May I ask the famous male actors who say they’re “utterly disgusted” by Harvey Weinstein to take the next step?
I’m talking to the nice guys of the industry — George Clooney, Ben Affleck, Benedict Cumberbatch, and others. Don’t wait until people say you knew about Weinstein all along. Speak out when bad acts happen.
Here are some ways to do it:
1) The next time an actor like Seth Rogen declares he’s “trying to conceal massive erection” because Kate Beckinsale is standing next to him on the stage of the Golden Globe Awards, speak out.
Tell the Seth Rogens everywhere to shut up with that stuff. It just opens the door for the next Harvey Weinsteins who are surely on the way.
2) When you see a young woman like Kate Beckinsale pretending to laugh so she’ll be perceived as a good sport, speak out again.
Talk to your men friends about empathy. How do you think it feels to be the butt of some 6-year-old’s “dick joke” in front of millions?
Now Seth, you can be a good guy, too. At a recent round-table discussion hosted by the Hollywood Reporter, you said that Harvey Weinstein was guilty of “horribly inappropriate behavior.”
Well, don’tcha see, at the Golden Globes, so were you. Now every time say or hear a sexual remark denigrating women, you can do something about it.
3) I think it’s true that George Clooney would never embarrass women to get a cheap laugh. But let’s revisit that same Golden Globes when Clooney congratulated fellow nominee Michael Fassbender for having a huge penis.
“You could play golf like this, with your hands behind your back,” Clooney said, taking an imaginary “swing” as though a long club were hanging between his legs.
Okay, come on, guys: George, do you think your remark was just a harmless bit of bawdy humor? Do you want your daughter, now 3, to grow up in an atmosphere of “dick jokes” and other he-man stuff that make her feel like a lesser person?
4) These kinds of jokes are never a one-time thing. As one Hollywood website commented, “George isn’t the only actor who’s helped Michael score a few more holes-in-one, if you know what we mean.”
Sorry to say, we do. Referring to women as “holes” sets the bar pretty low. It means if you don’t stop polluting the social climate with relentless genital/toilet/sexual humor, you’re again contributing to the rise of every Weinstein/Cosby/Ailes/O’Reilly etc.in the future.
[DRIB (Don’t Read If Busy): It’s true that emcee Ricky Gervais gets away with sexually offensive commentary when he hosts programs like the Golden Globes. This is what he’s hired for — to blatantly shock and disgust for the sake of higher ratings — so people can decide ahead of time to watch or not. To me, that’s a First Amendment matter, and I have to say, sometimes he’s genuinely, caustically, tellingly witty. What I’m asking celebrity actors to address is that everyday locker-room humor that inspires images of groping and raping and doing whatever intrusive males can get away with. Fellas, talk about this. You can change it.]
5) Remember, guys, “dick jokes” may be funny to YOU. Recently on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, satirist John Oliver ran a segment called Dicks in which TV reporters were shown drawing symbols on screens and maps to predict traffic patterns, storm systems, construction zones and the like.
These directional graphics resembled everything from arrows to canons to flat kitchen knives and rounded batons with an occasional circle or two at one end. Some looked like male genitals but really, most didn’t. The message was: “Look everybody: dicks!”
Now fellas, consider: If these same TV announcers had drawn balloon-like images showing the spread of fire or influenza or drought, would it have been funny to point and say, “Look, everybody: breasts!”
I bet John Oliver, one of the most astute and incisive commentators on television — also one of the most foul-mouthed — would be the first to say No. He knows this kind of humor is not only disrespectful to women, it’s immature and boorish to boot.
[DRIB: So why did he run the segment? I think some advisor has told Oliver to lard the show with the word FUCK, egregious dick jokes and sexual references having nothing to do with satrizing the news. It’s ironic that this emphasis on “swearing and screwing” not only gets in the way; it weakens the very strengths that make the show unique.]
6) Now men, let’s also watch out for you-get-it-but-you-don’t-get-it moments, as in this interview that George Clooney gave to the Daily Beast:
“A lot of people are doing the ‘you had to know’ thing (about Weinstein) right now, and yes, if you’re asking if I knew that someone who was very powerful had a tendency to hit on young, beautiful women, sure. But I had no idea that it had gone to the level of having to pay off eight women for their silence, and that these women were threatened and victimized… “
Wait, George, wait: You’re at the center of things in Hollywood, so you do know. Men who are powerful don’t just “hit on young, beautiful women” — as though “hit on” is another term for “flirt.” Men like Harvey Weinstein overpower young women and force them to perform sexually.
So George, you have every idea about the way Hollywood works, as was also apparent when you told People magazine that Ryan Gosling didn’t attend the awards ceremony because he was “in Thailand or something. And you know what you do in Thailand.” Snicker snicker! Let’s ask the 10-year-old girls in Thailand what they think. Or let’s just cut that kind of remark.
7) Still, there’s hope, George! You also said,
“… this (the Weinstein revelation) isn’t a right or a left issue. This is a moral issue. We’re all going to have to be more diligent about it and look for any warning signs.”
Attaway, guy! And now that you realize you too are a warning sign, you’re going to speak up, right? And encourage others to join you.
8) It must now be a given that a lone woman who protests Weinstein-like behavior risks being “eternally banned.” Courtney Love says Creative Artists Agency did that to her back in 2005 when a reporter asked if she had any advice for young women trying to break into Hollywood.
