Sexual Harassment in Hollywood: An Update.
Harvey Weinstein has always been a household name as one on the greatest film producers in history but as of 2017 his name has been in lights for a different reason. The Weinstein production company which was once known for its ground-breaking films such as Pulp Fiction and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is now stained with the multiple disturbing sexual harassment cases revealed about Harvey Weinstein. By the end of 2017 fifty women had already come forward with allegations of the movie mogul’s sexual assault and somehow, I don’t think that it is going to be the end of the revelations.
Weinstein’s attorneys had used a statement from both Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep claiming that he had never harassed them, which seems true however Lawrence had more of problem with the fact that these lawyers had used her statement to defend such an abhorrent man who she did not support and in fact told Late Night Talk show host Stephen Colbert that “he is an a** boil that never goes away” and on a more serious note she told CBS “the way that he destroyed so many women’s lives. I want to see him in jail”. Although I do not have first-hand experience of the film industry it is clear that it is yet another field in which men can assert their authority over women not only sexually but also in how they treat women in their films and also as peers.
There seems to have been an uproar in Hollywood about the sudden shock of sexual abuse scandals. However, in my opinion the idea of young actresses doing whatever they can, even performing sexual acts, to get a role in a big Hollywood movie is not that unusual. The casting couch has long been known as the enséamed bed where powerful men in Hollywood have been able to take advantage of young women who will do anything for fame. In 1920, one of the earliest and most gruesome cases of sexual assault was reported when Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, one of Hollywood’s first big shot director, was found beside actress Virginia Rappe who was screaming in pain and claiming he had raped her. She died a week later from sexual assault related injuries saying, ‘he did this to me’.
Although it is almost entrenched in the culture, the 21st century’s most famous stars are trying to break the vicious circle of sexual assault in the film industry. They graced red carpets at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs in gorgeous black dresses or sporting white roses in support of the Time’s Up movement. However, you may or may not have noticed that at the 90th Oscars on the 4th of March 2018 there seemed to be a lack of white roses and black dresses on the red carpet. Hollywood’s leading ladies have switched their black dresses, which symbolised the death of sexual exploitation of women in the film industry, for nude dresses, which could be seen as a symbol of purity and a conveniently smaller Time’s Up pins. Has the media hype around the Time’s Up movement finally died down to a demurer colour?
To be honest it doesn’t really matter what colour dresses people choose to wear, it is more important what these people of influence are actually doing to change the culture in which they work in. it is rather impressive that stars such as Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Meryl Streep, and Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes have all donated $500,000 each to the Time’s up legal fund which aims to help women protect themselves against sexual misconduct in the workplace and encourage them to report it when it happens.
If you are like me, you probably wondered how different the Oscars would be in the wake of all the sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood and how they would address the controversy. Host Jimmy Kimmel did not waste any time in speaking on this he said, “If we can work together to stop sexual harassment in the workplace; women will only have to deal with sexual harassment all the time at every other place they go”. Now this comment may seem inappropriate due to how fresh the claims are, but you have to remember Kimmel is a comedian and I do think amidst the Trump jokes he did hit a nerve amongst his male counterparts. Women cannot tackle this issue on their own they need the support of other influential artists to be able to assert power in their industry. The Oscars is usually an event pumped with the masculinity of big Hollywood directors and heartthrobs and where the only place for a woman was as the whiney damsel in distress. It is only recently that women have taken more of an active, courageous role and even began directing films. So, it seems fitting, even though she did not win an award, that Greta Gerwig was the fifth woman to gain on Oscar nomination for best director in its 90-year history.
Harvey Weinstein is not the only big name in Hollywood under fire. Allegations have been made against the iconic film director Woody Allen who allegedly sexual assaulted a seven-year-old girl over 25 years ago. Allen has been facing real repercussions from actors he is working with on his latest film A Rainy Day in New York. Timothée Chalamet, Hollywood’s newest heartthrob announced on his Instagram that he would donate his entire salary to charities fighting sexual abuse and harassment. This is much like his co-star Rebecca Hall’s act of solidarity, stating that she regretted working with Allen and also gave her salary to the Time’s Up legal service. This is obviously a PR nightmare for Allen and his film with its release so near, this is the type of action young actors should be taking in order to eliminate sexual harassment from their industry.
It is not difficult to see that there is definitely a sexual harassment problem in Hollywood and the shocking revelations of 2017 should not be the end of the Time’s Up movement. It is inspiring that some actors have actually decided to take action against these film tycoons which are actually starting to affect their professional lives. Even though it is hard to see a clear solution to the matter I think change will start to occur when we see more women in senior positions in the industry so that they are the ones who are making the big decisions and so they can also protect other women in their profession. The Time’s up movement has also evoked more questions about the film industry for me about how it will change following such a pivotal moment in its history: “Will women’s bodies still be objectified on screen? Will female actors be paid the same salary as their male counterparts?” And many more. This is a very important time that will change the future of film and television forever, and I don’t know about you, but I am ready for change.
A note: I deliberately chose to refer to female actresses and actors because what’s the difference?