Moving Forward: How Will Hollywood Police Sexual Misconduct?

Elle Cahill

Back in October, tinsel town’s illusion of glitz and glamour was shattered when multiple women accused heavyweight Hollywood producer and Weinstein Company co-founder Harvey Weinstein of sexual assaults that dated back to the 1990’s. Ever since, a growing number of women have added to the accusations against Weinstein, which has led many to making claims against other Hollywood veterans for similar behaviour.

Hollywood has long been plagued by filmmakers who have toed the line when it comes to inappropriate sexual behaviour, but the response to today’s accusations varies greatly to transgressions that have happened in the past.

Weinstein was fired from the Weinstein Company almost immediately, although he continues to deny any wrongdoing. After Kevin Spacey was accused of making sexual advances towards actor Anthony Rapp when he was just 14 years old (Rapp is now 47), Spacey was dropped like a hotcake from Netflix original series House of Cards, and was also replaced by Christopher Plummer in Ridley Scott’s current release All the Money in the World, just mere weeks before it’s premiere.

Woody Allen, on the other hand, was accused of paedophilia by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow roughly a quarter of a century ago. Since then, he has gone on to release more than 25 films (almost 1 per year), and has been nominated for numerous film awards, including his Oscar win in 2012 for Midnight in Paris.

Roman Polanski is another filmmaker who has continued to work in the film industry despite pleading guilty in 1979 to raping a 13-year-old girl, and fleeing the United States to avoid sentencing. An additional five women have since made accusations against him for raping them as children.

The reactions to these perpetrators are largely misaligned, and while this may have something to do with the timing of the accusations against them, the fact is no one should be quietly slipping under the radar. If some filmmakers and actors are being pulled from projects, like director Brett Ratner, who has been dropped by Warner Bros. Studios, then shouldn’t all those accused of sexual misconduct be removed from projects? What’s more, who determines if or when these offenders should be given the opportunity for forgiveness and be permitted to work in the industry again? These are two important questions that need to be answered, and fast.

And what about the women who have been sexually assaulted? The media has mostly focused on the perpetrators, while all but ignoring the victims. Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino’s careers were ultimately derailed by Weinstein, which has been supported by director Peter Jackson who was personally encouraged by Weinstein not to work with either actress. What compensation will they receive for his actions and the destruction of their livelihood? What about the female comedians who CK Louis decided it was appropriate to masturbate in front of? What possible compensation could they receive to make his actions forgivable? And what about long time offenders who have long been forgotten about, like Allen and Polanski? Is now the time we call them out for their past behaviour, or is it too little too late?

The questions surrounding the issue are endless, but there are three major problems that need to be dealt with in the imminent future. First, the notion of the “casting couch” – where an employer demands sexual favours from an employee in return for career advancement – needs to cease. It’s old, out-dated and disgusting. Second, there needs to be an understanding throughout the industry that no other person has the right to another person’s body without that person’s express permission, and this then needs to be reflected in mainstream entertainment. Finally, there needs to be available support, not only for the victims, but also for those who are in danger of committing sexual assault and it needs to be provided without judgement or persecution.

Hollywood has a great responsibility here. How it chooses to proceed and deal with these issues will surely impact how other industries deal with similar situations. It’s a lot of pressure, so let’s hope they get it right.

Image courtesy of Netflix & House of Cards 

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