When legendary entertainment reporter Kim Masters was asked in a TV interview last week exactly how many women have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault she replied back, “What hour is it right now? Because the total gets bigger by the hour.”
At last check, the total is now over 50. If you are reading this a week or just a few days from now it will probably be even higher.
Yet since the scandal broke I haven’t written anything about it on this site. It’s easily the biggest news story to hit Hollywood in all the years I’ve been doing this, and I’m over here writing a review of a Brad’s Status no one is going to read. What the hell is wrong with me?
Frankly, I simply haven’t known what to do with this story. It’s all so appalling, but it’s also so, so much bigger than just Harvey Weinstein or Roy Price or the guy from Nickelodeon or Bob Weinstein or Oliver Stone or whoever else ends up getting taken down by the #MeToo movement or any of the internet personalities (e.g., Devin Faraci, Harry Knowles, etc.) who were accused of harassment even before the Weinstein story broke.
This is bigger than Hollywood. This is even bigger than Donald Trump, our sexual-predator-in-chief. This is a society-wide problem with no quick solutions, and I’m not just talking about systemic sexism, victim-shaming or this country’s pronounced aversion to gender equity.
This is also about a corrupt justice system that would kill a NYPD investigation and sting operation because Harvey probably paid off the DA via “campaign donations.”
This is also about the credibility of mainstream journalism.
When Peter Biskind writes the literal book on Miramax and Harvey Weinstein and actively chooses to look away from the sexual assault rumors that’s a real problem. When NBC, which already punted on the Trump-Access Hollywood tapes, has the Harvey Weinstein story in its hands but tries to kill it that’s a problem. When Kim Masters has the story on Amazon Studios head Roy Price but has to turn to a tech website to get it published after being rejected by lawsuit-weary outlets like New York Times (even though they ran the Weinstein story) and Buzzfeed (even though they ran the full Trump-Russia dossier against all journalistic wisdom) that’s…well, you can probably guess the rest.
As Masters wrote in Columbia Journalism Review last week, “In the wake of Hulk Hogan’s successful lawsuit against Gawker, a case that essentially bankrupted the company, we seem to be at a point when the wealthy feel emboldened to try to silence reporters by threatening litigation even if they stand virtually no chance of winning.”
She’s referring to the infamous lawsuit where a billionaire with an ax to grind against Gawker secretly funded Hogan’s legal defense and successfully litigated a journalistic nuisance to him out of existence. The precedent set in that case has everyone in journalism on edge. There’s a fantastic documentary about it on Netflix. But I’m getting off topic.
What I really want to do here is simply turn this article over to all of the women who have spoken out against Harvey and all the other Harvey’s in the business. Since this story has ballooned so quickly you might have missed some of the details or not kept up with all of the op-eds actual actresses and women in the industry have written about their experiences. You might have already read or heard what Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie, Lysette Anthony, Asia Argento and others in the first-wave of this story had to say. But there have been more, and not always specific to encounters with Harvey. If you want to understand what it’s been like for them then consider these must-reads:
“Sarah Polley: The Men You Meet Making Movies” – New York Times
Several years ago, I approached a couple of successful female actors in Hollywood about an idea I had for a comedy project: We would write, direct and star in a short film about the craziest, worst experience we’d ever had on a set. We told our stories to one another, thinking they would be hysterically funny. We were full of zeal for this project. But the stories, when we told them, left us in tears and bewildered at how casually we had taken these horror stories and tried to make them into comedy. They were stories of assault. When they were spoken out loud, it was impossible to reframe them any other way. This is how we’d normalized the trauma, tried to integrate it, by making comedy out of it. We abandoned the film, but not the project of unearthing the weight of these stories, which we’d previously hidden from ourselves.
The guys started excluding me from meetings: “Oh, we couldn’t find you”…at my desk. Then they started excluding me from the table, instead assigning me “the slit scenes” to write. Even though these scenes were the ones that featured the only female castmember, it didn’t occur to me exactly what slit they were referring to until one day in the ladies room.
My mantra became, “I won’t cry until I get home.” It was amended to “I won’t cry until I get into the parking lot,” which became “I won’t cry until I get into the stairwell,” which morphed into “Fuck, I’m crying.’
One day, I was sitting in Garry [Shandling]’s office across the desk from him. A few of the writers and one of the actors were in the room, too. I felt a tap on my shoulder, I turned, and there was that actor’s flaccid penis draped on it like a pirate’s dead parrot. Riotous laughter ensued from all but one of us.
A day or so later, Brad Grey, one of the show’s producers, called me into his office. “I understand we have a problem,” he said. He knew! I was so relieved. “So I think you should quit.” Wait, what? This was my problem? Shouldn’t he at least fire me so I could get paid? Nope. I was to do the smart thing and quit. Today.
