As more women come out against the Hollywood producer, the story’s impact is felt far beyond the reaches of Hollywood
The Harvey Weinstein storm is demolishing Hollywood right now, and its effects could be felt for some time to come.
This is the entertainment story of the year. As the avalanche of women come out against Harvey Weinstein, an entire culture is being rocked to its core: A culture where young women are preyed upon by greedy, powerful men, a culture that has existed and even flourished for years because, hey, that’s just the way things are.
Not for long they aren’t. Weinstein is the Hollywood megaproducer who changed the business of movies in the 1990s with his company Miramax all while, allegedly, making lewd and often sexual advances toward seemingly every budding young actress in the business. It’s naïve, of course, to think that as more and more women speak out against the movie mogul, the practice of men objectifying and taking advantage of young women will end. But this is shaping up to be a story that is reverberating far beyond the reaches of Hollywood.
In the ’90s, there was no greater symbol of quality in the movies than Miramax. That block-text logo in front of a film meant you were about to see something daring, something bold, something special. Producers are often anonymous figures to the public, money men who yield great power behind the scenes, but whose names don’t mean much to Joe Moviegoer. Not Harvey Weinstein: even to the casual Premiere magazine-reading movie fan, he became known as a fosterer of great talent, taking young filmmakers like Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino under his wing and bankrolling their careers. He was a big, imposing, larger-than-life figure, notorious for throwing his might around, becoming known as Harvey Scissorhands for his reputation of making filmmakers cut and re-edit their projects.
It worked. Weinstein’s track record was impeccable and his influence was endless, perhaps best illustrated when he pretty much single-handedly ushered “Shakespeare in Love” to a Best Picture win over “Saving Private Ryan” at the 1999 Academy Awards. That was a legendary Oscar year, in no small part because of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Best Actress win, when the then-26-year-old actress took the stage in her pink Ralph Lauren dress and became a real-life Cinderella. Paltrow was the princess of Miramax, and she certainly looked the part that night.
Looking back at that night now — Paltrow hoisting her Oscar in the air, Weinstein at her side — your stomach recoils in horror. Paltrow is one of a flood of actresses who spoke out against Weinstein this week, telling of the harassment she endured as she was courting a role in 1996’s “Emma,” which helped mint her star. Paltrow’s story sounds like so many of the stories that have emerged: Weinstein invites her to a meeting, they wind up in his hotel room, massages are suggested, advances are made. Paltrow was able to get out before things got worse. Many others weren’t.
So far, 35 women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and mistreatment against Weinstein, including Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Mira Sorvino, Asia Argento, Rosanna Arquette, Heather Graham, Cara Delevingne, Kate Beckinsale and Claire Forlani. As Emma Thompson said this week, Weinstein is just the tip of the iceberg in a town notorious for its mistreatment of women. Ben Affleck has been swept up in the controversy and taken to task for his on-camera grossness toward women.
Since Weinstein is a big Democratic backer and because everything in 2017 seems political, the story has become politicized. And because of that, people are talking about the systematic mistreatment of women across the board — in the music world, in the political sphere, in everyday life. This is becoming a watershed moment for women to speak up, and speak out, against abuse.
Harvey Weinstein doesn’t happen in a vacuum, nor does Bill Cosby, or Phil Spector, or R. Kelly, or Roger Ailes, or Donald Trump or any powerful man with a history of sexual abuse allegations swirling around him. Something needs to change. And that may be happening.
Hollywood is on the cusp of its award season, and the tone of all those acceptance speeches is about to take on a lot more weight. Storms tend to do their damage and die down, leaving everyone to pick up the pieces. This one will be with us for awhile, and we’ve only begun to assess the damage.
The long process of healing appears to be under way.