Sunday, October 15, 2017

Struck By a Falling Star

Like many Americans, I have been shocked and disgusted by the actions of Harvey Weinstein. I have no doubt that he has crossed a line from harassment punishable with civil, financial settlements to assault with criminal, jail-time consequences. Beyond the obvious, his business practices are equally repugnant. These actions include short-changing contracted payments to actors/actresses, firing his entire staff at an Oscar party, throwing office supplies and equipment, and physically attacking staff and vendors. Thousands of people looking to break into showbiz either in front of the camera or behind the scenes dealt with his bizarre antics.

Prior to writing this article, I read every account of the abuse charges from the 30 women who have come forward. I was amazed at the remarkably consistent process in each account. Harvey makes an invitation to discuss an upcoming project or movie, gives an invitation to a hotel suite, makes an offer of a sexual nature, observes a negative reaction from the women, and then provides intimidating threats to avoid future publicity.

As these shocked women, many of whom were teenagers, left Harvey’s hotel room of horrors, the accounts undoubtedly made their way back to parents, family members, lovers, and close friends. I can understand the scared, young starlet not wanting to rock the boat in Hollywood for fear of losing out on their dreams of stardom. However, I do not understand the silence of those connected to the victims with power and influence in other industries, who could have pressed charges, filed lawsuits, threatened business repercussions, or launched negative publicity campaigns to expose and eventually curtail this abusive behavior.

What about the police departments of Los Angeles, New York, and London? Surely, there were investigators who had ample evidence to bring charges against Harvey in a manner that did not expose the identity of the victims. What about the universities, non-profit associations, and media outlets who benefited from his financial connections? Contrary to what Meryl Streep stated, they knew. They had to know! Why were so many people lured into inaction due to the financial carrots that Harvey dangled in front of their eyes? I believe this passivity goes well beyond money and leads straight to the seductive nature of fame. Fame is the most addictive temptation of all. Millions of people have money, yet the number of people who are truly famous is quite small. Why bite the hand of the man who is the most powerful gatekeeper to fame?

What about us? We watch movies to laugh, think, escape our stresses, and even ponder life’s difficult questions. Are we going to continue to pay $50 per couple (well, less without the popcorn and sodas) to watch a movie story that was financed, created, managed, and edited by a man of such questionable values? He did not receive the nickname of Harvey Scissorhands for closely following the script generated by the screenwriter. I know that the movie industry will survive, and even thrive in the years ahead. Movies are too important to us. Yet, Harvey Weinstein is not the only director or Hollywood insider who uses the casting couch as a part of their abuse game.

If Hollywood influencers want to create a vibrant future with creative material that appeals to the better angels of our nature instead of the worst, they will take this unique opportunity to change their culture. Those with less influence still have more power than they imagine. To those people struggling to get ahead either acting or behind the scenes, you don’t have to take it. There will be other opportunities to show your talent without succumbing to this nonsense. And to all those movie-goers out there, never forget that you buy the tickets!