As noted by the Guardian, there’s been a curious gender imbalance in the celebrities who have condemned, or been called upon to condemn, producer Harvey Weinstein after multiple sexual harassment allegations were made against him in a New York Times article. Weinstein has since tried to atone for his sins by threatening to sue the newspaper for not understanding his penitent dinosaur ways, and The Weinstein Company have sacked him and will remove his credit from all upcoming productions. Questions remain as to who knew what and when, as well as the culpability of an industry who celebrated a notorious bully for twenty plus years until it stopped benefitting them, but it’s hard to overlook how it’s mostly been women who have to condemn him. Gee I wonder why. Some men have spoken up, including Mark Ruffalo, Seth Rogen and Kevin Smith, but less seems to be demanded of them in this issue.
The Guardian noted the nearly exclusively silent response from high profile men in the industry, having reached out for comment to the representatives of *deep breath*:
Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Colin Firth, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Russell Crowe, George Clooney and Ewan McGregor, along with the directors Tarantino, Russell, Ryan Coogler, Tom Hooper, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael Moore, Rob Marshall, Robert Pulcini, Garth Davis, Doug McGrath, John Madden, Simon Curtis, Kevin Williamson, Martin Scorsese, John Hillcoat and John Wells.
Well, we can cross Clooney off that list, as he gave an interview with the Daily Beast. In a chat with Marlow Stern, he condemned Weinstein accordingly:
‘It’s indefensible. That’s the only word you can start with. Harvey’s admitted to it, and it’s indefensible. I’ve known Harvey for 20 years. He gave me my first big break as an actor in films on From Dusk Till Dawn, he gave me my first big break as a director with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. We’ve had dinners, we’ve been on location together, we’ve had arguments. But I can tell you that I’ve never seen any of this behavior—ever.’
Look, we’re going to be seeing this routine a lot - the insistence that they never saw any of this behaviour so any culpability in aiding and abetting Weinstein is deniable. I can buy that the biggest and brightest names in Hollywood really didn’t see any of this behaviour. I can imagine a situation where Harvey is the ultimate charmer and nice guy to those who he feels owe him nothing, particularly men. Still, after Jessica Chastain blew that out of the water by tweeting that yes, she had been warned about Weinstein from the beginning, it’s going to be harder to swallow that pill.
Clooney does admit that he heard rumours of the casting couch regarding Weinstein but ‘It seemed like a way to smear the actresses and demean them by saying that they didn’t get the jobs based on their talent, so I took those rumors with a grain of salt.’ In fairness, that’s a pretty reasonable reaction. Your first response to casting couch gossip should be to call out its inherent misogyny.
A lot of people are doing the “you had to know” thing right now, and yes, if you’re asking if I knew that someone who was very powerful had a tendency to hit on young, beautiful women, sure. But I had no idea that it had gone to the level of having to pay off eight women for their silence, and that these women were threatened and victimized. I’ve been talking with a lot of people about this, and I don’t know many people who knew of that.
In response to Sharon Waxman’s article on The Wrap alleging that the New York Times killed articles critical to Weinstein (with the help of Matt Damon and Russell Crowe), Clooney seems a little more critical:
Sharon Waxman over at The Wrap said she was working on a story about Harvey over 10 years ago at The New York Times and they killed it, and if that’s true, then that’s a shameful thing because a lot of women wouldn’t have been made victims if this had come out. By the same token, I do want to say that Sharon’s been running her own influential website, The Wrap, for quite a long time, and if she did these interviews and this investigation, she didn’t run the story either, and I and a lot of other people would have liked to have known it. A good bunch of people that I know would say, “Yeah, Harvey’s a dog” or “Harvey’s chasing girls,” but again, this is a very different kind of thing. This is harassment on a very high level. And there’s an argument that everyone is complicit in it. I suppose the argument would be that it’s not just about Hollywood, but about all of us—that every time you see someone using their power and influence to take advantage of someone without power and influence and you don’t speak up, you’re complicit. And there’s no question about that.
Once again, he’s technically right, but there’s something about the blame pushing here that bothers me. As Rebecca Traister noted in her piece over at The Cut, Weinstein wielded a lot of power that left many journalists worrying about the safety of their jobs. It’s also very hard to get people to come forward with their stories of harassment and assault because misogyny sucks, people don’t want their lives dragged through the mud, and this is a man with a notoriously vindictive streak. Clooney later talks about having ‘knock-down, drag-out fights with him over the years, but he was also making films that other studios weren’t willing to make, and he was making films that everybody loved, so you just put up with certain bad behavior because you felt like, well, if he yells and screams but he gets Pulp Fiction made, who cares if he yells and screams?’ That says a lot. It’s the Chinatown rule: Hey, if the work is good, the man can’t be all that bad and we should definitely put up with him for ‘the greater good.’ Art has always held greater sway for the industry than the people who make it.
I recommend you do read the full piece because it’s an interesting conversation with a very popular and powerful Hollywood favourite who’s clearly having to rethink some important things and assumptions about the world he’s called home. As for the assembly line of major Hollywood celebs trotting out press releases to condemn Harvey Weinstein but deny prior knowledge of Hollywood’s biggest open secret? I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, this is an industry wide rot that needs to be exposed and an important conversation needs to take place on how culpable a business that let Weinstein bully and intimidate people for decades just to win a couple of Oscars is. Yet I’m also irritated that certain people - *coughwomencough* - are being held to standards over this that men aren’t. Where’s the badgering of Bob Weinstein and The Weinstein Company board, who almost certainly were at least aware of the no fewer than 8 settlements Harvey made? What about the producers and studio heads he worked with, or major directors like Tarantino who are as much bastions of The Weinstein Brand as Harvey himself?
We’ll keep you up to date with this case as much as we can.