Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Roy Price, Roger Ailes, Mark Halperin, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Louis CK.
Most Americans are outraged at the slew of recent revelations that Hollywood and media elites allegedly have been sexually harassing or abusing victims for years. One by one, these men are being axed from their jobs and publicly condemned, and this makes us feel somewhat vindicated… at least temporarily.
But the downfall of a handful of Harvey Weinsteins will not have a long-term impact on reducing sexual harassment and assault if we continue to hand others just like them implicit control of our culture by indiscriminately buying their products and watching their films.
The fact is, too few of us seem to care that these men have enjoyed so much control over our culture for decades, or to consider how their warped sexual entitlement has not only directly impact their victims’ lives, but also corporate and popular culture.
The considerable influence Harvey Weinstein had on American society was not lost on him, by the way.
In a past interview about one of The Weinstein Company’s productions, Harvey Weinstein pontificated about his role in guiding “cultural conversations” to “move this country forward.”
Putting the likes of Harvey Weinstein in charge of important cultural conversations is like asking a fox to guard a henhouse.
Disturbingly, Weinstein didn’t sit alone on his privileged perch of culture creation. Kevin Spacey is a critically-acclaimed film producer, director and actor. Mark Halperin (MSNBC), Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly (FOX) were imposing figures in the world of political news analysis. Roy Price is the former president of Amazon Studios, and a former Disney VP. Comedian Louis CK wrote, directed and shot his film “I Love You Daddy” — a movie that portrays a sexual relationship between a middle-aged man and teenaged girl. The premiere was quietly cancelled after five women came forward accusing CK of sexual misconduct.
Can there be any doubt that these men’s attitudes of sexual entitlement to women’s bodies seeped into their workplaces, their work products and homes across America?
As one example, internal research by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation found that 66 percent of Amazon original TV shows contain nudity.
Now some may claim that nudity in mainstream entertainment is just a stylistic — even artistic — choice. But what about the fact that 82 precent of the nudity in Amazon-exclusive content is female?
This consistent editorial decision by production teams is not about art or empowerment, but about capitalizing on and therefore perpetuating the cultural belief that women’s bodies are fair game for public consumption. And when this theme of universal, instant sexual access to any woman on a screen is normalized in mainstream entertainment, not to mention Internet pornography, it has patent cultural effects on the way men view women at home, in public, or in their workplace.
In a tweeted apology regarding his sexually inappropriate behavior while a top ABC News executive, Mark Halperin said he sought counseling for the “personal attitudes” that “caused [him] to behave in such an inappropriate manner.” Isn’t it possible, that the internal “personal attitudes” of Halperin, Weinstein, Price and others have seeped into their work products, and into entertainment and corporate culture?
Because the optics were right, Netflix distanced itself from Kevin Spacey and HBO cancelled a planned mini-series with Mark Halperin following several accusations. But is that where accountability ends for these corporations?
HBO, and others like Amazon Prime and Netflix, are part of the problem.
“HBO, and others like Amazon Prime and Netflix, are part of the problem.”
For example, HBO’s production teams consistently play out the themes of abusing women. In 2015 HBO received substantial backlash regarding the “Game Of Thrones” 50+ graphic rape scenes in its first 60 episodes. The HBO team continues to receive criticism for its latest show “The Deuce,” which features gratuitous sex scenes surrounding the use and abuse of women in pornography and prostitution.
Fortunately, women and men, who have been victims of sexual harassment or abuse are using social media to fight back. The #MeToo campaign garnered worldwide attention on the almost incomprehensible prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. It highlights the same phenomenon illustrated by a “Wall Street Journal” / NBC News poll: Approximately 48 percent of female workers say that have experienced an unwelcome sexual advance or physical or verbal harassment of a sexual nature while at work.
It is good that American public is demanding an end to sexual entitlement and harassment, and that this problem is getting some long overdue attention, but we cannot expect significant change if men and women alike continue to embrace messages, purchase products and watch movies and shows that normalize sexual exploitation.
Hollywood and many media corporations bear weighty responsibility for perpetuating the warped mindsets of abusers. And we bear weighty responsibility for letting them get away with it by implicitly handing them the keys to our culture.