WTFrock About All These Shitty Men in Hollywood?

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If you’ve been living under a rock or really really don’t follow the news, maybe you haven’t heard about the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Or hell, there’s Woody Allen. Or Roman Polanski. Or basically the casting couch and the fact that men (mostly white men) control movie and TV production in the world and frequently force women to trade sexual favors in order to get a job in said movies and TV. This is nothing new, but more women are speaking out about it now. And just occasionally a few of these men are kinda-sorta-maybe paying some kind of small consequence for their shitty actions. Sometimes. Perhaps.

'The sexism in Hollywood is not particularly overt because the system is good at hiding it' - Elizabeth Banks

Harvey Weinstein was producer or executive producer on historical costume films such as Tulip Fever (2017), Shakespeare in Love (1998), The Wings of the Dove (1997), and Restoration (1995), plus TV series War & Peace (2016) and Doctor Thorne (2016) (oh, and Project Runway). At last count, 34 women in the film industry have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault, and many of the incidents occurred when the women were young and new to the movie biz, so obviously Weinstein was in a position of power over them. Kate Beckinsale describes being propositioned by the older Weinstein when she was 17, Romola Garai had a similar “humiliating” experience with him when she was 18, and Asia Argento says she was raped and forced to maintain a relationship with Weinstein for her career’s sake.

Tulip Fever poster

Roman Polanski directed Tess (1979), an Oscar award-winning adaption of the Thomas Hardy novel. The movie was filmed in France, instead of the novel’s English setting because Polanski didn’t want to risk extradition due to his outstanding criminal charges. In 1977, Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl and plead guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, but he fled the U.S. before sentencing. He’s essentially been on the run ever since. With no small irony, Tess is the story of a Victorian woman being judged by society because she was sexually assaulted.Tess (1979) movie poster

Woody Allen has written and/or directed historical films such as Café Society (2016), Midnight in Paris (2011), Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Radio Days (1987), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), and Zelig (1983). The daughter that Woody Allen adopted with Mia Farrow accuses Allen of molesting her when she was seven years old. Allen also had an affair with Farrow’s own adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, when she was about 20 years old. Farrow and Allen split up in 1992 because of both of these issues, and Soon-Yi and Woody Allen married in 1997.

Wonder Wheel (2017) movie poster

Kate Winslet has gotten flack for her defense of working with Woody Allen in the 1950s period film Wonder Wheel (2017). Here are the relevant highlights from her recent New York Times interview:

NYT: Did the allegations against Woody Allen give you pause?

Kate Winslet: Of course one thinks about it. But at the same time, I didn’t know Woody and I don’t know anything about that family. As the actor in the film, you just have to step away and say, I don’t know anything, really, and whether any of it is true or false. Having thought it all through, you put it to one side and just work with the person. Woody Allen is an incredible director. So is Roman Polanski. I had an extraordinary working experience with both of those men, and that’s the truth.

NYT: You’ve been acting since your teens. When you were starting out, did you think much about career longevity?

Kate Winslet: I very much thought about that, probably do still. You’re only as good as your last movie. When I started, I couldn’t believe I was really being cast until four or five movies in, and even then I couldn’t quite believe it. I was very much aware of watching young actresses come and go. I just have always felt that you have to dig deep and work hard. And I see it as real work. I don’t leave anything to chance. In terms of longevity, I always hope to be invited back, because I love it.

I think it’s telling that she’s also asked about career longevity — she’s 42, which is distinctly Not Young for an actress. Sexism and ageism go hand-in-hand in Hollywood, and Winslet surely knows that. She may not be getting her ass grabbed (that she’s admitting), but she’s conscious of the power dynamics of her situation. Y’all surely know how Winslet has been publicly harassed by certain asshole directors for not always being a size 0, so throw being not 25 into the equation in an industry that harshly judges women on physical appearances, and just imagine the stress she’s under. Should she refuse to work with any of these known or accused sexual predators? What if that means she gets less work, especially as she gets older?

'I don't think men over 40 want to be cast with women who are their same age' - Patricia Arquette

Also, why are women called out for having to make these kinds of decisions? Every news outlet picked up the New York Times quote about Kate Winslet working with Woody Allen, using headlines like “Kate Winslet Is the Latest Actress to Clumsily Defend Working With Woody Allen” and “People Aren’t Happy With Kate Winslet After She Defended Working With Woody Allen” and “We Need To Talk About Kate Winslet Defending Working With Woody Allen & Roman Polanski.” I counted over 15 articles regurgitating this explanation of why she was working with Allen, with varying levels of outrage and horror.

