Professor Caroline Heldman, who is working with some of Harvey Weinstein’s victims, said the following about Weinstein’s behavior in an interview with Piers Morgan on Wednesday: “I think it is systemic and that not only have we seen the tip of the iceberg but we will see other men facing allegations. I believe the flood gates are open. We are in a new era.”
Undoubtedly such sentiment is widespread: Many more Hollywood pigs like Weinstein are about to be exposed, and Tinsel Town will never be the same.
Count me as skeptical.
First, we are NOT in a new era unless by new Prof. Heldman means an era that began over a quarter century ago. The problem of sexual harassment was put under the klieg lights by the media during the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill controversy in 1991. It remained there during the 1990s thanks to President Bill Clinton’s uncontrollable appetites. That more people in Hollywood will now be coming forward about Weinstein-like abuse because the veil on sexual harassment has now been lifted is laughable.
The only incentive that has changed is that women who have been abused by other Hollywood swine no longer feel alone. When people no longer feel alone, the fear of coming forward diminishes. Unfortunately, that won’t be sufficient because the incentives for actresses to keep their mouths shut are still very powerful.
The drive for fame is immensely compelling, second only to the drive for power. Achieving fame means getting your name up in lights, earning millions of dollars, living in a palatial estate, having assistants cater to your every whim, being adored by millions of fans, a press hanging on your every word, colleagues applauding you at award shows, and entrée to parties, restaurants, and clubs to which most people will never have access. Compared to that, being asked to give a massage by a fat man with an erection in his hotel room is a small price to pay.
Consider actress Ashley Judd who in 1997 found herself in Weinstein’s hotel room where the portly producer asked her for a massage, shoulder rub, and to watch him take a shower. Judd’s reaction was not, “Oh my God, what a disgusting pig!,” nor “I’d better warn other women about this clown.” Instead, she thought to herself, “How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?” For Judd, fame was more important than taking one for the sisterhood by going to the media about Weinstein’s behavior. And it paid off for her as she would later appear in two films, Frida and Crossing Over, that Weinstein was involved in.
The drive for fame is so strong that actresses will tolerate such behavior even if there is only a remote chance of stardom. Proof of this is that Weinstein’s bad behavior goes back about 30 years, to the late 1980s. Weinstein didn’t become a big Hollywood mogul until after he produced the 1994 hit Pulp Fiction. Presumably, Weinstein’s ability to boost an actress’s career was limited prior to that. Yet no one harassed or abused by Weinstein ever came forward during that time.
It probably wasn’t only the drive for fame that kept Weinstein’s victims during that time from coming forward. If they had gone to the media, they would have gotten a reputation as troublemakers, and other producers and directors who were Harvey-like would have avoided putting them in their films.
That disincentive to come forward exists today. Surely Judd, Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, et al. have had similar experiences with Hollywood moguls other than Weinstein. So why haven’t they named more names? Perhaps that will come over time. But I doubt it because they all would like to keep getting movie roles.
Ironically, Weinstein once said, “Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion.” In fact, Hollywood will always be a moral cesspool because it has fame. The desire for fame allows Hollywood producers and directors to be loutish because it incentivizes actresses to keep quiet. In short, it incentivizes cowardice.
I hope that more Hollywood men will soon be running the Weinstein gauntlet. But I’ll be surprised if that happens.