All The Wrong Reasons
Sexual Assault and the Fall of Modern Hollywood
I was watching the new Showtime series, White Famous, this past week and this line jumped out at me…
“Diversity’s real important to me right now.”
There’s something so funny about it. Though it’s spoken quite earnestly, the intent is very clear… Diversity is only important because that’s what networks and large conglomerates think the public wants. If that’s what networks think the people want, that’s what the producer will give them because that’s how he gets paid. However, he doesn’t give a damn about diversity. The line pretty much sums up Hollywood right now. Change it out for sexual assault, and you’ve got a direct quote from every network and studio head.
Sexual assaults in Hollywood aren’t new. Harvey Weinstein has been on the prowl for over 30 years. In 1992 he allegedly raped a young actress by the name of Annabelle Sciorra in her apartment after he barged in, unwanted. Two decades later, he was part of an NYPD sting operation that caught him on a recording where he admitted to sexual misconduct and unwanted touching at the least.
“I will never do another thing to you, five minutes. Don’t ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.”
-From the Harvey Weinstein recording
Harvey’s defense is that he grew up in the ’60s and ’70s when the “culture was different.” Sexually assaulting women was totally cool back then, didn’t you know?
So, why didn’t any of the victims speak up then? A number of reasons, including: blaming themselves, fear of not being believed, or the fear of never working again; this directly ties to Weinstein’s power.
Sexual assault is by no means unique to Hollywood. Women, more specifically, have been on the receiving end of such heinous aggressions for as long as one cares to remember. In 1991, Anita Hill testified against Clarence Thomas after he was nominated for the Supreme Court. She was merely deemed a “scorned woman” while her aggressor was confirmed to his seat. Today, it’s gotten so bad that Los Angeles is putting together a special task force to look into all the allegations.
Until now, it seemed that no one important really cared because there wasn’t anything ever done. It’s slightly sobering to think we give that little of a shit about the abuse of power and sexual assaults, or just women in general. Take your pick. We elected a president to the White House who faced sexual assault allegations. We even have a damn recording of the man explicitly stating his indiscretions. And still, 41% of women voted for him, (worse, 52% of white women voted for him). Christ.
As terrible as that stat is, I believe Trump’s election is one of the main reasons we’re finally seeing a response to why victims have stepped forward. Shortly after he took office, millions of women marched all over the world to work towards creating transformative social change. There’s a strong sense of empowerment rolling through the country, and it gave one woman a voice which ultimately helped hundreds of others find theirs. The fear of not being believed slightly dies when you have countless of others standing beside you. However, that still doesn’t quite answer why Hollywood is taking such a strong stance because let me be clear here, Hollywood doesn’t give a shit about the victims. Hollywood is as selfish as ever.
It’s a perfect storm. The sense of empowerment helped victims speak out. The financial struggles in Hollywood led those in power to finally listen. Hollywood has been on the decline for years now, and it’s not a coincidence that this summer’s box office was down around 16% compared to years past. It will be the first time since 2006 that the summer didn’t bank $4 billion. Not to mention, this is the worst year for ticket sales in a quarter of a century. To reiterate, it’s not a coincidence that Hollywood is cutting heads off at a record rate at the first sign of even an accusation. This is damage control for an industry that is burning like Nero era Rome.
Needless to say, Hollywood is facing some trouble. What happens when any company faces such a downturn in profits? People get fired. It helps that we’re finally taking notice of the victims, but sadly it’s not for the reasons we need to actually see sweeping change across the country.
To some, that might be a big leap or ridiculous argument. I don’t think it is when you look at things a little closer. Let me lay out some examples for you.
All the Money in the World stars a slew of great actors, is directed by Ridley Scott, and had the prestigious final night screening slot at AFI; amid heavy Oscar speculation. However, among those stars was Kevin Spacey. The movie got pulled from its screening slot, and its future was uncertain until Ridley Scott decided to reshoot all of Spacey’s parts with Christopher Plummer at a not so cheap price of about $10 million. Pretty great, right? Let’s look at it three ways:
1.) Ridley Scott truly believes in this film, and there are thousands of other people who worked on it who didn’t sexually assault people. Those people deserve to have their work seen by the world. This movie could suffer at the box office or miss the Oscars, but that’s all okay because no matter what, it’s important to show the world that we cannot support sexual assaulters.
2.) A slightly more skeptical take is that Scott and Sony feared the film would be blackballed should they release it with Spacey still in it. This is a pretty reasonable fear as the outrage for these crimes is far-reaching. I can’t lie, despite liking much of Spacey’s catalog of films, I don’t feel the need to continue to support his ventures. There’s about $40 million already in the film, which doesn’t include the marketing budget. A poor return for a film with Oscar hopes would be quite disappointing. Still looking at this argument altruistically, Sony can’t let the actions of one man lead to the suffering of their company. It’s slightly selfish, but also consider all of the people that Sony employs.
3.) Most cynically, this is a complete PR move used to capitalize on current events. Scott doesn’t want to risk losing an Oscar while Sony feels they can actually turn this into a bigger box office hit than it was projected to be. Anyone who takes notice might be that much more interested in seeing this movie because Sony went to such lengths to remove Spacey. On the surface, it seems altruistic, but at its core, the move is entirely selfish and rewards related.
