Well this is getting messy isn’t it?
It should’ve been so simple: take accused offender. Line him up against a wall. Change the subject – fast. How hard is that?
But instead, by the time this whirlwind settles down, there’s not going to be any Hollywood left for anyone to distance themself from.
I’ve covered the ground here pretty thoroughly in the last couple all Harvey Grabberhands special editions, but at this point I’m not sure where this ends. The narrative has now advanced far beyond Harvey deep into enablers and abettors territory. Which is fine, but once you get into that – if you’re going to start taking down anyone who has witnessed horrible behavior and said nothing, should we just start by banning anyone who has ever worked on a movie set? With a TV show runner? At a PR firm?
Hollywood was founded on the principle that those who amused the public, who fashioned themselves as gods to the masses, were exempt from the masses’ standards. We were free to come up with zany stunts and gags and wear impossibly glamorous clothes. And we were free to treat everyone within reach as human chattel. That was the deal our founders cut for themselves, and they built a vast imperial system devoted to enforcing it.
Now the times are changing and the town is suddenly waking up and finding we’re not in the 1920’s anymore.
This has just never happened before. One week you’re a pillar of the greatest cultural machine on Earth; a week later, Jeffrey Katzenberg is sharing his letter turning his back on you with the world.
For those who have behaved in an manner anything close to the Harvey Way, the whirlwind is coming for them, and good riddance.
But for the enablers, the abettors, those who knew, those who should’ve known – it’s very hard to start pointing fingers here unless we want to just ask the industry to submit its resignation en masse. Those who gave assistance to actual crimes being committed, those who assisted that repeatedly, likely have some very uncomfortable days ahead, and good.
But getting into the grey area beyond that. The people who were not directly involved but should’ve known..Looking backwards and asking any individual, particularly one of non-Poobah status, to commit Hollywood suicide when an entire industry is arrayed to make sure any complaint gets buried; that’s a lot to ask of folks to have taken on. I stand by my proposal for a Hollywood Truth and Reconciliation Commission wherein misdeed are confessed and forgiven.
But short of that, how is this going to end without lots of heads on a lot of pikes and a total ransacking of Hollywood’s dirty laundry.
And to that end: here’s some of the major blips in the Harveyscape today:
• So many actresses and women in the industry have now come forward with stories of ugly encounters, large and small, that this is no longer believably about just one person’s bad behavior but an entire industry devoted to supporting that behavior.
• Despite the fact that seemingly every actress and young woman in Hollywood and in the neighboring states has a story to tell, a trickle of actors is coming forward to say, Gosh, if only I had known. My takeaway: looking to actors for wisdom, enlightenment or moral leadership is like turning to sea urchins for engineering degrees.
• Immediately caught in the maelstrom: any unresolved, left hanging out there, dirty laundry
• As of this writing the distinction between “I thought he was just a despicable bully, which I was fine with, but who knew he’d do this” remains in tact.
• Every organization associated with the film and television industries is now going to have to decide whether they can let him remain. If they cast him out, which for the Academy would mark the very first time in 90 plus years they’ve thrown someone out (with one hilarious exception: see below), will all these institutions – AMPAS, The TV Academy, Sundance, Cannes– be forced into the business of certifying the moral soundness of every one of their member in their members? Will Oscar/Sundance/Vh1 Awards Show expulsions now be a standard part of every scandal and scandalette?
• NBC appears to have spiked the Ronan Farrow story for reasons suspicious. Recall yesterday’s story about Amy Adams, the Today Show and Harvey’s intercession, and note that that tape never surfaced.
• Jeffrey’s Brave Stand: the micro-format kingpin stepped forward to reveal he had refused his old friend’s plea for help. After thirty years of friendship and business relationship, he just could not stand by this behavior. Curious to know which other multi-decade friends and business partners he’ll be delivering that announcement to.
• Iger Hunt: On his path to assuming the leadership of the free world, IP Bob takes a pass on another opportunity to show any leadership in his own business or community. I guess if he’s has no interest in getting involved in any of the issues bringing his industry to its knees, then he’s got no choice but to run for President.
• I may well be chasing shadows but the done in by his own brother plot line gets more compelling every day. I hope Ryan Murphy is at work on the miniseries version by now. Big unanswered question: what was the spark that got both Ronan Farrow and the NYT chasing this story earlier this year? No slight to the amazing journalistic spadework done here, but there’s a lot of coincidences overlapping here with these pieces, including the Weinstein Oscar shut-out and the passing of their mother last year, as well as the docs from inside the company that appear in the piece. And after 30 years, two New York, non-industry publications get this in the same month? It has the feeling of a brewing batch of ill will and awfulness to which someone on the inside decided to take a match. I trust it will be cleared up in the FX version five years from now.
• Next Please! Going forward are others really going to be able to keep swatting away this talk with payoffs and threats to bury any journalists who come near the story in litigation till the end of time? Maybe so…those are pretty powerful weapons and even massed outrage can’t just barrel over them. But I can’t help think next person who goes to that toolbox, even with the same team that couldn’t save Grabberhands, the fact that they are going to that toolbox could become a story in itself.
Hollywood being in the business of show, is very good at furrowing its brow, rending its garments and expressing great concern whenever there is a flare-up over one of its many short-fallings, say the lack of female directors, or on-screen violence, or on set animal abuse to name three off the top of my head. And then the doing exactly nothing until the circus moves on to another topic and we can all get back to work. Even if somehow nobody in this entire industry knew that one of its cornerstones was a serial predator for decades now, the fact that women in Hollywood have a very difficult time getting heard in the corridors of power is something that not only has everyone known, everyone has probably participated in three or four symposiums and panel discussions on the issue. Had any of that hand-wringing and table-pounding resulted in any amount of action, then you wouldn’t need to rely on George Clooney or Matt Damon to catch wind of a rumor and make a brave stand – there would be a system for people abused to take matters into their own hands.
We’re still less than a week into the unbelievable Grabberhands affair, so there’s still plenty of time to hope that it will be different this time, but a week in, for whatever its worth, there’s not much sign it will be.
What would constitute taking action, versus hand-wringing:
- Every company in Hollywood could announce today it is releasing all NDA signatories from any obligations to maintain their silence when it comes to matters of harassment.
- While they’re at it, make that not just sexual harassment, but abusive behavior in general.
- Companies could announce that they will not be in the business of making serial pay-outs to cover the tracks of their executives behavior and inform their employees: if we get to that point once, if you’ve used the position with our company that we’ve entrusted to you to prey on those you supervise, then you’re on your own. Sayonara and hit the bricks.
- The industry can go above and beyond to make sure that women who step forward and reveal stories of abuse and harassment remain gainfully employed, upwardly-mobile shining examples of the fact that you can speak out and your career won’t even pause for a hiccup.
For starters that is. But taking action does require leadership. And leaders are in short supply around here these days.
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