'Hollywood is run with this male point of view, it's a fantasy that has nothing to do with reality' -- Jessica Lange

Compare how her male co-star in Wonder Wheel, Justin Timberlake, is treated when the topic of Woody Allen’s controversial history comes up in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter:

Of course, for serious thespians, the ultimate status symbol remains a part in a Woody Allen movie, even if these days that honor is mixed with moral complications (Timberlake sidesteps the ethics: “I chose to not get into it — I really don’t dive into any of that stuff with anybody”).

End of story. And nobody questions him on that ‘sidestep,’ nobody calls him ‘clumsy’ or says ‘we need to talk,’ there is no outrage or unhappy fans. WHAT THE HELL IS THIS ABOUT??!?!? Oh, right, sexism. Duh.

'Where are the female stories? Where are the directors? Where are the writers? I'm concerned by the lack of our voices being heard' -- Keira Knightly

So what is a film/TV fan to do? Sometimes, we don’t have much choice — The Current War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison was just pushed back from a November 24, 2017, theatrical release to 2018 because the film is produced by The Weinstein Company, which is in its own war currently. Now do we boycott all their productions because the producer / director / writer / actor is an alleged sexual predator? Hey, America is currently run by a man who brags about being a sexual predator, so do we boycott this country too? Where does it end? As a feminist, an American, and a movie reviewer, I honestly don’t know.

'For most women, there is this pressure in society to look a certain way' -- Amber Tamblyn

But I think it’s all worth talking about. We can’t stay silent, we have to believe in these victims and respect that they are speaking up. Art isn’t created in a vacuum, and people continue to get hurt while trying to make their own art, just by pursuing their profession. Rare is the woman in any industry — hell, in life — who can go through her career without worrying if she is “dressed provocatively” or will she be “treated like one of the boys” or if she will simply be taken seriously as an equal contributor on the job for her experience, intellect, and opinions, without undue consideration of her looks, age, and sex appeal. Men get to walk into a job site, an office, a school, and just assume everyone knows they’re here to do a task. They don’t have to automatically worry about cat-calls, getting felt up, dirty whispers, and worse. For most women (and those who present as female), that worry is ever-present when you’re just trying to get paid for a living. Unless you’ve signed up for a sex-work job, it’s a goddamned distraction. Just think of how much more work we could get done if we didn’t have all this shitty harassment to deal with.

 

What’s your opinion on art created by people who’ve done terrible things? How do you feel about other artists who continue to work with people accused or even convicted of awful actions?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. When she’s not dressing up in costumes, she can be found traveling the world with her sweetie and, occasionally, Kendra and Sarah. Her costuming and travel adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also maintains a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

38 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    It’s the worst form of sexual inequality. It objectifies the woman or person being harassed and degrades the man or the harasser.

    Reply
  2. Deborah Brower

    Thanks for taking a long look at this problem. I’ve had a certain amount of experience with this sort of thing, as almost any woman reading this has. What I learned is unless it personally happens to them most people are inclined to turn a blind eye. Especially if they gain some other benefit. Often the perpetrator is just a swell person otherwise. The art is a tool, a means to an end. Victims are picked and chosen, the perpetrator gambling that they won’t say a thing or if they do no one will believe them. The greater community just does not like unpleasant things and would rather not look. They think it’s about sex and not understanding it’s about power. I fear that this will change little in the end, but I hope that’s not the case. All I can say to people out there is please listen. Just because its not you or someone you love does not mean that it will never effect you. No wants to look back and think if only I had said said something. LIsten to your moral compass and say something, no gig, film or art work is worth this. If it only saves one victim it’s worth the price.

    Reply
  3. Tina

    This is despicable, but I disagree with your implication that men are automatically safe (“don’t have to worry”). Corey Haim came out years ago talking about the rampant abuse of boys and young men in Hollywood. This isn’t just about women. This is an entire industry where the power dynamics have allowed and even covered for predators who roam free preying on the weak and the voiceless for a very long time. It makes you think, how much is our entertainment worth?

    Reply
    • picasso Manu

      Oh, I agree, the pretty boys aren’t safe either.
      And it’s not really about sex in the end, it’s about power… It’s always about power. Just, sexual coercion is one of the most degrading thing one human can do to another, and with a minimum of smarts, you can get away with it.
      I truly believe that if it was easier to get rid of a body, it could be much worse.

