When it comes to Academy Award speeches, few people have been thanked more than God. In fact, only five more people are deemed more instrumental to success in Hollywood than the Alpha and Omega. The first is Stephen Spielberg – he’s been thanked forty-two times in the history of the Oscars. The man in second place was famously compared to God by Meryl Streep when accepting a Golden Globe award.
Harvey Weinstein has enjoyed an unparalleled success in the movie industry since the seventies, but lately the world has learned that the success came at a price for the women he had power over.
The New York Times was the first to break the story of the multiple alleged sexual harassment accusations against Weinstein, and it sparked a somewhat refreshing rebellion against him by the Hollywood elite. Meryl Streep went from praising him as a God to condemning him as ‘disgraceful’, while Dame Judi Dench offered her “wholehearted support to those who have spoken out.” Weinstein was rightly fired by the company that he co-founded after the allegations came to light, and it’s hard to see how his career could ever potentially recover from this bombshell. This isn’t a tragedy, it’s the way things should be – sexual predators and those who abuse their power should be made to face the consequences of their actions, no matter how many million dollars might be in the bank account. But why is this such a rarity?
There’s a plethora of successful Hollywood men who have had similar allegations brought against them, but still appear on our screens as if nothing happened
Take Casey Affleck for example, he was sued for sexual misconduct in 2010, by two women who worked with him on the film I’m Still Here. They alleged that he would brag about his sexual exploits, propositioned them, grabbed them, and even slid into one woman’s bed without permission. Far from damaging his career, he was then nominated for an Oscar in 2016 for his role in Manchester By The Sea. Critics gushed about his performance, he was invited on chat shows and appeared at film festivals without the allegations even being mentioned by any of the mainstream press that interviewed him. An insider at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) told the Guardian newspaper, that they believed it was to avoid possibly butting heads with brother Ben Affleck and childhood friend Matt Damon, both industry heavyweights.
Roman Polanski pleaded guilty to ‘unlawful sexual intercourse’ in 1977, after having sex with a thirteen-year-old girl that he also plied with alcohol and Quaaludes. He was originally charged with rape but the charge was lowered as part of a plea deal. He then fled the country to avoid sentencing, and he’s still a fugitive to this day. As of 2002, he’s also an Oscar winner. When he was arrested for the crime at a Swiss film festival in 2009, stars like Tilda Swinton, Sam Mendez, and fellow celebrated abuser Woody Allen signed a petition for his release. The extradition failed, and he’s still wandering around free, still enjoying a relatively stellar reputation within the industry.
Stars like Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Michael Fassbender, and Alec Baldwin have all been accused of domestic violence and are all still active in the movie industry.
There seems to be a very low bar set for the men of Hollywood in terms of behaviour deemed acceptable by their peers and fans. While some men – like Harvey Weinstein – are rightly vilified and made to face the consequences of their actions, it seems like a whole lot more are allowed to slide. Why does Hollywood seem to care more about protecting the careers of alleged and convicted abusers, more than their victims?
It’s now up to the public, the press, and the industry to use the Weinstein scandal as a precedent. Victims of sexual assault and violence should never have to see their abusers hailed as heroes.