Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Harvey Weinstein Accusations

Harvey Weinstein is a famed award winning Hollywood film and television producer and distributor. He has produced and/or distributed such movies as Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love, Good Will Hunting, Clerks, The Crying Game, Shaolin Soccer,  The Iron LadySilver Linings Playbook, The English Patient, and Sex, Lies and Videotape among others. Weinstein is the executive producer of Project Runway. Weinstein also has a book publishing company. Weinstein provided an internship to Malia Obama, President Obama's daughter. Although Weinstein's recent films have not been as critically acclaimed or as profitable as they have been in the past, Weinstein has over the years built a well deserved reputation as one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. He's worth hundreds of millions.

Like several men who fit that description, Weinstein has had business relationships with some of the world's most beautiful or successful actresses and models, including such women as Heidi Klum, Jennifer Lawrence, Gwyneth Paltrow, Meryl Streep, Ashley Judd, and Uma Thurman. Weinstein has allegedly used his power within the entertainment industry to make women put out or get out in the classic casting couch/sexual harassment sense. I was aware of a few isolated past accounts of settlements and accusations concerning Weinstein. But the New York Times recently ran an expose detailing numerous settlements going back decades. The story included women who were willing to go on record about their experiences with the satyric Mr. Weinstein. 

Update: The Weinstein Company’s board has fired Harvey Weinstein after reports of sexual harassment complaints against him. Two decades ago, the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein invited Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what the young actress expected to be a business breakfast meeting. Instead, he had her sent up to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower, she recalled in an interview. “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?” Ms. Judd said she remembers thinking.

In 2014, Mr. Weinstein invited Emily Nestor, who had worked just one day as a temporary employee, to the same hotel and made another offer: If she accepted his sexual advances, he would boost her career, according to accounts she provided to colleagues who sent them to Weinstein Company executives. The following year, once again at the Peninsula, a female assistant said Mr. Weinstein badgered her into giving him a massage while he was naked, leaving her “crying and very distraught,” wrote a colleague, Lauren O’Connor, in a searing memo asserting sexual harassment and other misconduct by their boss. “There is a toxic environment for women at this company,” Ms. O’Connor said in the letter, addressed to several executives at the company run by Mr. Weinstein.

An investigation by The New York Times found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company. During that time, after being confronted with allegations including sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact, Mr. Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. Among the recipients, The Times found, were a young assistant in New York in 1990, an actress in 1997, an assistant in London in 1998, an Italian model in 2015 and Ms. O’Connor shortly after, according to records and those familiar with the agreements.

Another woman claimed that Weinstein pleasured himself in front of her.
One actress, Rose McGowan, who had previously reached a settlement with Weinstein, has been very vocal against Weinstein for quite some time. She has more or less publicly accused him of raping her.

Weinstein didn't do himself any favors in the public eye by simultaneously saying 
  • he didn't do anything wrong
  • he was sorry if he did
  • he was an old man when the stuff went down
  • he was a young man when the stuff went down
  • he didn't know he was wrong but will do better now
  • he's going to sue the NYT
  • he's going to become a fierce culture warrior against the NRA (yes seriously he said that)
Although the outrage machine is slowly starting to wake up and target Weinstein it's safe to say that at this point Weinstein still hasn't received the same level of media attention, contempt and ridicule that Bill Cosby did. I suspect that's not only due to race but also that Weinstein and people of similar minds still have a lot of power in Hollywood. Weinstein has more power in Hollywood than Cosby ever did. Famously combative, Weinstein isn't a man you cross unless you're willing to take confrontation to the limit.

I have no idea whether or not Weinstein did all of the things he's accused of doing. To give the devil his due, in hearing only one side of the story we don't have context. Were Weinstein's actions performed with consensual understanding with mercenary adult women who were down for whatever? Or was Weinstein forcing himself onto desperate women knowing that in most cases the women would submit because they were afraid of harming their careers or didn't think they would be believed. I would tend towards the latter explanation. Hollywood and the entertainment industry have a long history of tolerating immoral and even criminal behavior. Weinstein made money for people. People's tolerance for bad behavior increases in almost any industry, if the problematic person is a good earner. Some people in Hollywood are finger pointing about who knew what when. Others outside of Hollywood are latching on to Weinstein's status as a Democratic fundraiser and donor to grind their partisan axes. Others are scrambling to distance themselves from someone who has allegedly and apparently been revealed as a real mamzer.

I think this affair should just be a reminder not only that Hollywood and related industries are full of scumbags but that far too many of us are willing to turn a blind eye to our scumbags because we find them useful in other ways. Weinstein's ridiculous offering to work against the NRA as an indulgence or way to expiate his sin shows that he understands this human tendency all too well. The other question I have is why are these stories coming out now. Is this a power play from Weinstein's brother or someone else in Hollywood who is a Weinstein detractor? Either way, what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong. People should remember that. It's not that difficult. Don't rape anyone. Don't sexually harass anyone. Don't grab anyone by their genitalia. This isn't partial differential equations. 
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