I’m not sure if I’ve been avoided reading the Harvey Weinstein exposes out of fear of knowing too much or getting embroiled in a world so far removed from mine.
By “world”, I mean, Hollywood. That elusive, oneiric place where the ordinary or undiscovered become stars, iconic, or party-hard infamous.
The sexual harassment, abuse, and alleged (using this word only because it is unbearable for me to imagine, and I pray that such an act did not occur) rapes perpetrated by movie mogul Weinstein have eviscerated the lid that once covered so many secrets of Hollywood’s absolute worst secrets. Tinseltown has never looked so gross.
It has been dizzying to witness the deluge of accusations–not just against Weinstein–but other moguls, producers, and inner circle types of Hollywood, including the indefinitely insufferable Ben Affleck, and it’s only been a week and a half. Last week, male actors Terry Crews and James Van der Beek disclosed they too had been sexually harassed and groped by big-wig executives, and then, actress and director Rose McGowan, who has emerged as a powerful and unabashed voice for women in and out of Hollywood in confronting sexual violence and abuse was suspended from Twitter. First, their explanations were vague in that McGown had “violated the Twitter Rules…” The platform later disclosed that while again taking down a rumored enabler or degenerate that had committed sexual assault, she had included someone’s personal phone number in one of her tweets. Okay. Fine. Not exactly protocol. (M.I.A. did this to seminal journalist Lynn Hirschberg in 2010. After what some called an unflattering profile of the piebald dressed musician of arresting global sounds, in the The New York Times, M.I.A. tweeted out her phone number as part of her backlash).
Yet–somehow–thousands of incendiary accounts that promote rape culture, misogyny, misogynoir, xenophobia, Anti-Semitism, and “President Agent Orange”, you name it, remain active on Twitter. She was suspended for twelve hours and the next day, McGowan was back at it, confirming that after years of hinting she was raped by a major Hollywood figure, that it was “HW” (for Harvey Weinstein) on Twitter, and on Friday, October 13, #WomenBoycottTwitter became the latest one-day movement to express anger and disappointment at the platform for attempting to silence McGowan. It was meant to be treated as respite, though some women, (and some also boycotted in support of ESPN host Jemele Hill, who is currently suspended from the network after calling Trump a “White Supremacist” on Twitter) chose to be present as they felt women had been reticent enough in the media, now more than era it was important to be loud in one’s convictions.
(In 1997, McGowan settled for a payment of $100,000 at just 23 years old, from Weinstein, to essentially keep quiet about “an episode during the Sundance Film Festival” that directly involved Weinstein. In recent years, McGowan has been supremely more vocal on the pandemics of sexism and abuse in the acting and film industry. For her 2016 BUST cover story, she was quoted, “I want to shatter the patriarchy.”)
I was one of many repulsed by Twitter’s decision to mute McGowan. By late morning the next day (the 13th), I had decided it was time to read those articles published by The New York Times and The New Yorker about Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual disorder towards actresses and female models.
Proceeding are my thoughts after having read both articles. (A doozy to say the very least).
The New York Times on October 5, 2017
by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
Let me include this tidbit first: after I had finished reading the entire NYT piece above, I gathered my things and headed outside for lunch. As I was walking, simultaneously trying to ignore a brisk breeze and wanting to quickly browse through Facebook, here’s what greeted me as the first post of freshly minted news updates on the app: (Headline) “Claire Forlani: I escaped five meetings”, a quote of her experience with Weinstein, accompanied by a resolute photo of the actress, (you may remember her best from the Brad Pitt feature Meet Joe Black) as published by The Hollywood Reporter. I couldn’t help but let a guffaw slip.
I’ll be honest in that I expected the Times bombshell to be more cutthroat. It was pretty straightforward and smoothly went back and forth between the years of when the film producer and co-founder of Miramax Films and owner, through The Weinstein Company, of Dimension Films, aka Weinstein, accosted and attacked what are today survivors of his abuse and taunts. “Among the recipients, The Times found were a young assistant in New York in 1990, an actress in 1997, an assistant in London in 1998, an Italian model in 2015 and Ms. [Lauren] O’Connor shortly after, according to records and those familiar with the agreements.”
