A nickname given to Hurricane Harvey earlier this year was the ‘The One-eyed Monster’ and, if the mud sticks, maybe Harvey Weinstein the Hollywood producer was also a one-eyed monster. Hurricanes are incredibly destructive, and while I don’t presume to blow smoke up anyone’s ass, Weinstein appears to have been a fairly destructive force within that peculiar postcode, where ambitious young things pay a high price for their tilt at fame. But is anybody surprised? No. The only remotely interesting thing about this is the timing.
Twenty years ago, Ashley Judd was just another pretty wannabe in Tinseltown competing for roles that would deliver her dreams. ‘Kiss the Girls’ (1997) and ‘Double Jeopardy’ (1999) must have seemed the beginning of a wild rollercoaster ride that would ultimately take her to the top of the heap; instead, it derailed after a string of flops, including the abysmal ‘Twisted’ (2004), her last starring role. This was followed by stumbles in her private life — rehab in 2006, bankruptcy of her clothing line in 2008, dumped as a ‘face’ of Estee Lauder in 2012, divorce in 2013 — until 2015 when she mentions being sexually harassed by an ‘unnamed studio mogul’ early in her career. Now its lawyers at twenty paces, hoping for another famous Harvey Weinstein settlement. Timing.
Ashley Judd in the early 90’s was a good-looking girl, and her allegation that Weinstein asked her for a massage in 1997 makes me wonder if she wasn’t also sexually harassed at The Ivy restaurant in LA where she worked pre-Hollywood? If anyone ever ‘accidentally’ rubbed against her in a crowded kitchen, or propositioned her, or subjected her to other forms of vile, misogynistic inappropriateness? Count herself lucky if not, given that 81% of US women say they’ve been victimised by verbal sexual harassment in the workplace. I wonder, because if she had been harassed in the restaurant then she’d also be suing that guy, wouldn’t she? I mean, if it’s all about ‘draining the swamp’ and ‘making men accountable’. Hmm.
I don’t know the players, only what I can glean from the fake news. But I’ve been male for 49 years, and I’ve met Weinstein’s type ad nauseum. The hubris that follows on the heels or wealth and power always manifests in this shit: “Hello my pretty-pretty! So, you want a casting-call on my upcoming Hollywood blockbuster? How about a private casting-call in my hotel room, first?” Nasty, manipulative, taking advantage of the power imbalance — but here’s the rub. It’s an offer. She can reject. Go back to bussing tables and cleaning ashtrays. The world needs waitresses too! Why do the conversations boiling through the gynosphere appear incapable of admitting there are plenty of women and men out there who’d happily massage an ‘unnamed studio mogul’ if it meant landing a role?
What I expect next is a tidal wave of male actors coming forward. I can’t look at Brad Pitt and think he hasn’t delivered a few happy-endings in his time. But we may not hear about them, because the stigma is still far greater for a male victim of male sexual harassment than for a female. Instead we get predictably petulant tweets by Rose McGowan — who’s done what exactly since ‘Charmed’ (1998-06)? — to the so-called Ladies of Hollywood: ‘Your silence is deafening!’ Maybe, Rose, its because (a) some ladies had the talent to succeed without the rub&tug sessions, or (b) some ladies were happy to pay the price, or (c) it’s not as prevalent as you make out, or (d) there remains a power imbalance that’s suppressing loose talk. Take your pick, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
I’ll be waiting for everything to improve when women seize all the top positions across every industry, especially Hollywood; what sort of films will be made when the ‘female gaze’ supplants the male. Curious to see how many young actors, male and female, come forward sobbing about the time they were asked to braid some unnamed studio mogul’s greasy hair before that supporting-role in an angry lesbian remake of ‘Two and a Half Men’. Hopefully we move past the whole ‘angry lesbian’ thing to a more productive space where films can be honoured without reference to the producer or director’s gender. In the meantime, would people please stand up to be counted at the time the bad thing happens, because doing it twenty yeas later when you’re strapped for cash just ruins your credibility.