God is on the side of the oppressed, not the oppressors. Are we defending the vulnerable or those who have power? One of two great evils has occurred any time an allegation of abuse is made: either the person has indeed been abused, or an innocent person has been falsely accused. I am not saying the latter never happens, but we must realize that our bias often causes us to look favorably upon those with reputations for good Christian living, teaching, etc. Sexual predators are often very good at hiding their true ugliness. There aren’t many occasions on which someone is proven to be a sexual predator and everyone says, “Yeah, I kind of figured.”
2017 may well go down in history as the year that Hollywood was revealed for what it really was all along. The past few weeks have brought us a torrent of accusations of sexual abuse and harassment against some of the leading names in American show business, from beloved Star Trek alum George Takei, to comedian Louis C.K. and Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, a host of big names are now fighting to deny (or in the case of Louis C.K., to apologize for) the accusations of misconduct that have been made against them. Then there is the man who practically runs the American film industry: Harvey Weinstein.
It was an open secret for years that Harvey Weinstein would use influence to get anything he wanted, but usually this was viewed in the context of film politics. Yes, Hollywood has a form of politics all its own. Since I was a teenager, I have been paying attention to the yearly series of self-congratulatory awards shows leading up to the Oscars. I have an idea of how the studios campaign for their films. At Miramax and then his own eponymous company, Harvey Weinstein built the most formidable campaign operation that the Oscars had ever seen. His ability to get his films into the winner’s circle was so impressive, one couldn’t help wondering if he was personally visiting Oscar voters in their retirement homes in order to twist their arms. (Yes, most of the voters are old, white, and male.)
There was no question that Weinstein behaved like a strong man, and yet his power attracted the friendship of anyone who was anyone. They all knew that he was pulling the strings. Hosts at award shows would joke about it openly. No one stopped to put two and two together and think, “If this is how this man behaves in general, might he be behaving this way toward the women in his life?” Actually, they did, but they were too terrified of crossing him to say anything. Weinstein had his fingers in so many aspects of the film industry that getting on his bad side was not a good idea for any up and comer.
Don’t get me wrong: Weinstein didn’t simply take advantage of the actors and actresses who worked for him. He was capable of delivering on many of his grandiose promises, which is why they flocked to him. Dame Judi Dench credited Weinstein with taking her from a respected but relatively anonymous stage actress to a major film star in the 1990s and onward. Wishing to give him something he didn’t have, she had a temporary tattoo applied in a sensitive area that read “JD loves HW”. I kid you not: both she and Weinstein have acknowledged it publicly. Of course, Dame Judi has now denounced Weinstein.
While Harvey Weinstein has been one of the biggest fish in the Hollywood pond for more than two decades, his misdeeds are only the tip of the iceberg. Watching the Oscars year after year, I have grown so tired of the way these people treat their art form like it is a kind of sacred calling. Just last year, Viola Davis, an admittedly excellent actress, said in her acceptance speech for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, “I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” I understand that she was on the spot and very emotional, but this was a profoundly ridiculous statement. A similar sentiment was expressed by George Clooney when he accepted the award for Best Supporting Actor in 2006.
And finally, I would say that, you know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while, I think. It’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talked about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects, we are the ones—this Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud to be a part of this Academy, proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch.
Again, we see the film industry portrayed as the champion of the downtrodden, the moral compass of a nation, and the expression of what is best in all of us. Of course, the hotel in which Hattie McDaniel accepted her Oscar was segregated. Clooney forgot to mention that in his ode to Hollywood. It also seems unlikely that McDaniel would have won if she had starred in a film portraying real life for blacks in America rather than an idealized version of the antebellum South.