His hometown’s paper takedown of his accounts, however, is certainly damaging. It was kind of like reading a really classy suspense short story. I also couldn’t help but think when did Weinstein find the time to be predator amongst all the accomplishments and movies and plays he produced and distributed, such as bringing Pulp Fiction, The Crow, Sex, Lies, & Videotape, and Chicago through The Weinstein Company?
Celebrity accounts, such as from Ashley Judd, have been spotlighted the most from “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off…” But one recollection I had to copy and paste from was of the catbird seat of the everyday women that worked for The Weinstein Company: “The women, typically in their early or middle 20s and hoping to get a toehold in the film industry, said he could switch course quickly — meetings and clipboards one moment, intimate comments the next. One woman advised a peer to wear a parka when summoned for duty as a layer of protection against unwelcome advances.” A parka.
I was sad and appalled when the news of Weinstein’s gross behavior made headlines. Now having read the Times piece, I just can’t believe this had been going on for so long. Shit. I even knew who Harvey Weinstein is. He was as familiar on the red carpet as Leonardo DiCaprio or Viola Davis every award show season.
In various points, writers Kanter and Twohey held a flashlight on topics and concerns bloggers and writers with a feminist mission have been vocalizing earnestly for years.
“Why women are afraid to speak up.”
From the Times: “Speaking up could have been costly. A job with Mr. Weinstein was a privileged perch at the nexus of money, fame, and art, and plenty of his former assistants have risen high in Hollywood. He could be charming and generous: gift baskets, flowers, personal or career help and cash. At the Cannes Film Festival, according to several former colleagues, he sometimes handed out thousands of dollars as impromptu bonuses.”
Mr. Weinstein was a volcanic personality, though, given to fits of rage and personal lashings of male and female employees alike…His treatment of women was sometimes written off as just another form of toxicity, according to multiple former employees.
His treatment of women was sometimes written off as just another form of toxicity, according to multiple former employees.”
Five days later, The New York Times published what was essentially a sequel article titled “Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Others Say Weinstein Harassed Them“, again co-written by Jodi Kantor and now, Rachel Abrams.
“When Gwyneth Paltrow was 22 years old, she got a role that would take her from actress to star: The film producer Harvey Weinstein hired her for the lead in the Jane Austen adaptation “Emma.” Before shooting began, he summoned her to his suite at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for a work meeting that began uneventfully.
It ended with Mr. Weinstein placing his hands on her and suggesting they head to the bedroom for massages, she said.”
Just like the first unmasking, the Paltrow incident took place at the Peninsula, a common spot for his disrespect. Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette, and French talent Judith Godrèche were also name-dropped and provided more proof that Weinstein was a sleaze. Published on October 10, he had already been fired from his own company, The Weinstein Company on Sunday, October 8, following the outrage he so earned from the first Times article.
“Several days ago, additional actresses began sharing with the Times on-the-record stories of casting-couch abuses. Their accounts hint at the sweep of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged harassment, targeting women on the way to stardom, those who had barely acted and others in between. Fantasies that the public eagerly watched onscreen, the women recounted, sometimes masked the dark experiences of those performing in them.”
The encounters they recalled followed a similar narrative: First, they said, Mr. Weinstein lured them to a private place to discuss films, scripts or even Oscar campaigns. Then, the women contend, he variously tried to initiate massages, touched them inappropriately, took off his clothes or offered them explicit work-for-sex deals.”
The following part really pissed me off:
“Even in an industry in which sexual harassment has long persisted, Mr. Weinstein stands out, according to the actresses and current and former employees of the film companies he ran, Miramax and the Weinstein Company. He had an elaborate system reliant on the cooperation of others: Assistants often booked the meetings, arranged the hotel rooms and sometimes even delivered the talent, then disappeared, the actresses and employees recounted. They described how some of Mr. Weinstein’s executives and assistants then found them agents and jobs or hushed actresses who were upset.”
Enablers. Imagine being a woman knowing damn well no business meeting was going to take place in a hotel room but instead a chance for Weinstein to attack. Same goes for the men that knew and proceeded. That is deplorable and frankly, put so many actresses in danger of not only humiliation but assault and rape. How dare you.
“More established actresses were fearful of speaking out because they had work; less established ones were scared because they did not. “This is Harvey Weinstein,” Katherine Kendall, who appeared in the film “Swingers” and television roles, remembers telling herself after an encounter in which she said Mr. Weinstein undressed and chased her around a living room.”
