by Carmen Fowler LaBerge
Harvey Weinstein did many terrible, awful, dreadful things. And for those sins he has lost his company, his wife, his membership in The Academy of Motion Pictures and maybe most importantly to a creature of Hollywood, he has lost his celebrity status. He is, officially, a pariah. But he is also Hollywood’s scapegoat.
The announcement by The Academy of Motion Pictures, expelling Weinstein from the crystal city, read in part:
“We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.”
The Academy is signaling to America what is and isn’t moral in their sight. And they want to let everyone know Harvey’s behavior is not OK with them, but yet acknowledge an “era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity” throughout their industry. Others have adroitly exposed the hypocrisy of an industry so ready to lecture others from a stage on primetime TV twice a year while making it possible for Weinstein and others like him to not just exist but thrive. So, tilling that soil again is not necessary here. But the Academy makes another, more subtle yet equally dangerous assertion: with Weinstein’s fall, case closed.
Simply declaring the issue resolved and scapegoating Weinstein does not resolve the issue of perversion and sin in the human heart nor in Hollywood writ large.
You can’t put the sin of Hollywood’s perversion on one man and hope it will all go away.
Their announcement continued:
“What’s at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society. The Board continues to work to establish ethical standards of conduct that all Academy members will be expected to exemplify.”
If we take them at their word that the kinds of things Weinstein did have “no place in our society,” then should we expect the Academy to adjust how women are portrayed on screen? Will the over-sexualized images of women cease to be blockbusters and award winners? We won’t hold our breath.
So, was Harvey Weinstein a product of culture or is culture a product of Harvey Weinstein? The answer to both questions is yes. But the problem is much bigger than Hollywood.
By his own admission and in his own defense, Weinstein says he came of age in the 1960’s and 70’s when the rules of workplace behavior were different.
If we are supposed to have progressed beyond the Mad Men-like ways of the era, how is it that thousands upon thousands of women (and some men) took to social media on Monday to say #metoo in an effort to portray the sheer depth and breadth of sexual harassment and assault?
As a producer, few were worshipped in Hollywood like Weinstein. According to Newsweek, winners at The Academy Awards, Hollywood’s most sacred celebration, thanked Weinstein more often than they thanked God.
Now, he wants a second chance.
Scapegoats don’t get second chances. They are expected to carry the collective sin out of the city, be eaten by wolves, and never return. The challenge for Weinstein is clear. What remains a mystery is whether or not Hollywood will recognize its internal perversion, turn from its wicked ways, and begin participating in the making of culture that is good, beautiful and true. Not with the goal of some moralistic Puritanism but with the goal of reversing the continued debasement of the American mind and imagination.