It is hard to imagine anything less alluring than the sight of portly, hirsute Harvey Weinstein naked in the shower, but the Miramax movie mogul offered actress Ashley Judd that dubious erotic opportunity when he lured her up to his hotel room back in 1997.
At least that is what Judd claims and, since she is just one of a long phalanx of actresses and female employees hammering Weinstein with accusations of sexual harassment, it is not hard to believe her. Oscar winners Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow are two of the biggest Hollywood figures to claim Weinstein has used his imposing power in the film industry to pressure women into getting intimate with him. Actress Rose McGowan calls Weinstein “my rapist” and does not mean it euphemistically.
Apparently this behavior has been going on for decades and was such an open secret that, when Seth MacFarlane made it a point of satire while hosting the 2013 Academy Awards, everyone got the joke. Making a segue to the supporting actress nominees, MacFarlane said, “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”
The once fearsome, bullying titan of the independent film industry has been brought low by reports in the New York Times and the New Yorker that exposed his very dirty laundry. The board of the movie company that Weinstein built with his brother, Bob, has fired him. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revoked membership from the multiple-Oscar-winner. The Producers Guild is moving to expel him. Police in London and New York are investigating him for sexual assault. Democratic politicians, like Hillary Clinton, who benefited from his largesse are condemning him. He is being treated as a pariah across the entire film industry, from international film festivals to Weinstein peers, such as former Disney boss Jeffrey Katzenberg. And his wife has left him.
Weinstein will be showering alone for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, it is not hard to imagine that other powerful men in Hollywood are jumping at shadows, terrified that their own peccadillos and perversions will be exposed by women they have misused.
Since the birth of the movie business, starlets have often been expected to advance their careers by submitting to the desires of powerful studio executives, producers and directors. Lurid references to “the casting couch” are a Hollywood cliché. The fact that, for so very long, this exploitation was treated as something harmless, a humorously titillating tradition, a standard business practice, now seems as weird and antiquated as witch burning.
The balance of power seems finally to be shifting. Women in Hollywood are no longer staying silent, fearing that resistance will ruin their careers. One woman who set a fine example for others is the late, great Carrie Fisher who is most widely remembered as Princess Leia from “Star Wars.” When a screenwriter friend, Heather Robinson, told Fisher that a Sony producer had promised to wreck Robinson’s career because she had rebuffed his sexual advances, Fisher took action. She sent the producer a cow tongue inside a Tiffany box. The note Fisher enclosed with the box read, “If you ever touch my darling Heather or any other woman again, the next delivery will be something of yours in a much smaller box.”