Harvey Weinstein was not the first, nor will he be the last. As heinous, horrific and unconscionable as Weinstein’s behavior was, sad to say, it was not an isolated case in Hollywood. Rape, sexual harassment, and the demeaning of women has been and still is an integral part of Hollywood’s culture. It permeates the industry like a disgusting virus.
Already, there has been a steady stream of accusations. For example, actress Carrie Stevens has alleged that producer and director Oliver Stone “groped” her at a party in the 1990s. Even worse, actress, singer and director Rose McGowan stated she told Amazon Studios chief Roy Price that Weinstein had raped her. According to McGowan Price “pooh poohed” it on the basis of lack of proof. She replied, “I am the proof,” but, still, nothing was done.
If anything, the entertainment industry is a perfect storm for sexual abuse. First of all, it glamorizes money, power and fame. Secondly, it attracts Type A male personalities who believe that their power, fame, wealth and influence enable them to get away with anything. Thirdly, it also attracts young, beautiful women desperately eager to achieve fame and fortune. With the presence of these three elements why are we not surprised that sexual abuse is rampant?
Down through the years, there have been many cases of such activity. In my opinion, for every case of which we are aware there are dozens, or perhaps hundreds, which have been ignored in the guise of “well, that the way it is in Hollywood,” or “that’s the price you pay to get ahead.” It would take a full-length book to discuss just the major ones. I don’t have the inclination or the “stomach” to do so. Instead, I have selected two to illustrate my point:
- Roman Polanski – Some of you younger readers may not be cognizant of him. He has been called the “poster child” of celebrity sexual abusers. He was a renowned movie director who had won two Oscars (for Rosemary’s Baby and The Pianist). In 1977 he was arrested and charged with multiple counts of rape, sodomy, perversion and lewd and lascivious acts against a 13 year-old girl. He and his lawyers managed to plea bargain down the charges to a much lesser charge of “engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse.” Then, in 1978 Polanski fled to France in order to avoid prosecution. France, which, evidently, had and still has, a more lenient view of these types of crimes, has refused to extradite Polanski. He has not set foot back in the US for 30 years, and, likely never will.
- Bill Cosby – This situation parallels that of Weinstein’s in some ways. For many years Mr. Cosby was viewed as an iconic entertainer in the movies, on tv and as a stand-up comedian. Then, some 60 women accused him of various sexual misconduct crimes, including rape, sexual assault and sexual battery. Some of these accusations dated back to the 1960s. His downfall was swift and sure.
Like I said, one could write a book about these types of abuses and barely scratch the surface.
Perhaps, the most ironic aspect of the Weinstein case is how his behavior was an “open secret” among entertainers and Democratic insiders (There’s an oxymoron, if there ever was one!), and no one spoke out. Even famous, powerful, influential female entertainment personalities, such as Oprah Winfrey and Jane Fonda, and politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and Michele Obama, each of whom hold themselves out as strong advocates of women’s rights, turned a “blind eye.” Recently, actress Jane Fonda, a long-time advocate for women’s rights and other activist causes, admitted in an interview that she has long been aware of the “male entitlement” culture of Hollywood, and she was “ashamed” by her silence. In addition, she admitted that a female actress friend of hers had confessed to her that she had been raped by Weinstein, but regretfully, she (Fonda)did not come forward.
Now that the proverbial “cat” is “out of the bag,” this case will likely continue to mushroom. Don’t be surprised to see class action lawsuits against individuals and companies, such as the movie studios and even NBC. The news network’s chief, Noah Oppenheim, allegedly “killed” the story about Weinstein that had been brought to him by NBC reporter Ronan Farrow (subsequently published by The New Yorker). It turns out that Oppenheim had a major conflict of interest. He is also a Hollywood screenwriter. Plaintiffs’ attorneys like to go where the money is and in Hollywood there is plenty to go around.
In the meantime, I have a word of advice for the entertainment industry. Quit trying to give the rest of us advice on how to live our lives. You’re good at your “day job,” but when it comes to imparting wisdom in other areas, not so much. Clean up your own house first.