The Depths Of Depravity

In the wake of the disgusting Harvey Weinstein scandal, actresses and other women who are participants in the film and TV industry are stepping forward with their stories about sexual harassment, and worse.  They are ugly, extremely disturbing stories, and it seems as though there are many more stories to be told.

Molly Ringwald in Breakfast ClubMolly Ringwald, the youthful megastar of many hit movies of the ’80s, wrote an opinion piece for the New Yorker entitled “All the Other Harvey Weinsteins” that describes her experiences as the target of harassment and demeaning conduct, which included an incident that occurred when she was only 13.  Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Thompson, Reese Witherspoon, and other well-known figures have similarly talked about their personal histories in dealing with ugly comments, degrading behavior, and sexual assault.

Thompson says she thinks that sexual assault is “endemic” in Hollywood, and she seems to be right in her use of that word:  the incidents that she and others have related make it clear that the problem isn’t limited to Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby.  From the stories being told, Hollywood has been a grossly depraved place for decades and maybe forever, a place where egregious behavior was tolerated, rationalized, and covered up, where powerful men were able to do what they wanted, no matter how sick or twisted, without fear of being caught and punished or otherwise held accountable, and agents, directors, producers, and others were all part of the culture of harassment and corruption who did nothing to help or protect the girls and women who were being subjected to shameful and at times criminal behavior.

Let’s hope that the dam has finally broken, and that the torrent of stories about harassment and assault in Hollywood finally changes the system for the better — but I wouldn’t count on it.  The depravity of the film and TV industry seems to have been so deep and embedded, with so many people either actively participating or looking the other way, that I wouldn’t trust Hollywood to self-regulate going forward.  In fact, I wouldn’t trust Hollywood types when they talk about just about anything.

It’s time for the news media and the government regulators to start paying a lot more attention to what happens behind the scenes and behind the cameras, to ensure that girls and women don’t become victims, again and again and again.

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David Sedaris

Last night Kish and I and Mr. and Mrs. JV went to the Ohio Theater for a visit by David Sedaris, the best-selling author, essayist, and serial contributor to National Public Radio.

Sedaris is an extremely funny man.  You might call him a humorist, the latest in a long line that stretches back to Mark Twain and Will Rogers and Bill Cosby of the late ’60s/early ’70s chicken heart era.  Rather than just throwing out one-liners, Sedaris tells tales of his childhood and his family, his beachfront home on the North Carolina shoreline, and his travels.  His stories build and twist and turn, hysterical and loving and mixed with social commentary all at once, always written with just the right observation and word choice.  It’s not easy to write something funny, but Sedaris makes it seem effortless.

Last night Sedaris read some of his pieces, then turned to selected entries from his diary, and finally fielded some questions from the audience.  The stories were vintage Sedaris — one about his effort to have a fatty tumor cut off by a random doctor who agreed to return it, in violation of federal law, so Sedaris could feed it to an old snapping turtle, another about his younger brother whose conviction that vaccinations cause autism is just one of many curious beliefs — and his diary entries, from around the world, touched upon his interest in having a different meal on Thanksgiving, the sensible British approach to what words may be used on radio, and other topics.  Along the way he threw in a few X-rated jokes about a snotty kid who gets a surprising answer when he asks his grandfather to “tell me something I don’t know” and a woman’s visit to her gynecologist.

Sedaris kept his audience well entertained with just a podium, a table with some liquids to wet his whistle, his notes, and of course his personality and his voice.  The setting recalled an earlier time, when Americans didn’t need to have loud music and constant visual stimulation to be entertained.  But be forewarned — while Sedaris’ venue is a throwback of sorts, his sensibilities and language are thoroughly modern and likely to veer suddenly into the scatological and sexual at any moment.  It’s not a show for kids.