Weinstein has long since cemented his status as a legendary film producer, having added his name to blockbuster hits ranging from Pulp Fiction and Good Will Hunting to the hugely successful TV show, Project Runway. In the process, he has won six best-picture Oscars and elicited praise as a seemingly “liberal lion, a champion of women and a winner of not just artistic but humanitarian awards.”
Yet not all is as it seems in the case of this film icon, as decades of sexual harassment allegations have finally come back to bite him.
A recent investigation by the New York Times found dozens of allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein dating as far back as nearly three decades. Over the years, Weinstein has come to at least eight settlements with different women. According to the New York Times, “Among the recipients … were a young assistant in New York in 1990, an actress in 1997, an assistant in London in 1998, an Italian model in 2015 and Ms. O’Connor shortly after, according to records and those familiar with the agreements.”
The last woman in this list, Lauren O’Connor, was a colleague of Weinstein’s who recently opened up about what she described as “a toxic environment for women” in a letter she wrote to several executives at the Weinstein Company.
This is no exaggeration given the shocking nature of reports leveled against Weinstein, who frequently abused his position of power in order to offer unwanted advances to vulnerable women attempting to break into the film industry.
The New York Times delves into the unsettling “common narrative” of Weinstein’s victims: “Women reported to a hotel for what they thought were work reasons, only to discover that Mr. Weinstein, who has been married for most of three decades, sometimes seemed to have different interests.” Weinstein would often “[appear] nearly or fully naked in front of them, requiring them to be present while he bathed or repeatedly asking for a massage or initiating one himself.”
This predatory behavior was not unknown to employees of the company. According to the New York Times, “Dozens of Mr. Weinstein’s former and current employees, from assistants to top executives, said they knew of inappropriate conduct while they worked for him.” One woman at the company even “advised a peer to wear a parka when summoned for duty as a layer of protection against unwelcome advances.” Yet most of the women who had suffered from these advances never met each other, and many kept quiet for a variety of reasons that included fear of retribution, shame, and inexperience.
Weinstein was a man in power, and he knew how to abuse this advantage. He preyed on vulnerable aspiring women, knowing that “for actors, a meeting with Mr. Weinstein could yield dazzling rewards: scripts, parts, award campaigns, magazine coverage, influence on lucrative endorsement deals.” Tragically, this narrative of the exploitation and intimidation of women is not an uncommon one in Hollywood.
Yet that is exactly what makes this singular event so important.
Four days after the release of the New York Times’ illuminating article, Weinstein was fired from his own company’s board of directors. By this point, one-third of the all-male board had resigned in protest.
This comes as an unusually heartening end to a week of baited breath on behalf of all the women of Hollywood, who have become increasingly “frustrated with an industry that seems to perpetually sexualize and mistreat women.”
Weinstein’s firing relays a strong and much-needed message, as Konner puts it, that will hopefully “scare any man in Hollywood using his power for anything but making movies and television.”
Hollywood desperately needs to usher in a new era, one that will be devoid of exploitation and sexual misconduct.
Now seems as good a time as any to start.
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