The Harvey Weinstein story is an appalling one. The reports of Weinstein’s behavior related by women in articles published in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and other publications are horrific. Those stories tell us a lot about the ugly sexual realities of the Hollywood and film-making world — and they also tell us a lot about the quality of the people who work there.
It’s pretty clear that a lot of people knew of Weinstein’s behavior and had heard stories about him. They were aware, at least, that there were indications that he had repeatedly engaged in aggressive sexual propositioning and grossly inappropriate behavior, even if they credited his claims that his ultimate sexual liaisons were all “consensual” rather than criminal. Some people obviously knew more, and were involved in either helping to identify young women for Weinstein to target or in quashing or covering up the terrible stories that are only now surfacing, years later. And yet, none of these people evidently said anything, or did anything, to stop Weinstein’s behavior, and he continued to show up on the red carpet for the awards shows and work in the Hollywood community and win awards and gain accolades and get his picture taken with grinning movie stars without having to answer for his conduct or suffer any consequences. It’s a sad and disgusting commentary about the lack of ethical, principled, decent, courageous people who would be willing to endure potential repercussions in order to do what they know is right.
Lena Dunham wrote a piece for the New York Times about her experiences with sexism in Hollywood and the silence of men in the wake of the Weinstein scandal. I don’t always agree with Lena Dunham, but she’s right in this instance. I’m guessing, though, that the awareness of Weinstein’s behavior went beyond his unfortunate victims and men, and included women as well. They all engaged in a conspiracy of silence — and also a conspiracy of the rankest kind of hypocrisy. Those of us out in “flyover country” are frequently lectured by the Hollywood stars about what we should be doing, what we should be thinking, or who we should be supporting — but it certainly appears that at least some of those Hollywood stars cravenly didn’t act in accordance with their stated beliefs when it counted. Maybe they just lack any personal courage, or maybe they’re concerned only about themselves and their next movie, or maybe they didn’t believe what they were saying in the first place and said it only because that’s what was written on the script.
I’ll remember the awful Weinstein story the next time I see a public service announcement featuring Hollywood stars or other celebrities lecturing us on how to conduct ourselves. In the wake of the Weinstein scandal and the hypocrisy it exposes, why should anyone credit anything a Hollywood star has to say about the world?