For fans of the film industry, this past week has been tough. Allegations of sexual abuse, terminations due to said accusations and reports of cover-ups have run rampant across the various entertainment news outlets, with seemingly no sign of slowing down. The initial allegations against Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein made in an expose by New York Times writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on October 5th, 2017, opened the floodgates and gave other women the strength to share their stories. And it’s not just the studios themselves. With multiple victims coming forward (with clear cut evidence), Screen Junkies founder, Andy Signore, was fired by Defy Media for similar behaviors. So now, not only are the studios affected by sexual harassment but the pundits and reporters as well. It seems that an industry that brings so much joy to people, is built on the pain and humiliation of others. So is Hollywood truly broken? Is there nowhere that has been left untouched? What can we do, as fans, as customers of the products being delivered by this system, to help victims and get their story told?
The answer is to talk. To talk, listen, believe and then talk some more.
It’s not like Hollywood sex scandals are anything new. From Woody Allen to Roman Polanski, Hollywood has forever been haunted by an unspoken evil. For too long have the personal lives of the Hollywood moguls been taboo. Too long have we been asked to “separate the art from the artist” and hush up about subjects that need to be spoken about. Too long have friends been protected simply on the basis of being friends. Too long have people in positions of power abused their role and influenced silence from victims.
Talk, because it’s not okay. It’s never been okay.
Now, I’m not saying that every little accusation thrown out by any person should result in immediate condemnation. But when multiplesources come out and corroborate the same story (sometimes putting their jobs and the jobs of their significant others on the line), something must be done. And if you sit back and accept it, with all the evidence presented to you, you’re part of the problem. You’re making it worse.
The phrase, innocent until proven guilty is being used by a lot of defenders of people like Weinstein and Signore. I’m by no means an expert on the legal system, but I know that while this phrase may hold up in court, it truly only applies in a legal situation. The accusations and evidence with the magnitude and scope such as the ones against Weinstein and Signore are proof of that guilt. Think about it. Is it really possible that the multiple victims who come out with similar stories and with solid evidence are all working together to take down those in power? What do they have to gain by exposing themselves to the world, re-living some of their most harrowing memories and potentially triggering PTSD? At a certain point, there is enough to say that they are guilty. Not legally guilty, but guilty enough to speak out. Guilty enough to start looking further and re-evaluate what you thought you knew.
There is no mass conspiracy to take down men of power. There is a movement to remove those who have abused their power to exploit those underneath them. Waiting until all the cards are dealt has its merits, but if nobody ever played a card there would be no game. Someone has to speak out to root out the evil lurking in Hollywood. Sitting, waiting and believing the best in people doesn’t work in our world.
One counterargument to my opinion would be the ramifications of false accusations. I don’t want anyone to misconstrue my words, so I’ll use yet another recent example. Following the Weinstein story, Matt Damon was called out for allegedly covering up a similar story 13 years ago. Damon, who has successfully worked with Weinstein in the past, was accused of calling writer Sharon Waxman to dissuade her to publish an expose similar to the one published on October 5th. Naturally, the internet descended into chaos and witchhunts began.
But then Damon came out and defended himself. And his defense was corroborated by Waxman herself. So the question here is, what was the right course of action? Should we have gone after Damon on all facets of social media, boycotted his films and called for his head? Or should we have sat on this info and waited?
Again, the answer is to TALK.
In situations like these, opening up the conversation to simply discuss the possibilities of horrible actions taken by some of our idols is the perfect place to start. Unlike Weinstein and Signore, there wasn’t a plethora of evidence and multiple corroborations. But that doesn’t mean we should stay quiet. Simply talking about the subject shows that it’s no longer taboo. That it’s not only okay, but important to have these discussions to make sure that wrongs are righted and evil people are exposed.
The line is hard to draw. But talking, listening and being open has and will forever be the key.
Now what about those in power who have previously abused their power, but seem to have corrected themselves? I’m talking about a Ben Affleck story that recently re-surfaced. As many of you know, I’m a huge Ben Affleck fan, and reading the headline broke my damn heart. But then I read the article and realized the situation is different. It’s by no means better or more acceptable, because there is NO acceptable forms of sexual harassment. But this is wholly different.
Affleck’s situation is far more complicated and delicate. These incidents, which are recorded on video for all to see, occurred 10+ years ago. And by Affleck’s own admission, he was a different man. Additionally, he recently came out and condemned the acts of sexual harassment that Weinstein committed. Does this make Affleck a hypocrite, or has he truly changed? You all know what my answer will be to this one.
Well, kinda. It’s not on you to talk this time and in this case it’s not just all talk. It’s on Affleck to not only talk about his previous incidents, but to show that he’s actually changed. It’s up to him to come out and acknowledge that these things happen and show that he’s changed. No, he can’t change what he’s done in the past but if he truly holds his recent statement to heart, then come out and show it. Affleck (I doubt you’re reading this but one can dream), go out to an event and support victims of similar harassment. Get involved with foundations and talk about the wrongs of your past. Prove that that person in those videos is a different man. If Affleck can own up and answer to the evils of his past, then maybe the future will be a little brighter.
Sexual harassment is an issue that Hollywood has been okay with for too long. Both women and men (yes, its out there and it’s just as bad) are affected by it every day in the industry, by those with too much power or those that abuse the power they have.
Here’s where I come clean about this entire article. I’ve been fortunate enough never to have personally experienced any sort of sexual abuse. So I can’t say I’m an expert on how to deal with these situations and I can’t say that I understand what victims are going through. What I can say I am, is willing to support those who have stories that need to be told. And I’m here to call out those who need to answer. I’m not afraid to speak out and I will continue to do so. My friend, Nolan Dean, on Twitter summed up my thoughts better than I ever could:
I wish the Internet would understand that a guy standing up against sexual harassment isn’t “white knighting”. It’s common fucking decency.
We, as human beings, no matter what our gender, sexual orientation or political beliefs need to stand up and talk about these issues and know that they’re not okay and will never be okay. Speak out. Have these conversations. Listen and be open. And maybe, just maybe, we can make a change for the better.
This article was originally published on shifteronfilms.com