Personally, I feel it’s likely number three. If it were number one, they wouldn’t be pushing as hard to make sure this film is released in time for Oscar consideration. Instead, they are aiming to lock the film by December 15, in time for the already scheduled December 22 release date. There is definitely a factor here that Sony and Scott don’t want to see a film that was worked on by so many to be crushed by the actions of Spacey; I don’t doubt that at all. Nonetheless, the overarching reason they’re expediting the process is for increased box office and Oscar buzz. (We all know the Oscars are crazy subjective anyway. This might be the bump the film needed to win one.)
Brett Ratner was another in the long line of those accused. He faced accusations from at least five different women. His particular case was fascinating because of his ties with WB and how quickly they were to sever those ties. In 2013, WB and Ratner’s company, RatPac Entertainment, signed a $450-million cofinancing deal that ensured RatPac would help finance up to 75 titles.
On the surface, WB cutting ties to Ratner so quickly all but proves they’re on the side of the victims. This financing deal is enormous as it covers almost 25% of WB’s pictures, cutting ties now has to impact them negatively somehow, right?
When you look it a little deeper, severing ties with Ratner is almost a no-brainer for WB. It really doesn’t hurt them at all. The deal was always set to end in March of 2018… So, in three months. WB probably won’t see any financial impact from this. They also will still release five films that were financed under the deal. Though Ratner won’t have any affiliation with them, his money still does.
On top of all of this, there’s no word on whether WB will re-up the deal. Should Ratner step down from RatPac, or could the deal continue in some capacity? It’s unclear whether Ratner will still walk away with a check despite being cut out of the picture. He owns RatPac, so it’s hard to picture a scenario where Ratner isn’t still profiting.
Bryan Singer is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting cases in all of this. He has a long history of accusations being levied against him. In 1997 he was accused of asking minors to shower naked, but the lawsuit was later dropped due to insufficient evidence. Only a few years ago, two different civil suits were filed against him, but both were later dropped.
Let us not forget https://t.co/0TNDxl8h1Q
— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) November 4, 2017
Now, when you Google his name, you hardly find anything about such accusations. What pops up is an article about a tweet Jessica Chastain sent out to remind everyone about his past allegations.
“I’m going to speak my mind about any injustice that I see. I’m not afraid of anything in terms of that.”
It might have something to do with the fact that Singer is directing Bohemian Rhapsody for Fox. Could it be because there’s still money to be earned through Singer? This is all speculation, but looking at the previous two cases, it’s quite interesting that Singer still has his place in the industry after all of the civil suits filed against him. There is also a lack of public mention amidst this mess.
Though when you look around the country, maybe it’s not so surprising. If you’ve been following the senate race in Alabama, you might have heard about Roy Moore and the allegations surrounding him. He’s been accused of unwanted advances on underage women by numerous victims but refuses to drop out of the race. Actually, 29% of Alabama voters say they are now more likely to vote for Roy Moore because they think all of these allegations are a fake news smear campaign.
This is strange because due to a 2012 study, it seems false accusations against sexual assaulters are quite rare; 2 out of 1000 according to the study performed by the Enliven Project.
DC Comics editor, Edie Berganza, was also finally ousted from his position with the company after reports of sexual misconduct surfaced again. I say again because many women reported the assaults when they happened, but Berganza continued to rise through the ranks. Now, all of the women who filed complaints no longer work with DC.
As I stated earlier, what’s happening in Hollywood is an outlier when it comes to sexual assaults. Most of the time, assaults go either unreported or ignored. Another study found that only 15-38% of assaults are actually reported. The rest cite numerous reasons why they felt they couldn’t file a complaint. So, the fact that we’re seeing consequences befall the assaulter is a move in the right direction, but is it enough?
Hollywood only cares right now because it’s convenient. It would be fantastic if some good came out of this whole situation, but I just don’t see it happening. It can be argued that the vast number of sexual assaults in this country is a byproduct of capitalism and the power structure we’ve created. We’re a country where money is the most important thing. As long as capitalism has the reins, it’s much easier to continue living as we have for decades in a world where sexual assault victims take a back seat to the assaulters.
Judd Apatow gave his thoughts on the subject stating:
“There’s always people who commit sexual harassment. It’s just about how we deal with it.”
He feels that everything going on in the industry right now will help enact some sort of change in how people do business here. He’s more hopeful than I am, but he said it best, there’s always going to be people doing terrible things. Can our society finally find a way to make sure the victims have a voice?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Eddie Huang who wrote an excellent piece about his assault when he was 14. He reminds victims that they aren’t to blame, and details how hijacked he felt after the event. We need more of this out in the world so victims can hopefully feel like they are not alone. See, it happens everywhere. Though this piece did produce one of the worst, but also most hilariously absurd moments… Put this in a movie and everyone would say it’s too farfetched to happen in real life:
“He took out a Bible and started to read scripture with his dick hard.”
Mother of God, what an image.
In closing, it is impossible to keep up with the mounting list of the accused because every day there’s a new name on the news ticker. Call me cynical, or whatever, it would be nice to see something good come from all of this. I’ll hold my breath until then.