      Not that it’s peachy as it is.

      Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      I didn’t say men don’t get abused — I said they don’t have to automatically worry about harassment & abuse in the workplace. Subtle difference. Men treat other men as coworkers far more often than they do women.

      Reply
    • Barbara Shaurette

      I would go even farther to say that it’s not just the entertainment industry, although I know that’s what we’re primarily focused on here. I’ve worked in tech for decades and I’ve got some horror stories. Rape culture and the acceptance of harassment is an unfortunate fact of life all over, and that’s got to change.

      Reply
    • Jamie Jo

      the really sad thing is Barbara Walters shut him up and down when he was on the view about this. she didn’t want to hurt the system. I hope she’s ashamed of her response to him.

      Reply
  4. Maria D.

    I’m not going to blame some for working or trying to work because everyone needs to work/eat. As a whole, we have a problem with sex and power. Personally I think that women and men don’t help the issue by dressing provocatively (think Victoria’s Secret ads/shows) because it feeds the prurient fabtasues of these sickos. If we are to blame anyone – perhaps it’s a justice system that doesn’t really punish these people like they should be.

    Reply
      • Deb

        I was harassed because of what I wore in the early 80s. I worked as a DJ in a disco — & I was damn good. I was supposed to be above the crowd where no one could get to me… but my boss certainly could. He called me into his private office, supposedly to help him double count the money from the night. He assaulted me, and said no one would believe I wasn’t asking for it. Because of the way I was dressed, and I went with him into his private office. A classic “he said/she said”. I thought I was just doing what my boss told me to do. Within 6 wks, he absconded with all the club’s money, and I was even put up on charges of being an accessory! So don’t tell me clothing makes no difference. It always has, and it always will. Sad but true.

        Reply
    • Jamie Jo

      Maria, honey. that sort of thinking needs to go back to the 1950’s. it’s NEVER EVER been about what you wear or don’t. it’s about POWER, CONTROL and who has it. THAT is why these slime get away with treating children and women and some men the way they do. because people like you say “why was this person wearing that, didn’t they think they would cause this? or why were they there? didn’t they KNOW this would happen?” NO ONE can control another person’s thoughts or actions. nor should any woman be required to police a male’s actions EVER no matter what she is wearing, where she is, or how this would affect her occupation.

      Reply
  5. Mari

    Wonderful column. To add a bit to Keira Knightley’s words (“Where are our stories?”) – I saw The Battle of the Sexes at a theater this weekend, and in all of the seven previews, NONE of the forthcoming movies featured a female protagonist. Not one. And at a movie where 80% of the audience was female!! Go figure. Support woman directors, producers, actors, composers, cinematographers, etc. where you can.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      Yeah, and this is why we like to watch & review movies that focus on women’s stories too. I mean, we just find them more interesting (as we’ve written), but there’s also a dearth of stories about women onscreen, stories made by women, & specifically for us, women’s history onscreen.

      Reply
    • Loren Dearborn

      Not a historical costume movie, but I have to say I was very excited to see a preview for Annihilation when I went to see Blade Runner 2049. Unless they have deviated significantly from the book an ensemble cast of WOMEN are the primary characters.

      I recall Gina Torres bemoaning the lack of good roles for women in Hollywood and saying something to the effect of “Thank god for science fiction because they’ll give you a gun and tell you to go kick some ass.”

      Reply
  6. Shamma Casson

    I’m a new actress (I’ve been in the business for 2 years so far) and frankly I’m happy that all of this is coming out. I mourn for those who suffered in it for sure, but I feel more powerful now that no one can ignore it anymore.

    Reply
  7. Abigail Tyrrell

    What gets me [when talking about Kate Winslet having to defend her choice] is who gives these men, Allen and Wienstein the money? You need a metric FTon of money to even start these projects and everybody knew what their crimes were. Why is anybody going after the “money”?

    Reply
    • Bea

      The money plays CYA in just this way:gaslight, distract, etc.
      It plays out in politics, in movies, in business.

      Reply
    • Barbara Shaurette

      People who still go to see their movies. :( I’ve been boycotting Woody Allen for years, but remarks like those made by Winslet and Timberlake just minimize the controversy, make it sound like we shouldn’t care about it because art, and so people keep buying tickets and treating these guys like gods.

