To be clear, there is still a long way to go.
When looking back at last week’s atrocious events in Hollywood, it’s safe to say that industry shake-ups are rarely as monumental. The seemingly rapid-fire dissolution of The Weinstein Company (TWC) following accusations of sexual assault and harassment leveled at company co-founder Harvey Weinstein shows no signs of slowing down, nor should it.
Several discernible industry actions that are slowly chipping away at TWC’s credibility have rolled out over the weekend. With TWC having built itself up as an important player on the awards season circuit, it’s pretty big news that the film that was thought to be the company’s biggest Oscar contender, The Current War, was pulled from the release schedule. Interestingly, the Benedict Cumberbatch starrer apparently holds no candle to family-friendly flick, Paddington 2, which is still slated for a January premiere. Which of course presumes that we as audiences would forget all about the endemic problem of sexism and the incessant victimization of women within the industry by then. Because things in Hollywood are “short-lived” like that.
The film industry has for years treated situations like Weinstein’s as scandals that will blow over eventually. Misconduct — to use an unfairly mild term for the mistreatment of women in the workplace — oftentimes doesn’t lead to many, if any, repercussions. Just this year, Casey Affleck won the Academy Award for Best Actor. In a different category, Mel Gibson was nominated for Best Director while his film, Hacksaw Ridge, was also in the running for Best Picture. Despite this, the Academy has evidently taken a hard-line stance against Weinstein, removing him from the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Per the Academy’s statement:
“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors met today to discuss the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and has voted well in excess of the required two-thirds majority to immediately expel him from the Academy. We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over. What’s at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society. The Board continues to work to establish ethical standards of conduct that all Academy members will be expected to exemplify.”
I’m not saying that the Academy is not capable of change. In fact, the organization has actually taken some positive steps towards inclusivity over the past two years. But for too long, these actions have still been a concession; a trade-off because of how slow-moving the process of progress is in Hollywood. Get diverse members into the Academy, but keep awarding accused sexual harassers top honors during the actual ceremony. Not to mention that other men accused of assault such as Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby remain Academy members despite Weinstein’s ousting.
Amazon is the next to come under the spotlight for a similar handling of the Weinstein fallout. Variety reported that a gestating David O. Russell project at the company has been scrapped and not only that, it is completely dead in the water. (But not apparently for Russell’s own abhorrent treatment of women.) Instead, Amazon is moving forward with The Romanoffs, a modern-day show surrounding a series of unconnected individuals who believe to be descendants of the bygone Russian royal family, without TWC.
These are obviously good in general, but bear in mind that Amazon also recently inked a first-look deal with the aforementioned younger Affleck. Amazon specifically released a statement regarding that partnership saying, “This deal with Casey exemplifies our focus in expanding Amazon Studios’ relationships with top-notch filmmakers and content creators.” The company utilized a logic that has often been the chagrin of audiences who have called for men to be held accountable for their actions. The environment of dirty open secrets and the ‘locker room talk’ is allowed to prevail because these concessions are made sans consequences in the name of talent.
It goes without saying that overhauling an industry so steeped in rape culture — many workplaces are like this, not just Hollywood — will take time. But it is an imperative for observers and audiences to continue holding these institutions answerable for the blind spots they may have despite a ‘no tolerance’ approach to something like the Weinstein scandal. It goes beyond Emmanuel Macron stripping Weinstein of his Legion of Honor, no matter how admirable that stance is. These steps send a powerful message on their own, but need to retain momentum to move into a future where women are safe to exist, let alone make art.
Variety has now reported that Colony Capital will be lending a monetary hand towards TWC — an emergency fund to help “weather a sexual harassment and abuse scandal surrounding its co-founder.” Colony Capital is also supposedly in talks to attain most if not all of TWC’s assets. So, Bob Weinstein may studiously try to tell us that TWC still has some legs to stand on after what happened last week, but Polaroid, Paddington 2 and a Robert De Niro film aren’t substantial enough to save the dissolving company.
Whether anyone should take Bob Weinstein’s word or not is also up for debate anyway. Just look at what Rose McGowan had to say with regards to complicity:
There are plenty of moving parts within the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Certainly, the past month has been rife with allegations of harassment and assault against some very prominent figures in film, and the problem definitely did not just exist within Weinstein’s bubble. Moreover, as women continue to come out against Weinstein, there is bound to be some dregs who misunderstand the situation left over and saying inappropriate things for some kind of notoriety.
However, there are actionable steps to take in ensuring that Hollywood doesn’t go back. As a matter of fact, Film School Rejects has an excellent primer for what to do. Sarah Foulkes’ wonderful list includes listening to the women whose voices are often silenced by powerful men and supporting women’s endeavors in film. Do read all of it, but here’s a stellar little nugget to drive the point home:
“There are so many men in Hollywood and in other industries who have misused their power and taken advantage of the disenfranchised. At the root of the problem is toxic masculinity. […] But we can’t just wait for those men to change. In the meantime, we need to demand institutional changes that protect people at risk.”