To suggest that the more than a quarter of a century I spent working on the television side of the entertainment industry gives me any unique insights into the recent scandal involving Harvey Weinstein and others would be an exaggeration of my career. This is not to say I didn’t see my share of similar boorish behavior. It’s just that I never occupied the rarified air of Oscar-winning heavyweights as I toiled in the Triple A fields of network television.
But work there I did and, while I did, I saw many things. Like a writer/producer who never uttered one word if five words wrapped around a sexual innuendo would do. And I worked on more than a few shows where a beautiful young actress would be hired “out of the blue” and given a one- or two-day job. There was so much winking and nodding one would think there was a nerve agent in the water supply of the studios where I worked.
The pervasiveness of Weinstein-style behavior was the worst kept secret in the industry. It also had a very long pedigree that goes all the way back to the silent film era. Any time you give people this much money and this much power over the livelihood of others, bad things are going to happen.
Unfortunately for the Weinstein's of the world and ironically fortunate for the women who have suffered, big time studios no longer have the same apparatus to control the press. Still, Weinstein was such a throwback to another era. He could thrive in a life of extreme excess because he possessed the twin pillars upon which much of the entertainment industry is built on: the willingness to wield power and the eagerness to impose fear.
When the Praetorian Guard had had their fill of the Emperor Caligula, they voted with their gladii. In a bloodless, but just as ruthless, manner, Weinstein is being stabbed from 100 different directions, and, just like Caligula, most of the stabbing is being done by once “loyal” minions. How unsteady is the head that wears the crown.
Whether the swells of this storm will continue to topple others in the industry is yet to be seen, but it seems likely there will continue to be more revelations about other notables before we’re done. But just because this long overdue cleaning of the house has taken place in Hollywood, it doesn’t mean there isn’t much more work to be done — not only in the entertainment business, but also in the corporate boardrooms, Congressional offices and newsrooms from coast to coast.
This problem isn’t going to vanish via some “kumbaya” moment of communal enlightenment; it will continue to ebb and flow.
The cause for all this sorrow and despicable behavior is easier to identify than it is to rectify. We are broken people in need of a redeemer and when that redeemer came, he was nailed to a tree because people didn’t want to hear. There is no voice from above like an old Cecil B. DeMille biblical epic telling us Hollywood is hearing anything at all.
Most likely this is a result of the jettisoning of the basic tenants of the Judeo-Christian worldview. Look at a lot of the films Weinstein's company produced — movies like “Priest,” “Dogma” and “The Butcher Boy” — a short list long on sacrilegious images, double-dealing priests, corrupt bishops and every sort of repressed “believer.” I wonder how much of the writing, producing and directing of these films relied less on personal experience than personal agendas.
George Clooney and Matt Damon recently had a new film come out as director and star — two men joined at the hip to their mentor Weinstein. The film is called “Suburbicon,” and when Hollywood isn’t ripping into the Church, its second favorite target is what they believe to be white-bread middle-class America. Like the many films before it, this new offering’s premise is that middle-class America is just a façade for sinister and dysfunctional pathologies.
Now my guess is that Clooney and Damon haven’t been “middle-class” for a very long time. But I would further guess that their long-term association with Weinstein has put them in direct contact with a lot of false fronts and sinister dysfunctionalities — underneath a façade of glamour and celebrity. Maybe after the 29th movie about a hypocritical priest or rigidly brutal nun movie, Mr. Clooney and Mr. Damon will pull back the curtain on their own industry for all the world to see … or maybe it’s being done for them already, thanks to Mr. Weintsein and others.