Weinstein’s World Falls Apart

Renowned American film producer and former studio executive, Harvey Weinstein, has had a history paved with success, wealth, and fame. He has played an instrumental role in the founding of the Miramax and Weinstein Companies, which helped develop notable independent films; some of which include “Pulp Fiction” and “The King’s Speech.” His movies have garnered over 300 Oscar nominations, and many actors have attributed their success to his keen artistic direction.

Recently, however, Weinstein found himself at the center of a negative media firestorm, one that is full of sexual assault allegations. In the past month, more than a dozen women have come forward citing instances in which Weinstein made sexual advances toward them. Some have included allegations of rape and sexual assault. Among these women are powerful actresses such as Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Ashley Judd, and Gwyneth Paltrow. In exchange for their silence, bribes for money and threats against their careers were made.

This gross violation of Weinstein’s authority is morally reprehensible. His fall from grace mirrors that of many actors and powerful male figures, as seen in recent years. It also highlights a disturbing trend of women being preyed on and fearing their words against such powerful figures will be undermined.

Italian actress and director, Asia Argento, spoke out about how Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 1997. Weinstein lured her into his hotel room under the false pretense of a professional social gathering and changed into a bathrobe, asking her for a massage. When Argento hesitantly obliged, he forced himself on her and performed oral sex on her against her will. She states, “The thing with being a victim is that I felt responsible.”

These feelings of guilt linger and made her comply to continue meeting with Weinstein and have consensual sex with him on multiple occasions. Although this may weaken the credibility of her claim, Argento feared Weinstein had the potential to ruin her emerging career, if she angered him. Argento made the creative choice to portray a similar scenario of assault in her 2000 movie “Scarlet Diva” and remarks that “people would ask me about him because of the scene in the movie.” Her instance is one of many that shows an eerily similar pattern that has been recognized by many of Weinstein’s other victims. This pattern involves Weinstein luring the women under false pretense and forcing himself on them in a lone setting. These women range from well-known actresses, to those who were just starting out their careers with Weinstein’s aid.

In a statement from Weinstein himself, the producer  attempted to lessen the severity of the situation by issuing a statement of acknowledgment on October 5. In his New York Times piece, he attempted damage control by asserting he understood his actions, but he hopes to get a second chance in the community. He relayed,

“My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons… I’ve been trying to do this for 10 years and this is a wake-up call. I cannot be more remorseful about the people I hurt and I plan to do right by all of them.”

Following this letter, more women have come forward. Democratic politicians he once supported have distanced themselves from the controversy. His wife, English fashion designer and actress, Georgina Chapman has announced her plans to divorce and leave Weinstein.

Many Hollywood actresses have stepped forward with their sexual assault allegations, the most recent of which was in 2015. However, Weinstein’s infamous reputation stretches as far back to the 1970s. This horrifying trend begs the question of whether or not Weinstein’s wakeup call only occurred because of the recent negative repercussions. If Weinstein had truly wanted to change for the better, it would seem logical to assume he would have reevaluated and fixed his indecent behavior. Yet, the constant flow of stories from throughout the decades casts a shadow over Weinstein’s reconciliatory statement.

Furthermore, the companies Weinstein has had affiliations with also chose to assert their disapproval of these abhorrent actions. The Producers Guild of America has issued a lifetime ban on Weinstein, maintaining this is a “reflection of the seriousness which the Guild regards the numerous reports of Mr. Weinstein’s decades of reprehensible conduct.” This bold action follows the expulsion of Weinstein from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

These remarkably graphic stories have inspired other women to come forward regarding sexual abuse at the hands of other notable Hollywood figures, such as Roy Price and James Toback. It raises the issue of how these instances of sexual assault go unreported even by actresses perceived to be powerful, bold women. It is even more fascinating to note Weinstein’s sexual transgressions remained an open secret to many in the Hollywood community. For example, in a 1998 interview with David Letterman, Gwyneth Paltrow referred to Weinstein as someone who will “coerce you to do a thing.” She stayed quiet about the assault because Weinstein had propelled her career into stardom and had the ability to ruin it, as well as her reputation.

There is a sense of hopelessness these women feel that is only amplified by seeing men like Weinstein walking the red carpet, free of any consequences of their actions. These victims feel emotional strength in numbers and are compelled to tell their stories in order to prevent other women from experiencing similar traumatic events.

The fact that society has chosen to ostracize and alienate Weinstein in the public limelight is a step in the right direction. We must strive to end this vicious cycle of sexual abuse where victims are accused, while the perpetrator maintains his high social position. Although Weinstein’s reputation has been damaged beyond repair, one can only begin to imagine the lifetime of emotional trauma he has left behind in wake of his shameful actions.

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