Living Columns & Blogs

Harvey Weinstein Hollywood scandal shows the dark side of powerful men

The New York Times and New Yorker stories opened the floodgates for other women to present their accounts of how Harvey Weinstein allegedly harassed and/or assaulted them.
The New York Times and New Yorker stories opened the floodgates for other women to present their accounts of how Harvey Weinstein allegedly harassed and/or assaulted them. Getty Images

Over the past few weeks, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has been called a lot of names from women he’s worked with in the past.

Canadian actress/filmmaker Sarah Polley called him a “festering pustule” in a New York Times op-ed, while talent manager Simone Sheffield has said he “looked and acted like a ‘big bully pig.’ ” And then there are women who simply refer to him as a “rapist.” They allege that he raped them, or sexually assaulted them, accusations he has denied as “patently false.”

The man who led an independent-film revolution in the ’90s, releasing such breakthrough Oscar-winning films as “Pulp Fiction,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Shakespeare in Love” through the Miramax distribution company he started with his brother, Bob, has had a lousy month.

It started when The New York Times dropped a lengthy piece in which Weinstein is accused of sexually harassing – and arranging numerous financial settlements – with his female employees as well as then-aspiring actress Rose McGowan (who later accused Weinstein of rape).

A few days later, The New Yorker followed up with a story written by journalist Ronan Farrow (Mia Farrow’s son), where he talked to other actresses (including Asia Argento – another woman who has accused Weinstein of rape – and Mira Sorvino) who say they have also had uncomfortable, inappropriate run-ins with the powerful Hollywood executive.

Weinstein tried to be apologetic after the news reports, announcing he’s going to work on himself. He issued a statement to the New York Times where he basically said his behavior was cool back in the ’60s and ’70s. In the New Yorker, a Weinstein spokesperson added, “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. Mr. Weinstein obviously can’t speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual.”

But the stories opened the floodgates for other women to present their accounts of how Weinstein allegedly harassed and/or assaulted them. A-Listers Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie have both copped to having awkward encounters with the man.

Actress/model Cara Delevingne went to Instagram to tell the time Weinstein wanted to have a threesome with her and another girl. Kate Beckinsale also took to Instagram to recall when Weinstein allegedly tried to get her drunk at 17. British actress Lysette Anthony said he raped her in her own house. It just goes on and on and on.

While all these accounts have been upsetting and unsettling to read, it isn’t that shocking to anyone who has covered the movie industry. Peter Biskind’s 2004 book “Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film” already laid out how much of a bullying, despicable menace Weinstein has been in Hollywood – getting into fights with reporters and rival execs, verbally abusing and firing employees, throwing Nathan Lane up against a wall. After hearing all of that, I just assumed he has tried to have his way with starlets now and again.

He has since seen his career tumble, and his wife announced she was leaving him. He was fired by The Weinstein Company, the movie studio he co-founded, and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, among other punishments.

But even though he has been properly disgraced publicly, his reign of Tinseltown terror is yet another reminder how 1) power controls everything and 2) old white men ruin everything. Weinstein is just the latest master-of-the-universe who thought he could go to his grave doing whatever he wanted to whomever he wanted. Fox News founder Roger Ailes almost did it, but many women stepped up and accused him of being a lecherous boss before he passed away earlier this year.

Men like Weinstein, Ailes, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and Bill Cosby (who is black, but c’mon – he’s always acted like an old, white man) are finally being called out for their years – nay, decades – of predatory lasciviousness. And while it’s long overdue, it also shows how sexual harassment is still something both women and men continue to deal with in our culture. (Shout-out to Terry Crews and James Van Der Beek, who said they’ve also been sexually harassed by producers.)

Earlier this week, the “#MeToo” hashtag had many people on social media – and more high-profile celebrities – recalling all the times they’ve ever been groped, hit on, raped or straight-up degraded by someone – and yet, they didn’t speak up about it at the time.

More people, whether they are victims or decent folk who are tired of seeing others scarred or disrespected, should keep on pointing the finger at these power-mad pervs, hopefully keeping more power-mad pervs from misbehaving in the future. And for those who don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t report on being sexually assaulted, just remember that our current president was caught on tape saying he’s so powerful, he can grab women by their genitals and get away with it – and he still got elected.

So, let’s all pray that more men get singled out for their indecent behavior – old, white or otherwise – before they ruin everything.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer