reflect there are, to me, three aspects of the story that are important. The first is that sexual harassment and assault occur in work environments in the United States. It happens too much and in some cases the influence of the perpetrator protects them and enables it. All Americans can agree this is bad and criminal. I feel terrible for victims. People able to do something about it should without hesitation. Taking in the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter was enlightening and made me reflect about the huge scope of the issue. No hero badge for me for saying so.
The other two aspects are about society. The fact that Hollywood should not be an example for morality, and the cost of doing what is right.
This should not have been a surprise to anyone. This Harvey Weinstein story. Don’t we know that much of Hollywood is a me first place leaning towards decadence? The center of fame and storytelling is not the place to find exemplary professional behavior. This is the part where you nod. Haven’t you seen L.A. Confidential, Boogie Nights, La La Land, The Godfather, or any movie ever? Are you aware that Los Angeles is the center of the porn industry? Have you seen Entourage? L.A. has no heart for you. Give me a break. Show business is sleazy to a degree and that isn’t new. For every Spielberg there is a Weinstein. For each truly brave woman with bullet proof integrity who didn’t give in and suffered personally and professionally there is someone else who obliged Harvey Weinstein. There were hundreds of men and women who enabled this for a long time. Oh, that is just Harvey being Harvey. Business meetings don’t happen in luxury hotel rooms when you live and work in the same city as that hotel. Or if you take yourself seriously as a professional. The point is that he and others could do this regularly. It was an accepted part of the business for longer than Harvey Weinstein has been around. The Academy of Motion Pictures is instituting a code of conduct and there are surface things happening. But I don’t believe for a second that Hollywood is going to grow a conscience and clean house and be a different kind of town. This story has already gone down the road of shock value interviews of victims. Fierce journalism would go look for the road leading to the system of executives and the history of this specific slice of Hollywood culture. But again, remember the Charles Barkley commercial where he proclaims he is not a role model. Hollywood is for entertainment. I love the movies! A good vulgar rated R comedy I seek. Action movies I watch. Sometimes I wonder if there is a count of rounds fired in certain movies and laugh at what that crazy total might be. Knowing that what I am watching is utterly ridiculous in many ways. I have been to Las Vegas a few times and love it! Glad that a place like that exists but then you get to leave and return to the real world. You don’t want Vegas in your town, but to visit for three days and be a different person then leave is good fun and an escape. One of Weinstein’s movies is Django Unchained. This movie is a 9 out of 10 on my scale. But I don’t pretend that there is a redeeming take away at all. Other than rooting for Django, Broomhilda, Dr. Schultz, and the slaves depicted. A very violent and vulgar movie that displays racism at its worst and the ultimate revenge. Hollywood makes this stuff and that is what the public wants. That is what I want in a movie. Look to your family, religion, friends, community, and your own actions for values. Not the makers of Pulp Fiction and a city that people flock to seeking fame and fortune.
The other interesting part of this story is the cost of doing what you think is right. A lot of the stories and interviews consumed in the first few days were about the power environment that made it impossible for individuals to fight back against the industry. Characterizing the choice between a damaged show business career and doing what was right as a no-win situation. As if the only choice that was available at all was to stay quiet. This is not true. Added to this bother were the dozens of new accounts from celebrities after the story broke. You believe them all but at the same time you think why didn’t they display this same strong character at the time? This New York Times story, when finally released and participated in by the women who came forward, ended Harvey Weinstein’s career within one week. It worked. The all-powerful untouchable white man was held accountable and at lightning speed. Whether he ends up in prison remains to be seen but his power and influence in Hollywood has ended. Even in Hollywood if enough people act the right human values prevail.
Something that should be a self-evident truth I think a lot of folks don’t understand. If you are going to take a stand and act against a more powerful influence in defense of what you think is right, then you will suffer negative consequences.
You may achieve your goal and receive positive consequences in return for your actions. But at the outset of your action you will be affected negatively. You upset personal and professional relationships. You lose money. You lose reputation points. Your timeline is set way back. People won’t understand your actions and label you as whatever. Bridges are burned. Countless other negative immediate consequences are possible. The relationship in this situation is always that of a small influence taking on a big influence. That is the deal. The influence you want to change counts on that! Over the past two years I have made some decisions that fit this description. The easy thing to do would be to just maintain the status quo. But I knew in my heart that I would be backing down and going against what I think is important. Nobody cared except me and there was no upside except to take a harder road immediately. There may be no payoff in the long run except a better sense of personal integrity. But that is the risk. That is the cost. In these situations, you either take the actions or you don’t. You either believe in the core reason to act or the status quo is more beneficial. Either is acceptable and understandable and nobody else’s business. But make the choice and live with it.
Last week Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, after announcing they would not seek reelection, came out publicly against Donald Trump. This is the same concept at work. Both chose to support the status quo instead of acting on their true personal beliefs. But now their Senate career is over, and they blast President Trump. It is safe now to come out and say he is the worst, unstable, and ruining the country. If there was any chance of another term both would still be GOP puppets and hide their beliefs deep down. This is not good. Where is the heart where is the resolve? You only heard about their real opinions after they were safe and there was no risk.
Fight the fight or move on. You are not at fault for either and as mentioned earlier it is nobody else’s business. But don’t use looking bad or worrying about what others might think as an excuse to not act. There is a cost to doing what is right. Pay it or save your integrity coin.