Finally, an issue on which we can all agree – Republicans, Democrats, young, old, black, white, Hispanic, men and women. We are all appalled, shocked, dismayed and scandalized (pick one) at the disgusting behavior of Harvey Weinstein towards women. Yes, we are all those things, but are we surprised? Really? Rich, powerful, influential, forceful Hollywood producer versus young, vulnerable, beautiful aspiring actresses desperate to “make it.” What can possibly go wrong?
We don’t agree on much in this country. On any given issue, one can always hear multiple opinions. That’s the beauty of a free and open society. In this case, however, I have not heard anyone defending Weinstein’s actions, nor do I expect I will. That said, I think there is a broader issue, one that has largely been ignored and needs to be discussed.
Based on some of the reportage I have seen in the last few days, Weinstein’s proclivities were not exactly a secret within the industry and among those who knew him. Apparently, he had a reputation. The various expressions of shock by entertainers, such as George Clooney and Ben Affleck and politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and the Obamas strike me as disingenuous, to say the least. Clooney admitted he was cognizant that Weinstein “had a tendency to ‘hit on’ young, beautiful women.” But, he added that he “had no idea that it had gone to the level of having to pay off eight women for their silence, and that these women were threatened and victimized.” Affleck acknowledged “we need to do better at protecting our sisters, friends, co-workers and daughters. We must support those who come forward [and] condemn this type of behavior when we see it.” Hillary Clinton said she was “shocked” and “appalled.” Barack Obama said he and Michelle were “disgusted.”
Fine, as far as it goes, but, to me, comments like that ring hollow. The entertainment business has long had a reputation as a culture that fostered and tolerated misogynistic behavior toward women, including, but not limited to, sexual abuse. It has been the industry’s dark, dirty secret. For example, we have all heard stories about the so-called “casting couch.” Have you listened to the lyrics in some of these “rap” songs? Only now, are people speaking up.
Furthermore, Weinstein was a strong supporter of the Democratic Party, and many Democratic politicians have benefitted from his largesse. They willingly accepted his money and enjoyed his influence. Now that he has been exposed they express shock and outrage. To me, it is reminiscent of the scene in Casablanca when the French colonel is “shocked” to learn that there is gambling going on in Rick’s Café, whereupon he is handed his winnings for the day.
Purportedly, some politicians have sought to make amends by donating contributions they received from Weinstein to charity. Nice stunt, but to me their only motivation is that their connection to Weinstein was disclosed, and they want to mollify their constituents, save their careers. It is not unlike a thief who, having been caught and facing prison, offers to donate his loot to charities.
The hypocrisy of Hollywood and politicians never ceases to amaze me. They think they are a special class of people. They think they are better than us and know what is good for us better than we do. For example, they lecture us on reducing carbon emissions and travel on private jets; they lecture us on inclusivity regarding immigration yet live in gated communities with 24X7 security; and, now, they lecture us on women’s rights yet overlook the culture of misogyny in their own industry. They continually befriend and enable Weinstein and others like him.
I repeat what I have said before. Just because a person has a special talent in acting, singing, music or sports, it does not mean they are any smarter or better equipped to give political advice. In fact, in my experience, it is more often the opposite case.