By Sosamma Samuel-Burnett, JD
Founder/President, G.L.O.B.A.L. Justice
Hypocrisy has a definition: “claiming to have moral standards to which one’s behavior does not conform.” Hypocrisy also has an example: “Hollywood.” The Harvey Weinstein scandal is not just a study in sexual abuse by a Hollywood mogul, but also about the hypocrisy within the film and tv industry. Much of Hollywood has held itself out as being more aware, more engaged, more sensitive to major social concerns, but most of Hollywood has not comported with these concerns either in their depictions on screen or on tv, or in their relationships behind the scenes. Sexism, racism, pedophilia, and many other evils are rampant in Hollywood. But Hollywood seems to be more engaged in acting the part of advocate than actually fighting against these evils.
While Harvey Weinstein may be a more blatant version, his behavior was by no means singular in Hollywood. But what is most striking about Weinstein’s behavior is that it was widely known about for years but few if any said anything — even despite that his acts were both immoral and criminal. The major reason for not speaking up was fear — not fear for the victims, but fear for their own careers. Professional interests outweighed moral interests. While it is always difficult to speak out about sexual abuse in any form, it is harder to look the other way and has greater consequences.
Hollywood also for years has portrayed and expressed behaviors that have been morally repugnant and even criminal. But because these were “depictions” in film and tv and not “actual” behaviors somehow, they are excused as art. Certainly artists have artistic license and can express and depict what might not be acceptable to all. But when art is either reflecting or endorsing a real concern that is not acceptable and we have to view it differently. While Hollywood itself is not “real life” in one sense, it does seem to provide a magnified version of real life, for good or for bad. Hiding behind a camera or a microphone to protect careers and avoid directly addressing the bad, is not right or acceptable. Art instead can be used for what is just.
What’s more, there seems to be many double standards in how Hollywood views morality. While many celebrities express disdain over the rude, crude comments of someone like Donald Trump, they have no concerns about rude, crude comments by their own circles either in film or in reality. Not to mention, that when Donald Trump made many of those rude, crude remarks, he was not president or a presidential candidate but a member of the celebrity world. But no one said anything about those remarks then. And while remarks are bad enough, actual acts of vulgarity, abuse, and violence by people like Weinstein have rarely received the public disdain that they should have. Morality should not be dependent on political perspective or personal and professional motivations.
One of the results of the airing of Weinstein’s behavior, was the #metoo campaign. While I commend those who have been brave enough to step forward to either share the hashtag or share their stories, I am also concerned that this results in a form of re-victimization. I, like many women, are among the #metoo. It is a tragedy that there have been so many. But what’s more important to me than knowing how many women have been abused or the details of their stories, is knowing that those who have platforms and power, like many Hollywood celebrities and leaders do, have our backs and are saying “no” and “no more” to these actions and attitudes and are actively doing something to change them. It is not enough to see the faces or hear the stories of so many who have been abused — it is imperative that there be significant social and professional change and that starts with those on the top.