By Yanit Mehta and Hunter Anderson
Harvey Weinstein was a bomb Hollywood was not ready for. Last month, The New York Times dropped an article revealing years of covered-up sexual harassment cases against Weinstein, the shockwave of which has inspired many to come out with their own stories of sexual harassment from Hollywood’s elite. From a combination of victims gaining courage and Hollywood already under public scrutiny after Weinstein’s original exposé, several other cases were thrust out of the woodwork carrying names such as Ben Affleck, Louis C.K., Nick Carter, Andy Dick, Richard Dreyfuss, Senator Al Franken, Dustin Hoffman, Andrew Kreisberg, Kevin Spacey, George Takei, Sylvester Stallone, Matthew Weiner, and several others who haven’t been unmasked or mentioned.
While the list stretches from government to media, one of the most notable effects of the outpouring has been the leak in the pipeline of Hollywood’s sliminess. Apology after apology continues to dodge sincerity, leaving behind feelings of emptiness and disbelief. Jeffrey Tambor, whose acting career has spanned decades, has said, “I’ve already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue.” While outwardly appearing apologetic and remorseful, Tambor’s apology misses one of the most prominent messages of the anti-sexual assault campaign. That is, sexual harassment is still sexual harassment regardless of whether it was intended or not.
This sentiment repeats itself in nearly every apology; the accused continually belittling the situations. It draws back the curtain on the sexual nature at the core of Hollywood, where women are expected to be fine with their constant sexualization, and men aren’t expected to apologize for it. This problem is deeply rooted in the very culture of Hollywood, and has been flourishing since the Studio Era of the early 1900s, when the goal of movies was essentially the objectification of women through the male gaze.
So, after all the tension’s set in and these allegations are out in the open, the statements released by the accused are never really apologies — they just avoid the criminal acts brought up and normalize the culture of sexual harassment already apparent in Hollywood. Kevin Spacey harmed the entire gay community in an attempt to cast a shadow over his dirty deeds; Louis C.K. admitted to his wrongdoings but followed it up with the ‘non-apology’ that he was not aware of his power and he just simply didn’t know better; Al Franken immediately admitted to his crimes, playing the “I respect women” card and pleading for an ethics investigation (although the fact that he is cooperating in an investigation of sexual misconduct against him isn’t worthy of any applause). These non-apologies prove that sexual assault culture in show-business is almost customary, and until now, if anyone wished to be a part of this glamorous life, they were told to deal with it and suck it up. If this “Weinstein moment” has convinced us, finally, that perpetuating this culture is unacceptable, we as an audience must reconsider our priorities and stop supporting these artists at any cost.
It’s refreshing that these cases are at least out in the open and that the true, grimy underbelly of the entertainment industry is finally exposed. Now it’s up to the world to react appropriately so that we as an audience don’t let these events happen again. We, as consumers, ultimately have the power to make or break the careers of these predators from now onwards. Things have clearly been rattled over at the movie industry and the way things are going to be done from now on will be determined on how the viewers react. Will we choose to fight back and boycott the content created by these culprits, or will we just continue to award and immortalize abusive stars like Casey Affleck by handing them Oscars?
This is going to be a particularly crucial time for Hollywood, and once the storm subsides it’s all going to come down to us, the audience, to decide whether we abolish this heinous culture or continue to just live with it.