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Outing sexual harassment in Hollywood: This one was a long-time coming…

Posted on November 14th, 2017
Posted on November 14th, 2017

by Coop Cooper

There was a time in Hollywood – oh, about a year ago – when a sexual assault scandal wasn’t necessarily a career-ending offense. Those accused would immediately deny it and vow to fight these ‘false’ allegations. Usually, their colleagues, co-stars, spouses, studio execs, etc… would announce their ‘support’ for their friend, stating they would ‘stand by them’ through the legal proceedings until their ultimate exoneration or conviction through the court system. Usually the matter would be settled out of court for an undisclosed sum and the problem would be swept under the rug. If it did go to trial and the accuser was convicted, said accuser would do their time/penance, lay low until the public had forgotten about the mess, then reemerge in order to stage a triumphant career comeback. It would appear that time-honored Hollywood tradition is now over.

With the downfall of Miramax founder Harvey Weinstein as 79 women – and counting – have accused him of sexual harassment or rape, the fallout in Hollywood is now reaching epic proportions as dozens of actors, directors, studio heads and other men in positions of power are currently being outed as harassers and rapists. Many were well-known as serial offenders and they will likely (and finally) pay for their actions. Even if legal statutes of limitations have expired, their peers can keep them from ever working in the business again. However, with the accusations flying fast and furious around the media, it would be damaging to the efforts of the victims if some accusations turn out to be false.

Here is what to expect in the coming months/years:

1. Accusations against those with spotless reputations – Even celebrities with squeaky-clean images have skeletons in their closets and some of the most beloved will be accused of sexual harassment and rape.

2. Accusations against women – This has already begun with a former bodyguard claiming sexual harassment committed against him by singer Mariah Carey. The most recent accusation is against actress Bijou Phillips for allegedly tormenting and assaulting a gay co-star on the set of the 2001 film “Bully”.

3. False accusations exposed – Some cases where an isolated accusation has occurred against a celebrity will result in the accuser being outed as a liar once all the evidence is uncovered. It is also not inconceivable that one false accusation could lead to another against the same celebrity once unscrupulous opportunists realize there is a high chance for monetary compensation and fame involved and that the accusations are more effective/believable when made by multiple persons rather than an individual. Such revelations will cast doubt amongst the public and may discourage victims from coming forward.

4. The once popular philosophy of ‘honoring the work above the person’ will end – Roman Polanski, Victor Salva, Woody Allen, and many other filmmakers and actors who were previously convicted or accused of sex crimes and then summarily ‘pardoned’ in the eyes of the majority of their peers and the public may find that goodwill suddenly revoked now that this type of crime has come under high scrutiny.

4. The scandal has and will continue to spread into the world of politics – The Hollywood fallout, and the recent Anthony Weiner scandal, have emboldened alleged victims to take their accusations against politicians to the media. We can expect these politicians to deny and fight harder than their Hollywood counterparts because the stakes are higher. Admitting guilt would not only destroy their career, but damage their party and the causes they fight for. As history shows, these fights will be as fierce and unpleasant as always, except now it will happen more frequently and the politicians will be less likely to receive the benefit of the doubt, even from their own supporters (e.g. Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore). The most common defense will most likely be that the accusations are a hit-job orchestrated by their political opponents.

This was a long-time coming for the entertainment industry. It was a dirty, not-so-well-kept secret that created many victims over the decades. I had first heard of Weinstein’s unconscionable behavior towards women while in film school in Hollywood and that was over twenty years ago. In 2014, actor Corey Feldman claimed rampant pedophilia amongst some of Hollywood’s most powerful, but was chastised and his statements dismissed by interviewer Barbara Walters. Even comedian/actor Seth MacFarlane made a ‘sexual predator’ joke about Kevin Spacey ten years ago on his show “Family Guy” and a similar joke about Harvey Weinstein at the 2013 Oscars. Many people in the industry knew who was committing this behavior but few were in a position to do anything about it and the ones who could have done something will have to face a reckoning.

This has instantly created a new political climate in Hollywood and it will be interesting to see how it changes the industry in the coming years.

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