We are in the TIMES UP Era. A feeling of disgust and betrayal, but also that of hope and catharsis has been prevalent throughout Hollywood these past few months.
We are in the merciless contemporary of ‘The Weinstein Effect’, unforgiving of abusers and their enablers. Harvey Weinstein, front runner of The Weinstein Company and Miramax Films has a reputation for sexual coercion which is almost 40 years strong. In 1979, Hope Exiner d’Amore alleges that Weinstein raped her on a business trip. Rumours of Harvey’s predatorial nature was no secret in Hollywood, alluded to many times during public interviews. As early as 1998, Gwyneth Paltrow said on Late Show with David Letterman that Weinstein “will coerce you to do a thing or two”. The timeline of abuse goes on, horrific and fruitless for many years, until The 5th October 2017. The New York Times publishes an incriminating story detailing the decades of allegations against Weinstein, including testimonies from Rose MgGowan and Ashley Judd. The publication of this story became the catalyst for a revolution. As it stands, 84 individuals claim that Weinstein had attempted to or has sexually assaulted them. A string of prominent exponents within the film, TV and music industry responded with ‘Me Too’.
There is a temptation to view celebrities in mythologised terms, Gods who reside upon Mount Olympus, above the experiences of insurmountable pain which mere mortals are subject to. But we must realise that they are not immune from such struggle. TIMES UP marks the end of an era of in which abuse of power and circumstance can prevail. It calls time on hierarchies of power in which abusers can hide behind and avoid the consequences. It highlights the necessity of using privileged positions within society to speak for those who cannot. TIMES UP on the silent accomplices whose choice to remain mute enabled abusers to thrive. We have reached the overdue peripeteia.
Weinstein is not the first to hold the keys to stardom, using them as a means of control. He is not the first to demand reparations from their body in exchange for career advancement. There is a legacy of such perverse behaviour within Hollywood which far precedes Weinstein. But the impact of Weinstein’s downfall and the voice his victims have lent to survivors of sexual abuse all over the world will be the end of it. Sexual abuse of both female and male victims has been an unacknowledged norm for decades, dating back as early as the 1920’s. In 1921, actress Virginia Rappe is violently raped by well-known Hollywood comedian Roscoe Arbuckle. She is left writhing in pain from a ruptured bladder. Rappe died just days later, and Arbuckle was acquitted. In 1940, an MGM producer exposes himself to Shirley Temple during a meeting. She was only 12. In 1954, Marilyn Monroe writes in her memoirs “They were vicious and crooked…you saw Hollywood with their eyes – an overcrowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses”. In 1977, Film-maker Roman Polanski pleads guilty to rape of actress Samantha Geimer, aged 13, after giving her alcohol and Quaaludes.
Sexual victimisation did not only affect women in Hollywood. Anthony Rapp claimed that in 1984, Kevin Spacey climbed on top of him and tried to initiate sexual intercourse. Rapp was only 14 years old. More accusations against Spacey emerge following Rapp’s testimony, including that of Harry Dreyfuss. Entering the 21st Century, the list painfully expands. In 2004, Bill Cosby is charged with drugging and molesting a former employee at his home. Dozens of accusations against Cosby begin to emerge. Corey Feldman speaks out about child molestation himself and his co-star Corey Haim experienced at the hands of Hollywood producers in 2013 on ‘The View’. Barbara Walters, one of the interviewers on the show lashed out at Feldman, claiming “you’re ruining an entire industry!”. The victims are numerous. Lady Gaga, Kesha, Terry Cruise, Uma Thurman and hundreds more. The number of people who turned a blind eye to such abuse is larger. Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino and many more. As Edmund Burke said, “All tyranny needs to gain foothold is for people of a good conscience to remain silent”.
TIMES UP on remaining silent. Such abuse which has had a silent yet tyrannical reign for over a Century comes to an end. Women who bravely fought back against Weinstein have changed the course of the industry. In saying ‘Me Too’, we are one step closer to ensuring that women and men of the future will not have to.