“Chased her around a living room.”
Paltrow, though she confided in close friends, family, and then-boyfriend Brad Pitt (they had starred together in 1995’s Seven) Weinstein’s formidable pull was too strong and he somehow brought it back to professionalism, according to the Times and Paltrow admitted he attempted to do, and she won an Oscar for Best Actress in 1999 for Shakespeare In Love, produced by Weinstein. The film also, controversially, won Best Picture of 1998, so he took home a golden man too. (On October 16, Kate Winslet revealed she purposely left our thanking Weinstein when she won Best Actress for 2008’s The Reader in 2009 because of his rude, entitled behavior).
Then, “Others Say…” featured Tomi-Ann Roberts, a one-time aspiring actress back in 1984 who waited New York tables, and was how she met Weinstein during one of her shifts: “He sent scripts, then asked her to meet him where he was staying so they could discuss the film, she said in an email and a telephone interview.
When she arrived, he was nude in the bathtub, she recalled. He told her that she would give a much better audition if she were comfortable “getting naked in front of him,” too, because the character she might play would have a topless scene. If she could not bare her breasts in private, she would not be able to do it on film, Ms. Roberts recalled Mr. Weinstein saying.”
The details of Weinstein’s behavior is so abhorrent, it was almost getting absurdly comedic. The kind of comedy salted with bitter anecdotes on life, or “this is what it takes” to succeed adages.
Rosanna Arquette was so more directly included in “Others Say…” He also tried to get a massage out of her and reportedly shoved her hand down his crotch. “He boasted about the famous actresses he had supposedly slept with — a common element of his come-on, according to several other women who had encounters with Mr. Weinstein. “Rosanna, you’re making a big mistake,” he responded, she said.
She refused. “I’m not that girl,” she recalled telling him on the way out. “I will never be that girl.”
(A lot of girls aren’t those kinds of girls, by choice or deliberately).
By the time the expose got to Judith Godreche I was beyond spent at Weinstein’s bullshit come-on/excuse/suggestion of a “massage.”
“The next thing I know, he’s pressing against me and pulling off my sweater,” she said. She pulled away and left the suite. (Alain Godrèche, her father, said in an interview that his daughter told him about the episode the next morning.)
Seeking advice, she later called the female Miramax executive, who told her not to say anything, lest she hurt the film’s release. “They put my face on the poster,” she said.
“This is Miramax,” she said. “You can’t say anything.”
The New Yorker on October 10, 2017
by Ronan Farrow, Reporter at Large
“His movies have earned more than three hundred Oscar nominations, and, at the annual awards ceremonies, he has been thanked more than almost anyone else in movie history, ranking just after Steven Spielberg and right before God.”
It is in this piece that the Weinstein scandal became (even more) explosive. (It hasn’t been confirmed or debated if the Times and New Yorker conspired, with purpose, to publish exposes on Weinstein. The timing of both is remarkable). Asia Argento, an Italian actress whom American audiences may remember from the first XXX movie with Vin Diesel in 2002, disclosed to Farrow, for “Aggressive Overtures…”, that Weinstein had “forcibly performed oral sex on her” approximately twenty years ago, making that 1997, the same year he harrassed Ashley Judd and offered a monetary settlement to McGowan. Sexual harassment is terrible enough. Rape is the bottom of the barrel of an already execrable barrel. Farrow warned there was more to detest: “In the course of a ten-month investigation, I was told by thirteen women that, between the nineteen-nineties and 2015, Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them. Their allegations corroborate and overlap with the Times’s revelations, and also include far more serious claims.”
“Three of the women—among them Argento and a former aspiring actress named Lucia Evans—told me that Weinstein had raped them, forcibly performing or receiving oral sex or forcing vaginal sex. Four women said that they had experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault. ”
And while Weinstein is the disgusting culprit, he had enablers, and this excerpt is mortifying:
“Sixteen former and current executives and assistants at Weinstein’s companies told me that they witnessed or had knowledge of unwanted sexual advances and touching at events associated with Weinstein’s films and in the workplace. They and others described a pattern of professional meetings that were little more than thin pretexts for sexual advances on young actresses and models. ”
Other employees described what was, in essence, a culture of complicity at Weinstein’s places of business, with numerous people throughout his companies fully aware of his behavior but either abetting it or looking the other way. Some employees said that they were enlisted in a subterfuge to make the victims feel safe. A female executive with the company described how Weinstein’s assistants and others served as a “honeypot”—they would initially join a meeting along with a woman Weinstein was interested in, but then Weinstein would dismiss them, leaving him alone with the woman.”
