By Michaela McGrath and Vanessa Arieno
HOLLYWOOD, CA – In early October, allegations of sexual assault against powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein were published in the New Yorker and the New York Times. Since then, over 35 men (and counting), have been accused of sexual harassment or abuse. In a post-Weinstein world, victims have become emboldened by the momentum of voices speaking out against their abusers.
Every day it seems like another powerful person is accused of misconduct, shedding light on the epidemic that is the mistreatment of women and the abuse of power across every industry including tech, business, politics and media. In less than two months the list has expanded continually to include Ben Affleck, Bob Weinstein, James Toback, Andy Dick, Louis C.K., Dustin Hoffman, Al Franken, Andrew Kreisberg, John Lasseter, Jeremy Piven, Roy Price, Brett Ratner, Charlie Rose, Sylvester Stallone, George Takei, Jeffrey Tambor, Matthew Weiner, Ed Westwick and more.
Weinstein was the first domino to fall in Hollywood. In total, 76 women have come forward with stories, including Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow. On Oct. 17, Weinstein resigned from the Weinstein Company board of directors but is now suing the company. Allegations about his actions range from rape to sexual harassment, and span back decades. The complicity of others in the industry is an issue that has been raised– everyone seems to have known in some way about Weinstein’s behavior, but he is only facing consequences now. Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino, who has worked closely with Weinstein, admitted he knew about allegations for years. In an interview Tarantino said “I knew enough to do more than I did,” and that he regrets continuing to work with the producer.
After these allegations against Weinstein were made, a surprising bidder for The Weinstein Company made a proposal to have the studio run by women. Maria Contreras-Sweet, the 24th Administrator of the Small Business Administration under Obama, is offering a $275 million “rescue bid” for the company and an executive board of mostly women with herself as the chairman. In her letter to the company, Contreras-Sweet states “I have assembled a first-class team of financial partners, advisers and consultants to put together a proposal to acquire the assets…We believe [this] will present a path forward that is in the best interests of all of the company’s stakeholders.” Although the company is reportedly near $375 million in debt, Contreras-Sweet is planning to keep some of The Weinstein Company’s employees as well as the distributor and producer. For the sexual assault victims of Harvey Weinstein who unfortunately don’t qualify for settlements from insurers of the company, Contreras-Sweet is planning to create a litigation fund to pay them. This bid will save the company along with its current employees while helping the victims of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment.
There is hope for change going forward. Men like Weinstein are finally facing consequences for their behavior, losing jobs and careers. Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual harassment by actor Anthony Rapp, who said Spacey made advances towards him in 1986. The Old Vic Theatre in London has received 20 separate allegations about inappropriate conduct by Spacey during the years that he worked there. Since then, Spacey has been fired from his job on Netflix’s “House of Cards,” and literally edited out and replaced by Christopher Plummer in Ridley Scott’s next film, “All the Money in the World.”
Arguably the most successful comedian in entertainment, Louis C.K. has been accused by five women of exposing himself and masturbating in front of them. He admitted to the acts described in the New York Times piece, releasing a statement saying “These stories are true.” C.K. has lost a number of jobs, and networks FX, Netflix and HBO have cut ties with the comedian once admired for being “progressive.”
Charlie Beck, the chief of the LAPD, said in an email that within the next few weeks and months he expects the department to receive even more high profile reports. Five teams of two detectives have been put together by the LAPD to investigate these crimes in Hollywood and have even brought in members from the cold case unit who are experts in investigating old allegations that lack evidence. Jackie Lacey, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, has assigned veteran sex crime prosecutors to examine the cases as well. The district wants justice for all victims and are doing everything they can to help them.
There has been a long-running debate about the separation of the artist from their art. The more important question is not whether we can enjoy the past works of people who turn out to be terrible and capable of these crimes, but whether they get to continue the privilege of creating, without consequences or justice for their victims. Why should alleged predators continue to get work when there are so many talented artists waiting in the wings for their chance?
Time will tell how many more people will be accused, and how long-lasting the repercussions will be for them in an industry that’s selective about who they do and don’t decide to forgive. Director Woody Allen, a man accused of sexually abusing his daughter when she was seven years old, continues to make movies year after year with Hollywood’s most popular stars. After Dylan Farrow spoke out about Allen, she received as much vitriol and skepticism as she did support. She is just one example of why women have nothing to gain by lying about their abuse. Victims are bullied into silence or lose their careers, and are up against powerful people in a di cult system. The flood of accusations after Weinstein show that voices can be more powerful in numbers, and that change is coming, in whatever form that takes.