For the last year, every gathering of Hollywood’s elite class has condemned Donald Trump as the archetypal sexual harasser. The Hollywood Access tapes, they cried, were uniquely horrific — even by Trump standards. It was as though the alleged abuse of women by powerful men was so far-removed from their own domain of experience that it made it inconceivable for anyone of good conscience to support this presidential candidate.
Seizing on this, Hollywood put itself center frame — the voices fighting for the vulnerable in the country. Every moment the cameras and microphones were cast in their direction, they seized the opportunity to condemn the man and his enablers. They portrayed themselves as the stars in a tale of injustice- in a war for America’s moral core.
But behind the glamour, the spectacle, the curtain, the stars of the big screen slinked away from a menace who lorded a much more tangible power over them. This menace in their midst sexually traumatized women over the span of three decades. That man was at the helm of 81 Oscar wins in total. He had raised up some of the most prolific names in modern film history. To add to this already unrivaled resume, he was thanked at the Oscars more times than anyone but the iconic Steven Spielberg. To really grasp the scope of this man’s reach, he had attempted to abuse Spielberg’s goddaughter, Gwyneth Paltrow. As we now know, some of the biggest names owe the entirety of their fame to this magnáte.
This is a man who truly instilled fear. A man who truly needed brave men and women to stand up to him. Where was Hollywood? Where was America’s conscience? The morally indignant drumbeats of those in Hollywood’s upper echelons now ring hollow. In spite of their resolute moral code, in the wake of hurricane Harvey they have shuttered the windows of their glass houses. The Weinstein revelations have not only left his reputation in tatters, but the entire industry. It has blown wide open a culture of fear and intimidation. Though they feign bravery in the face of a far-flung President, when a putrid man is systematically abusing women on their very doorstep, only murmurs can be heard.
This speaks volumes as to what the nature of power really is. For even the biggest names in Hollywood, the criticism of Weinstein was something that required actual bravery. Bravery implies a willingness to sacrifice your social status and even career for what’s right. Courage can not be ascribed to Hollywood’s signaling when it comes to the president. If anything, their continual unwillingness to publicly condemn Weinstein, a man who was solidly perched at the top of their ranks, reveals a culture utterly consumed by self interest.
The New York Times reports that 40 entertainment industry players “almost all refused to speak for the record… A publicist for an A-list actress said there was no ‘upside’ for her client to comment, especially since she did not have a movie to promote. One producer wanted to know who else was on the record so he would be ‘quoted in good company.’ An agent said he was repulsed by the silence and quoted a Latin phrase meaning, ‘He who sits quietly gives consent.’ Then he refused to talk.”
The editor of Variety explains there could be a more cowardly motivation behind these stars’ reluctance to stick their necks out: “Part of the reason is that Hollywood always protects its own. Going back through history. And there is still a lot of fear. Is Harvey really done?” Not only are they afraid of Harvey’s virtually impossible resurrection, but others like Harvey who facilitate this Hollywood rape culture.
This reveals a group of vapid, status-driven charlatans who are eager to tar and feather anyone outside of their entertainment enclave, while they shield their own demons. They shrink from the ability to make a tangible difference at the first sign of risk to themselves. Hollywood chose to point their megaphone toward their ideological opponents, instead of facing the monster within. This brings into question how much of their moral posturing was sincere and how much was merely professional expediency.
There is one silver lining to the disgusting hypocrisy put on display by Hollywood: it reveals what true Resistance to a powerful force looks like. The liberty they rightly enjoy to criticize the president without fear of reprisal tells us that we are still free — that we do not live under the fascistic regime they so often remind us that we do. Because if we did, they would treat Trump exactly as they have Weinstein — with silence.