      Reply
      • Alicia

        especially since his movies also suck! I’ve been boycotting Woody Allen the same way I’ve been boycotting the Human Centipede movies. Why he is given any artistic credit is beyond me. That that credit would then be used to shield him from consequences for his behavior is sickening.

        Reply
  8. CTrent29

    Apparently, it’s not just women. Actors James van der Beek and Terry Crewes have also revealed that they had been sexually harassed by men. Corey Feldman is still beating the drum about the pedophile community in the movie business. And recently, there have been revelations about Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes from FOX News.

    But I wonder . . . how long will this outrage continue before its all hushed up again? And not just in Hollywood, but in all facets of life, around the world?

    Reply
  9. Jodie

    Giving you two very enthusiastic thumbs up for this post and giving Tess two even more enthusiastic thumbs down for the tagline “victim of her own provocative beauty”.

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      I first saw Tess in the ’80s (being a massive Thomas Hardy fan & writing extensively on the author in college) & it’s a brilliant film. But then I saw those ads/posters in the past few years after learning about Polanski & could.not.believe they went there. It’s beyond me. And rewatching, once I knew about the director, really adds a weird layer of ‘how much of this is auto-biographical? is he trying to rewrite history & make himself look better? wt-ever-loving-fuck?’

      Reply
  10. Cheryl from Maryland

    Kudos for pointing out the double standard when just discussing sexual harassment. Kate Winslet has to justify why she choose to work with Woody Allen; Justin Timberlake does not. It’s a parallel with the differences between male and female actors — Jane Fonda gets asked about plastic surgery and being an older actor; Robert Redford does not, while both are in the same interview.

    Reply
  11. Cheryl from Maryland

    Just wanted to add that your end question — how do you feel about art created by people who have done terrible things? — deserves its own column. Previous to now, time has erased the abhorrent behavior of artists. Would we boycott or have destroyed Gaugin’s paintings of Tahitian women because he slept with them and gave them VD? Do people even know this, or care? Once we do know, what actions can we/should we take? I’m horrified at Harvey Weinstein’s behavior, relieved that he is getting punished (somewhat) and yet would I want all of those films to be locked away forever?

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      “how do you feel about art created by people who have done terrible things? — deserves its own column”

      Thanks. I’d like to get to it, altho’ I don’t think any of us at Frock Flicks have good answers or 100% opinions either way. It’s a very difficult subject, where do we draw the line? I will come back to it tho.

      Reply
    • Anna

      I think the question here is whether we as viewers should watch the films of Weinstein, Allen or Polanski in the context of going to the cinema or buying DVDs and financing these perverts.
      Whereas in the case of Gaugin financing him is not possible anymore.

      Reply
      • Trystan L. Bass

        There’s both the financing aspect & the ‘support at all, in principle’ aspect. In this article, I nearly included an analogy to how Wagner’s music is practically banned in Israel bec. the composer was an anti-semite plus Hitler was a big fan of his operas. Now, to your point, Wager is long dead & isn’t making any money off productions of his work (& those who want to bring his music to Israel are not neo-Nazis, just music lovers, accd. to the news sources I was reading). But it’s still controversial due to the artist’s behavior & earlier use of his work.

        And re: works by Weinstein, Allen, Polanski — what about the other ppl who were involved in those productions? 100% of the proceeds from a DVD sale don’t go to just Weinstein / Allen/ Polanski. The money may go to different producers, actors, writers, other ppl affiliated w/the company — are they all tainted too? Where do we draw the line?

        Like I said, it’s a big topic of its own. Definitely worth exploring further!

        Reply
        • Sara L.

          Do yourself a huge favor and watch Stephen Fry’s documentary “Wagner and Me” (used to be on Netflix, think you can find it on YouTube if not). It is so good. He basically does a deep dive on his own personal ambivalence about loving Wagner’s music while at the same time reviling the man’s politics. It is incredibly entertaining because, well, Stephen Fry.

          Reply
        • Anna

          Yes, Trystan that’s a topic of its own. Concerning the works of Weinstein, Allen or Polanski or other people that behaved in such a way, I agree with you that on the other hand it would be unfair to punish all people involved in films produced by them, because e.g. costume designers have to make a living too. It would be ideal, if there existed such a possibility that, as a punishment for their criminal deeds, no money would go to such pervs, but that is unfortunately currently not legally possible.
          When it comes to distinguishing an artist’s deeds or personal views from his works, I can say for myself that this is rather not possible for me, so I can understand the reactions of many Israeli people towards Wagner.

          Reply

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