Harvey Weinstein and the silent men.

This past week has seen the whole of the Hollywood power structure completely upended by revelations that one of the most powerful people in the industry has been manipulating his position to sexually exploit vulnerable young actors.
I say revelations, what it really is is confirmation of a practice that has been prevalent in all sectors of the entertainment industry (and many other ones where there is a pyramidic power structure like the Catholic Church, or the English football system).

This has been going on in Hollywood since the industry first realised that Silver Screen starlets were filling the vacuum of glamourous escapism that America hadn't had since it overthrew the Monarchy. And since the path for a young actor to become a screen idol was entirely in the hands of rich white men (women could scarcely vote, let alone run businesses, and minorities were afforded very little property -- slavery had only been abolished 60 years before the first Oscars ceremony), the predatory nature of these people, which made them such successful capitalists, brought itself to fruition through exploitation naive young women, men and children.

The "Million Dollar Babies" from the Silent movie era were forced to work eight-hour days, six days a week, yet were thrown out penniless when puberty struck. At fourteen, Judy Garland was forced on to extremely restrictive diets and drugs to match the weight loss demands of Louis B Mayer for the Wizard of Oz. But audiences didn't hear about this, they saw the bright lights and the colour, and the glamour of Busby Berkley musicals, and were lead to believe these stars were living the lives of gods in the heavenly surrounds of Tinseltown. This, incidentally, is still a falsehood perpetrated by reality TV shows involving Kardashians, and Insta celebrities. It would be nice to think the debacle of the Fyre festival earlier this year will show people that it's easy to manipulate the illusion of glamour. In reality the smog of Los Angeles hides an underbelly of "casting couches," party 'favours', and an unwritten understanding that there is one sure fire way to get to the top of the industry, and it's assumed that if you're there, you've taken that route.

Going right up to the recent past Elijah Wood, Corey Feldman, and many others have explicitly hinted at an active paedophile ring operating in Hollywood throughout the nineties. Courtney Love was asked on a red carpet if she had any advice for young actresses in 2005. After briefly considering the certainty of being sued for libel, she straight up declared, "If Harvey Weinstein asks you to go to the Four Seasons hotel, don't go."
This open secret of Hollywood that has been laid bare now, and the questions emanating from onlookers is 'why didn't such-and-such speak out?' Well, what good does speaking out do, when the barriers to entry in this industry are already so well-guarded that a threat of "You'll never work in this town again" can be thrown about and made good on. If Orson Welles' career could be junked, despite making one of the most celebrated films in history, because his film satirised the most powerful media figure working at the time, what recompense does a 19-year-old with no professional credits have? If Martin Scorsese, one of the most cherished directors in America was reduced to a cloying "Thank you, Harvey Weinstein," at an awards ceremony, even though Weinstein had butchered the film in question, Scorsese's pet project for the entirety of his career, to the point it was an industry joke, what choice did a young Matt Damon have when the manipulative freak, whose career Damon was indebted to, asked him to phone up an investigative journalist and say nice things about him?

This isn't even something I'm just weighing in on from a 5000 mile remove. Belfast's burgeoning film industry had it's own version of Harvey, in disgraced agent Mark McRory, who was finally indicted earlier this year. I had heard about his previous prohibition orders where he wasn't allowed to be alone in a room with a young actress, and vowed not to work with him. But he kept getting all the best work, to the point where it was career suicide to not be on his books (and at one point, over 300 actors in Belfast were on his books). Theatre, television and film companies were still employing his clients, and remunerating him accordingly, all the while implicitly endorsing his behaviour. Should I, and others, have shouted from every rooftop the glaring hypocrisy in this, while further isolating ourselves from a very tight knit community, where even expressing political opinions can make you stand out as potentially 'difficult'. I have it on primary authority from a friend of mine who was told by one of the UK's leading musical theatre producers that they wouldn't work in musicals if they didn't continue dating him - should I tell the world about this on my meagre outlets such as this blog, or my Twitter account, thus placing me and my friend in a position where we have to defend and justify the statements I have made? Or should I continue to maintain the conspiracy of silence that has allowed powerful people to commit atrocities of all types, whether it be Jimmy Saville and his friends in the Royal Family, or Teresa May's husband profiteering from Saudi Arabian weapons ending up in ISIS hands, or corporate CEOs selling off their stock holdings the day before their company tanks, and making off with the entire workforce's pension? OK, that's not nearly as bad as those examples, or Weinstein, but it shows how prevalent the mindset is in powerful men who feel jilted.

And another problem is that men are worried that they themselves could be guilty. Every man (yes, all men) has some episode in their life where they have, at the very least, misinterpreted awkward sexual politics. They have made a comment about a co-workers clothes that may have been meant as a compliment, or as an alpha male assertion of sexual prowess, or they have missed cues, or misread affection, or drunken wandering hands, or just plain old meat market behaviour in a darkened club. Or in a lot of cases, much worse. Technically, we are guilty of sexual harassment, and it's not something that we are particularly willing to open ourselves up to as we watch what is happening to others. Even writing this piece is something I've spent a day haranguing over, because of my own past inability to control my drunken self, that I'm utterly ashamed of. (Everything was above clothes, and not beyond 'second base', but still, it was unwanted advances.) It makes me an utter hypocrite to stick the boot in, knowing that I haven't faced the opprobrium that I may deserve, except for inside the recesses of my own self-loathing.

No doubt someone will say something like 'I wouldn't put that on your professional website,' but isn't that contributing even further to the cycle of shame secrecy? Maybe someone will store this up to humiliate me at some unforeseen time in the future, but by being beholden to the potential of secret shame, we are all contributing to the problems that secrets and lies hold over vulnerable people. This may make me unpalatable for some people to work with, if that's my cross to bear, I guess that's what I'll have to live with. I'm trying to learn, and I'm sorry.

We are in a very odd time in human civilisation. The internet - potentially the greatest tool to adorn our species - is still in its infancy, and its caused seismic upheaval of the societal mores that have been taken for granted for a thousand years, because suddenly the totality of all human knowledge is available to everyone. The top down structure that had been held in place through ignorance is no longer effective. So now people are challenging the very basis of capitalism, and women are sharing their daily sexism. Their. Daily. Sexism. The notion that the man is the king of his castle, and the woman is the subservient homemaker, a trophy, an object whose desirability can be ranked so owners of the biggest castle can know which one he should marry, is being shown to be the toxic masculinity that has been destroying us.

'Don't rock the boat' seems to be the prevailing sentiment at every stratum of this society of secrecy. Private Eye magazine is awash with stories of whistleblowers in every industry, public and private, who are hounded our of their jobs, and sometimes their homes, for alerting the relevant authorities to malpractice or actions that are clearly in the public interest. Instead of directing ire at the perpetrators who allowed contaminated blood to be used in transfusions, the anger was at the the tell-tale (a illustratively childish mindset, directly from the schoolyard). 'Lawyer up' is a phrase that is synonymous with powerful people and companies desperate to maintain a secret, by throwing the full weight of a corporate legal suit at plaintiffs who wish to investigate or expose corporate malfeasance. It shouldn't be an act of bravery to reveal the truth, and yet in these cases, in this society, that's exactly what it is.