A Tale Too Often Told
In Hollywood, the script for sex crimes remains the same. The leading man, empowered by position, infatuated with easy erotica, and unencumbered by principle, fulfills his lust. In the man’s presence, beautiful women abound. They whet his unslakable sexual sadism; they tickle his perversely promiscuous penchant. Unable to repress these urges or sublimate his base virility, the man proceeds to assault the vulnerable and available women around him. Usually, they are his underlings. Always, they are his victims.
His stature is his armor, and so long as he stands, he can’t be scathed. His statuettes are his appeal, whether they be Grammys, Oscars, or Emmys. His options are many, while hers are few. With payment or persuasion (usually by way of blacklist), he effectively silences her. She’s enslaved by his prominence and his predation. If the woman hopes to survive the industry, she’ll go along to get along, and meekly tender her submission. She must become docile and demure if ever the subject is brought up. She must abate her anger and unease no matter how much these symptoms consume her. Otherwise, and likely quite quickly, her livelihood could be ruined.
All the while, his reprobation avoids retribution. His wicked depravity evades ablution. For all intents and purposes, he’s unsullied and scot-free.
Years pass, and not a word is spoken. Perhaps it’s shame, or fear, or the hope to preserve a reputation that quiets the bustling thoughts clamoring for incrimination. But her incrimination doesn’t come. Sometimes, in the most hopeful scenarios, her case is mounting and imminent. Other times it’s mottled with moneyed interests beyond repair. Time, in this way, has a way of tempering the evidence. As the years go by, cases become softened, not strengthened, and heroines lose a bit of their heroinism. Either way, for the time being, the man’s horrible history of misanthropic misdeeds lays dormant. At least it does for a time. In this age, where all secrets are known and all pages are turned, no sin can remain sacred. And eventually, all penetralia are revealed.
A gossip gains momentum; a story breaks the seal. It sneaks past “cease and desists” and is publicized at last. The public is incredulous, thinking he—whose movies and lyrics and songs are the most theatrical, personal, soulful—would never do such a thing. But the art is not the artist, and a man might house both talent and vice. Conflicting bedfellows though they are, they inhabit most genius. And while we can hope for talent expressed at the latter’s expense, too often this is wishful thinking.
The females step forward, and provide faces to the claims. The faces become a freshet and a threshold is met. Too many to count, accusations of ulterior motives arise. The sober reality, I suppose, is that some will take advantage of a situation when money is to be made. This permeates all things litigious in America. Compensation becomes the motivation, and lady justice steps aside. Her pedestal regained, however, the victim must be taken at her word (so long as the evidence corroborates her claim, and until circumstances say otherwise).
The sluice is opened and the barrage begins. Details emerge, and in a word, they’re disgusting. No stone is left unturned when accounts of the groping and doping, the grabbing and harassing come to bare. The man, now cornered and accused, responds with rushed remonstrations. His denial is that of a man with everything to lose but nothing to lean on. He howls until his defense falls down, and even if legally victorious, he is defeated. The court of public opinion is unforgiving. His high regard and image, like the lives of so many of his abused women, are scarred, and no salve can heal an inglorious celebrity.
Or so it would seem. The man might repent and seek help. Done publicly, he’ll win at least some amount of approval. We’re a society that tends toward second chances, especially for the actors we most adore. The penance might be perfunctory or heartfelt, but either way, it will be profuse. And depending on his crime and if we once thought him well, he might be ultimately absolved.
This is the script. You’ll see in it a plot that begins with lechery, thickens with depravity, and ends with ignominy. We’ve seen it before, and so shall we again. Show business is nothing if not redundant, and this is a tale that recrudesces with far too much regularity.
Harvey Weinstein is the latest prominent man to add his transgressions to the tale. I haven’t the time nor the aptitude to cover his history of sexual abuse in full. I’ll refer you to Jodi Kantor’s piece in The New York Times and Ronan Farrow’s in The New Yorker. Both are eminently well-researched and well-written bombshells. Their exposés outline decades of Weinstein’s prurient predation in gripping detail.
The written word is harrowing, but a recent audio file has surfaced as well. There’s something especially galling about hearing Weinstein cajole Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez in his hotel room. While she protested in broken English, he persisted. Bravely, she stood her ground and was able to record him in flagrante delicto attempting to entice her to a sexually suggestive scenario.
Weinstein is the latest to be included in this year’s growing gang of misogynistic miscreants. Others include Ailes and O’Reilly, Murphy and Cosby, and Trump and Weiner. Add to that list (from years past) Penn, Polanski, R. Kelly, and Nelly, and your list is still far from being complete. My hope is that Weinstein’s was the final act of a tragic tale, but I feel my faith is misplaced. So long as these lions of industry prowl, they’re likely to stick to the script.