I called my agent on a pay phone (I told you this was pre-Google). I suggested we sue, but the cold reality was that I was a broke baby writer. And even if I could afford to sue one of the most successful production companies in town, I’d never work again.
Ironically, in a business that rarely allows women to play superheroes, recent events have created some new ones who will never be forgotten. Thank you, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and all you other stand-up, kick-ass females who have been willing to risk everything for the rest of us. We must absolutely honor your courage by never going back to the darkness and silence of business as usual. Because of you, we are not asking anymore. We are demanding our right to live and work in the entertainment industry, unencumbered by the sexual abuse of men. We are doing so because we believe that a young woman who climbs into her battered Honda Civic and says goodbye to everything she has ever known and loved should be able to pursue her dream of becoming an actress without having to watch Harvey Weinstein take a shower. We believe every female in our business has a right to show up for work with a rock-solid guarantee that she will not have to bounce a dime off her butt, shoot a raccoon, draw a sketch of her private parts or have a male appendage shoved down her throat because the man on the other end cannot earn this favor the old-fashioned way.
“All the Other Harveys” by Molly Ringwald in The New Yorker
While my own Harvey story may be different, I have had plenty of Harveys of my own over the years, enough to feel a sickening shock of recognition. When I was thirteen, a fifty-year-old crew member told me that he would teach me to dance, and then proceeded to push against me with an erection. When I was fourteen, a married film director stuck his tongue in my mouth on set. At a time when I was trying to figure out what it meant to become a sexually viable young woman, at every turn some older guy tried to help speed up the process. And all this went on despite my having very protective parents who did their best to shield me. I shudder to think of what would have happened had I not had them.
“Lupita Nyong’o: Speaking Out About Harvey Weinstein” – New York Times
“I began to massage [Harvey’s] back to buy myself time to figure out how to extricate myself from this undesirable situation. Before long he said he wanted to take off his pants,” she continued. “I told him not to do that and informed him that it would make me extremely uncomfortable. He got up anyway to do so and I headed for the door, saying that I was not at all comfortable with that.”
“I Had to Defend Myself: The Night Harvey Weinstein Jumped On Me” by Lea Seydoux in The Guardian
The first time a director made an inappropriate comment to me, I was in my mid-20s. He was a director I really liked and respected. We were alone and he said to me: “I wish I could have sex with you, I wish I could fuck you.”
He said it in a way that was half joking and half serious. I was very angry. I was trying to do my job and he made me very uncomfortable. He has slept with all of the actresses he filmed.
Another director I worked with would film very long sex scenes that lasted days. He kept watching us, replaying the scenes over and over again in a kind of stupor. It was very gross.
Yet another director tried to kiss me. Like Weinstein, I had to physically push him away, too. He acted like a crazy man, deranged by the fact that I didn’t want to have sex with him.
“Harvey Weinstein and I at The Hotel Du Cap” by Zoe Brock for Medium
The water taxis weren’t running and I was stranded on the shore, but Harvey kept the penthouse suite at the Majestic Hotel for ‘emergencies’ and we headed there. While he went to the front desk to tell them I would be staying Rick took the opportunity to apologize to me.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I want you to know that of all the girls he does this to you are the one I really felt bad about. You deserve better.”
This comment made me nauseous. It was an admission of his sycophantic enabling. I could see the guy felt truly remorseful. He was near tears. But I could also tell that he had no idea how messed up this ‘apology’ was. How many girls were there? Did this shit happen every day
Lena Headey on Twitter:
Claire Forlani on Twitter: “I ducked, dived and ultimately got out of there without getting slobbered over, well just a bit. Yes, massage was suggested.”
Cara Delevigne on Instagram:
Reese Witherspoon at Elle’s Women in Hollywood event: “[I feel] true disgust at the director who assaulted me when I was 16 years old and anger at the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment. And I wish I could tell you that was an isolated incident in my career, but sadly it wasn’t. I’ve had multiple experiences of harassment and sexual assault and I don’t speak about them very often.”
There are so many more, and it keeps getting worse. According to THR, female crewmembers are regularly harassed as well, but they don’t yet feel they have the power to speakup, “Of the more than two dozen crafts women surveyed by THR, virtually all reported verbal and/or sexual harassment in the workplace. More than half said they have been harassed by a director. Nearly half said they were harassed by an actor. And most also described widespread harassment by department heads and/or fellow crewmembers. But almost all of them declined to be named, since, several said, the system doesn’t support that.”
And of course male actors are not immune to this. Terry Crews and James Van Der Beek were both assaulted as adults. With Terry, it happened just last year. Corey Feldman has long maintained he was sexually abused as a child actor, and those accusations of similar incidents of child abuse against Bryan Singer still linger.
On the bright side, Harvey has now lost his job, his company, his wife, his coveted Academy and BAFTA memberships and is now under investigation for rape by at least three different legal entities (NYPD, LAPD, the London police) and could still be charged in the state of Utah. So, there’s that.