Hollywood's film industry has provided entertainment to the world for years, and that has resulted in its affecting our culture in many ways. Because of that, some people have understandably been concerned that the movie industry's influence isn't always a positive one.
For a long time, those criticisms have most often centered around sex or violence, or that Hollywood has a "liberal bias" of some sort. But there's a truly vile problem in Hollywood that rarely gets as much attention:
The film industry allows powerful men to get away with terrible and abusive behavior without ever facing any major consequences for their actions.
In an article that appeared recently in Elle, writer Sady Doyle criticizes Casey Affleck's Oscar win on the basis that he was accused of sexual harassment and abusive behavior during the filming of a film seven years ago, and that handing him an Oscar for his role in Manchester by the Sea isn't appropriate.
It sounds likely that Affleck has a deeply creepy side, as he's accused of berating women on set, and drunkenly crawling into bed with an unwilling co-star at one point during production. That behavior didn't seem to hurt his career much, and Doyle believes that honoring him with an award sends the message that his successes are more important than the suffering of his female victims.
Hollywood has always rewarded those who consistently deliver a moneymaking product, and the industry has often turned a blind eye to abusive behavior. There is a long list of past examples that should have served as cautionary tales about keeping predatory creeps out of power in the movie industry, but instead, many of these men are at the top of their game, or they're considered geniuses and their abuses are minimized. It is clear that an ability to fill theater seats is more important.
For instance, Roman Polanski drugged, raped and sodomized a 13-year-old girl in the late '70s, and when he fled America to avoid what would've probably been a very short prison term, he was still able to continue making films and presumably lived the comfortable life of a rich film director abroad.
In an interview soon after escaping justice, Polanski was defiantly quoted as saying:
"If I had killed somebody, it wouldn't have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But...Fucking, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to fuck young girls. Juries want to fuck young girls. Everyone wants to fuck young girls!"
Then there's Stanley Kubrick, an obvious moviemaking genius. But some stories of the lengths Stanley Kubrick put his actors through make him sound like a monstrous character straight out of one of his films. Kubrick wanted Shelley Duvall in his adaptation of The Shining, and it's almost as if he chose her specifically so he could torture the actress with almost constant emotional abuse. He demanded that she submit to a record number of takes of stressful scenes (actually setting a world record), and demanded that no one on set show Duvall any sympathy. The harrowing and frayed breakdown of Wendy Torrence in that film isn't all due to great acting; it seems almost certain that Kubrick's abusive behavior toward Shelley Duvall resulted in the actress's nearly having a mental breakdown.
In the 1972 film Last Tango in Paris, director Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando conspired to execute the famous "butter" scene without the consent of actress Maria Schneider, who was traumatized by its filming. The two men decided that it would be a good idea not to tell her what was going to happen so that her reaction to the filmed rape would be authentically humiliating. Schneider was deeply affected by the experience, and spoke about it for years, but was basically ignored.
More recently, Mel Gibson's career seems to be rebounding after his abusive behavior toward women and his racist comments sidetracked him for a few years. Despite cringeworthy evidence that Gibson is an awful human being, he seems to have been forgiven, and is back as a player in the film industry. It seems as if Hollywood forgives nearly everything as long as a male star is still bankable. (Warning: The Mel Gibson video above contains profanity and abusive language.)
What do all of these situations say about the Hollywood film industry?
At its heart, Hollywood is still deeply sexist, and the list of men holding power in the industry who've been allowed to get away with terrible abuses is staggeringly long. On its best behavior, the industry still caters to white audiences, and treats women differently from the way it does male leads. There are multiple double standards at play, so accusations that Hollywood is "liberal" seem wrongheaded. If anything, Hollywood is a perfect example of a patriarchal power structure that insulates powerful males from the consequences of misogynous behavior that's clearly abusive, and sometimes criminal.
It's important to remember that when stars like Casey Affleck or Mel Gibson are rewarded for their creative endeavors, in no way should that excuse their terrible behavior. They have privileges that their victims do not, and those victims shouldn't be forgotten or dismissed. Just because an actor plays a good guy on screen doesn't mean they're good guys in real life, and the industry needs to start holding its male stars more accountable for their actions.
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