I wrote and deleted two thoughts I was going to share right after I read the above. But sometimes they are no words.
“It’s likely that the women who spoke to me have recently felt increasingly emboldened to talk about their experiences because of the way the world has changed regarding issues of sex and power. Their disclosures follow in the wake of stories alleging sexual misconduct by public figures, including Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, and Bill Cosby.”
This has been the only silver lining tangle as the Weinstein scandal and reinvestigation of the casting couch horror stories snowball. A lot can be said about this day and age. For the most part, it sucks. But women no longer keeping quiet and playing nice is absolutely emboldening and should be applauded and set off with powder as the new precedent because it is not easy to do. Even if sex is not involved, standing up for yourself is tough.
“Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. Mr. Weinstein obviously can’t speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual. Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path. Mr. Weinstein is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance.”
A statement from his spokesperson Sallie Hofmeister. Definitely upchuck-worthy.
“Aggressive Overtures…” is written in chapters and for “2” of Farrow’s piece, it is a chilling re-telling of when Lucia Stoller felt trapped and coerced into giving Weinstein oral sex.
“At that point, after that is when he assaulted me,” Evans said. “He forced me to perform oral sex on him.” As she objected, Weinstein took his penis out of his pants and pulled her head down onto it. “I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t,’ ” she recalled. “I tried to get away, but maybe I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t want to kick him or fight him.” In the end, she said, “he’s a big guy. He overpowered me.” She added, “I just sort of gave up. That’s the most horrible part of it, and that’s why he’s been able to do this for so long to so many women: people give up, and then they feel like it’s their fault.”
Farrow then reverted back to Argento, in relation to what Stoller endured:”When he returned, he was wearing a bathrobe and holding a bottle of lotion. “He asks me to give a massage. I was, like, ‘Look, man, I am no fucking fool,’ ” Argento told me. “But, looking back, I am a fucking fool. And I am still trying to come to grips with what happened.”
Argento said that, after she reluctantly agreed to give Weinstein a massage, he pulled her skirt up, forced her legs apart, and performed oral sex on her as she repeatedly told him to stop. Weinstein “terrified me, and he was so big,” she said. “It wouldn’t stop. It was a nightmare.”
“At some point, she stopped saying no and feigned enjoyment, because she thought it was the only way the assault would end. “I was not willing,” she told me. “I said, ‘No, no, no.’ . . . It’s twisted. A big fat man wanting to eat you. It’s a scary fairy tale.” Argento, who insisted that she wanted to tell her story in all its complexity, said that she didn’t physically fight him off, something that has prompted years of guilt.
Argento’s story is absolutely harrowing and her honesty about how certain sexual acts have been hard to enjoy because of Weinstein’s rape are deafening.
“The thing with being a victim is I felt responsible,” she said. “Because, if I were a strong woman, I would have kicked him in the balls and run away. But I didn’t. And so I felt responsible.” She described the incident as a “horrible trauma.” Decades later, she said, oral sex is still ruined for her. “I’ve been damaged,” she told me. “Just talking to you about it, my whole body is shaking.”
Today, Argento is in a healthy relationship with famous chef and loud mouth Anthony Bourdain, and he has shown great support for his girlfriend, Farrow’s expose, and has reviled against Weinstein as a “rapist.” Well, he’s earned the title.
Argento went on to, bravely, disclose that sexual encounters with Weinstein happened after the assault. But while consensual, they weren’t exactly gratfying. She described them “onanistic” on his end : “In part, she said, the initial assault made her feel overpowered each time she encountered Weinstein, even years later. “Just his body, his presence, his face, bring me back to the little girl that I was when I was twenty-one,” she told me. “When I see him, it makes me feel little and stupid and weak.” She broke down as she struggled to explain. “After the rape, he won,” she said.”
