The tale so often replicated in other parts of our culture has finally touched a sector deeply corrupt and most influential, that of celebrity entertainment.
The cultural import of the Harvey Weinstein revelations is that now, after the scourge of sexual predation has been exposed in various sectors of society — clergy, business, military, hockey, football, politics — it has finally touched a sector deeply corrupt and most influential, that of celebrity entertainment.
It's not quite accurate to speak of the The New York Times reportage on Harvey Weinstein's predatory sexual behaviour as "revealing." Rather, it confirmed what the most influential people in the Hollywood-New York movie and publishing world knew for a long time. The recent reporting just let us ordinary people in on the secret, and meant that Weinstein's friends, from the Clintons on down, had to engage in ritual acts of condemnation.
The Weinstein story further indicates that the heroes of the progressive left — think Ted Kennedy or Bill Clinton or Roman Polanski — no longer get a pass from the celebrity and media elite when it comes to sexual predation.
In recent times, even very powerful conservative figures — Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly of Fox News — were dismissed after reports of sexual harassment. Of course, some people at Fox News had to have known earlier, as they signed the settlements. And even progressive figures who don't sing exclusively from the songbook of the political left — Bill Cosby — have been brought down after decades of predatory behaviour.
We now are hearing the stories about how everyone not only whispered about Weinstein, but openly joked about it, as they did on-stage at the Oscars in 2013.
We have seen the video of Meryl Streep calling Weinstein "God" at the 2012 Golden Globe awards, and specifying that Weinstein's particular deity was "the punisher." Nice touch. Quite a contrast to the 2017 Golden Globes, when Streep lit into Donald Trump for mocking a reporter's disability. Perhaps Weinstein did not mock the disabled.
Streep has since denounced Weinstein and protested that she was shocked, shocked, to find out that there was gambling going on in Casablanca. Streep's protest struck me as curious in light of her lead role in the 2008 film Doubt, for which she earned an Oscar nomination. Streep's character, a Catholic nun, is determined to prove that the priest in her parish is molesting a young boy. She encounters disapproval from the clergy, skepticism from her own fellow sisters, and opposition from the boy's own mother. But she is indefatigable. It is perhaps the best film treatment of the complexity of sexual abuse. Somehow, after portraying day after day a character with a keen nose for impropriety on the set, Streep, like so many others, apparently could not detect the foul stench around Weinstein.
Streep has since denounced Weinstein and protested that she was shocked, shocked, to find out that there was gambling going on in Casablanca.
A more remarkable intervention came from Tina Brown, for a time in the 1990s the undisputed queen of celebrity journalists, running Vanity Fair and The New Yorker consecutively. She was lured away from the latter by Harvey Weinstein to run his media business.
"When I founded Talk magazine in 1998 with Miramax, the movie company Harvey founded with his brother Bob, I also took over the running of their fledgling book company," Brown wrote this week. "Strange contracts pre-dating us would suddenly surface, book deals with no deadline attached authored by attractive or nearly famous women, one I recall was by the stewardess on a private plane. It was startling — and professionally mortifying — to discover how many hacks writing gossip columns or entertainment coverage were on the Miramax payroll with a 'consultancy' or a 'development deal' (one even at The New York Times)."
So Brown, perhaps one of the most powerful women in journalism, had the goods on Weinstein. She saw the payoffs. But she quietly kept cashing her cheques from Miramax and attending Weinstein's swanky parties.
So the tale so often replicated in other parts of the culture has now come to be told about the celebrity world of Hollywood and New York. This must be deeply traumatizing for those accustomed to condemning others for insufficient virtue.
One fevered reaction has been to shine the Weinstein spotlight on his fellow show business celebrity, currently serving as president of the United States. But the president who will be most damaged by Weinstein is Bill Clinton. Hillary's delay in condemning Weinstein was likely due to entreaties from her husband, who knows that with each round of such condemnations, his own lecherous past will constitute an ever more prominent part of his legacy. After all, when Trump's lechery was exposed last year, his (effective) response was to accuse Hillary of being complicit in much worse from Bill.
Sordid, it all is. But the scourge of sexual predation likely now has one less place to hide, a place where it has been hiding for a very long time.
Which leaves perhaps one last part of culture where sexual exploitation still flourishes: the family. That is where most of it still takes place, and where the light is most difficult to shine.
Father Raymond J. de Souza, "Weinstein's downfall must be traumatizing for Hollywood hypocrites." National Post, (Canada) October 11, 2017.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Convivium and a Cardus senior fellow, in addition to writing for the National Post and The Catholic Register. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.Copyright © 2017 National Post
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