“I’ll get libeled if I say it,” she replied, adding, “If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a private party at the Four Seasons, don’t go.”
She was right, but there was a price to pay, which is why you guys have to step up. Be feminist men.
9) Granted, it’s not easy. Let’s take a moment to ponder what any of us would have done after a Sundance screening in 2010 of a movie called The Killer Inside Me starring Casey Affleck.
The story is about two beautiful women (Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba) who fall in love with a seemingly mild-mannered law enforcement dude (Affleck) who beats them horribly. It turns out they like to be beaten, so the camera focuses on cheekbones being crushed, eyeballs smashed, etc. But the women keep asking for it because they forgive him. After all, there’s a “killer inside” him. The little love, he can’t help it.
After the screening, a woman stood up and yelled, “I don’t understand how Sundance could book this movie! How dare you? How dare Sundance?” The director was there for a Q&A and said later he was “in shock” at the reaction. He thought it was “more moral” to show what beating the shit out of women really looks like than to leave the violence offscreen.
Well, somebody really relished that job. Now remember fellas, nobody’s talking censorship here. In fact it’s the opposite — the hope is that today, Weinstein/Cosby/Ailes etc. disclosures will launch a wider discussion than ever. Maybe Weinstein didn’t produce “S&S”(suck ’em and slice ’em) movies as a rule, but at the center of the film world, it’s important to remember, he did rule.
Women critics have tried to dig more deeply into the reason misogynistic violence appears in movies and TV, not just occasionally but as a steady diet that seems to stimulate an appetite for more. They constantly challenge “sadistic movie violence against women” and the film industry’s assumptions that audiences “are happy to watch their heroines being beaten and gagged,” not to mention “cut and splayed and killed.”
It’s time to listen to them. As Rachel Cooke of the Guardian points out, it’s “unpalatable” to have to watch the “complicity of these women in their own destruction.” Yet it’s a theme that appears often.
So guys, the question is, if you’re in a Sundance audience where a woman gets up and shouts her objections to a movie like this, what do you do? Would you see it as an opportunity to at least talk about what’s happening in film all over the world? Would you insist in the Q&A that the director recover from his “shock” and answer the tougher, more revealing questions? You could always retire to a coffee shop with a handful of film buffs. You could write up the matter in your blog or emails or Facebook or Twitter. You could do something.
The fear right now is that after the Me,Too campaign dies down and the Weinsteins get fired or sent to jail and replaced, the film industry will again turn a deaf ear to women who are the prey of sexual predators, and the women who speak up.
And guys, here’s the truth of it: Pretending that women aren’t targeted and don’t speak up means you condone “the way Hollywood works” as the Weinsteins of the world define it.
10) See what I mean, George? And Ben and Benedict? Saying you’re disgusted by Harvey Weinstein is just a start. The whole issue of difference, sexual and otherwise, is complicated and dense and deep. Don’t make fun of it as though you’re in a school yard.
And bring a little compassion to the table. Trevor Noah, the savvy and big-hearted host of The Today Show, recently apologized to feminist writer Roxane Gay because he himself used to make “fat jokes” about women.
The problem came later when Noah turned around and made a “runt joke” about Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (And it was a cliche runt joke at that: “Oh, I didn’t realize you are standing,” said Noah about the “tiny” man stepping up to take the oath.)
If you read Noah’s riveting autobiography Born a Crime, you know he’s much too discerning to make a schoolyard blunder like that. But this is another case of knowing-and-not-knowing: To Noah’s mind, the assigned villain of the hour has no humanity. All the guys get to pile on.
That’s almost just as bad. Let’s call in those laugh-a-minute Weekend Update guys on Saturday Night Live who seem to believe that because Harvey Weinstein is the current sexual boogeyman, they get to be mean. And nasty.
“It’s so easy to make jokes about a guy who looks like this,” said Michael Che, referring to a photo of Weinstein. “I mean he looks like chewed bubble gum rolled in cat hair.”
HaHaHa, hilarious, no? If the same man had been a Nobel Prize-winning philanthropist, would you have said the same thing? Or compounded the error by calling him “a well-dressed skin tag,” just to get another laugh?
Granted, Saturday Night Live is hardly a bastion of sophistication and class, but that’s not the point, is it?
Think about this, fellas — Kate Beckinsale may be conventionally beautiful, and Harvey Weinstein may be conventionally unattractive, but it’s their hearts and souls that matter in our everyday dealings with them, wouldn’t you say?
Take away issues about looks — skin color, ethnic features, disability, height and weight, national/religious garb — and what’s left is the person’s humanity. Aren’t we all seeking a world of equality? To get there it’s nice to remember: Looks never matter.
Except maybe in one way: Recently Kate Beckinsale, now 44, disclosed that Harvey Weinstein ambushed her in his hotel room when she was all of 17.
If looks did matter, that picture of her as a young person with her whole life in front of her has got to melt the heart of many an adult.
The thought comes: Maybe we lost our chance for civility when Hillary Clinton lost the election. But let’s honor her message in It Takes a Village. If we don’t stand up for the youngest and most vulnerable among us, who will?
So come on guys! It may be too late to stop what happened in the past, but surely you can be among the counted for the next teenage girls who are about to be “interviewed” by the next Harvey Weinsteins all around us.