Also in “Aggressive Overtures…” is an account from Mira Sorvino, who won an Oscar in 1996 for her role in 1995’s The Mighty Aphrodite, a Miramax film. (I’ve seen The Mighty Aphrodite. She was pretty great in it, delivering quite the ebullient performance. It’s a small world, however, as this critically acclaimed film was written, directed, and co-starred Woody Allen, Farrow’s biological father, and the filmmaker’s only biological child. In 1992, Allen was accused of sexually molesting his adopted daughter Dylan, a claim that Mia and Ronan Farrow continue to stand by, and that same year, he married Soon-Yi, the adopted daughter of Mia and her former husband Andre Previn. If you ever wonder why some people react adversely to Allen, this is why. On top of, an extreme lack of Black or dark skin actors and actresses with main or supporting roles in his films, aside from light-skinned Spaniards or Latinas like Penelope Cruz who won an Oscar as well for starring in Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Freida Pinto. Odd, considering he’s from Brooklyn).
“The fact that Weinstein was so instrumental in Sorvino’s success also made her hesitate: “I have great respect for Harvey as an artist, and owe him and his brother a debt of gratitude for the early success in my career, including the Oscar.”
“Sorvino said that she felt afraid and intimidated and that the incidents had a significant impact on her. When she told a female employee at Miramax about the harassment, the woman’s reaction “was shock and horror that I had mentioned it.” Sorvino appeared in a few more of Weinstein’s films afterward, but felt that saying no to Weinstein and reporting the harassment had ultimately hurt her career. She said, “There may have been other factors, but I definitely felt iced out and that my rejection of Harvey had something to do with it.””
Farrow then lead the article into Emily Nestor‘s time at The Weinstein Company and how her temp experience left her emotionally bruised.
“Though no assault occurred, and Nestor left after completing her temporary placement, she was profoundly affected by the experience. “I was definitely traumatized for a while, in terms of feeling so harassed and frightened,” she said. “It made me feel incredibly discouraged that this could be something that happens on a regular basis. I actually decided not to go into entertainment because of this incident.”
“None of the former executives or assistants I spoke to quit because of the misconduct, but many expressed guilt and regret over not having said or done more. They talked about what they believed to be a culture of silence about sexual assault inside Miramax and the Weinstein Company and across the entertainment industry more broadly.”
In what is labeled as (chapter)”10.” in Farrow’s piece: “Several of the former executives and assistants in this story said that they had received calls from Weinstein in which he attempted to determine if they had talked to me or warned them not to. These employees continued to participate in the article partly because they felt that there was a growing culture of accountability, embodied in the relatively recent disclosures about high-profile men such as Cosby and Ailes. “I think a lot of us had thought—and hoped—over the years that it would come out sooner,” the former executive who was aware of the two legal settlements in London told me. “But I think now is the right time, in this current climate, for the truth.”
By the end of “From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories”, I felt disgusted and sadness for the survivors. And confused and frustrated that Weinstein’s behavior had carried this long and so many people knew and were enablers. This week will make it two since the news rocked the media and the entertainment world. More actresses have come forward with their stories of sexual assault and rape, a few not related to Weinstein. Since last night, women have been hashtagging or simply writing “Me too” to raise awareness on just how much of an epidemic sexual harassment and assault is, and it was initiated by a friend of actress Alyssa Milano who began the campaign on Twitter. I have seen some of my Facebook friends also participate.
I can’t help but make the comparison to what will happen to gun laws after the tragedy in Las Vegas. We know what the problems or issues with sexual harassment are: complicity and enabling by those aware, just as much as the perpetrators who threatened to destroy or blacklist the innocent. In 2012, iconic child actor Corey Feldman warned us that in Hollywood, “The number one problem was, and is, and always will be pedophilia.” Pedophilia directly involves sexual harassment or abuse. We all became voyeurs in the last two weeks that abuse of power in the name of sexual violence and intimidation is a pandemic in one of the most visible and influential industries in the world.
We all became voyeurs in the last two weeks that abuse of power in the name of sexual violence and intimidation is a pandemic in one of the most visible and influential industries in the world. But it ain’t just starlets, or more closeted, your ’90s teen idol. It is your barista, teacher, a close friend, an undervalued policewoman. #MeToo is long overdue. (As of 11:42 PDT, there have been 500,000 “Me too” tweets. Here, is an exhaustive list of every woman that has come forward about Weinstein).