Our Mesopotamia: From the Ashes of Harvey Weinstein We Will Rise
At a panel discussion in early October, I was asked if I had ever experienced an instance of sexual harassment in my career. My fellow panelist, another actress, and I burst out laughing. Our reaction was not because we thought the question to be funny — it was deeply unfunny — but because one could only reasonably answer that question if you narrowed it down to “this week” or “today”.
I have been in the film industry for a relatively modest 10 years. Yet, it would be impossible to catalogue the number of times that I have been the recipient of inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances from colleagues, lost jobs, relationships, and/or professional respect as result of not accepting sexual advances. Or the number of times I have been implicitly offered favors in exchange for sexual acts or romantic interest; and been explicitly offered money and jobs in exchange for sexual acts. The top offer currently stands at $30,000 plus a writing job for “lunch”. The list is endless and absurd and so deeply, deeply normal a part of my life and career that the level of shock over the recent revelations regarding Harvey Weinstein is mainly bewildering.
Let me be clear, he is a particularly disgusting disease in a business culture in which, because I have not been personally sexually assaulted by a colleague, I am one of the lucky ones.
And I am epically glad about the degree of outrage and shock currently being leveled at him.
We need to feel bodily nauseated and aggrieved by all of those icons who built their careers while secretly/not-so-secretly using their power to devastate other, less powerful parties. It’s time to root out this disease the only way we can, by seeing it for what it is, processing it, being confronted by it, shaming it, and crying it down.
Let’s channel our outrage at having a sex offender as a president and all the men who share his crimes. Let’s make it clear that such behavior will no longer be laughed off as “locker room talk,” or as “boys being boys.”
Because once that hellfire rages and burns out, what will be left are the women and the many good men in the film industry. I am genuinely, fantastically excited about the industry we could re-birth together and the kinds of stories we’ll finally get to tell.
I was watching the HBO documentary Spielberg, and, taking nothing away from how much I love his films, it was impossible for me to watch without noting how many white men make up that story. It was hard for it not be shaded with the knowledge of how many women were suffering underneath the fraternal sheen of the wild and glorified Hollywood boys’ club.
But I saw something else, too. In the re-telling of that golden period of time when Spielberg, Scorsese, Lucas, and the rest of them were the “movie brats”, hearing about that enviable, fertile time in which they were running around together making films, inspiring and challenging each other, and forcing each other to greater and riskier heights in their work, I saw the possibility of what could come next.
Out of the dust of the bones of these dinosaurs, we can build such a time for ourselves too. We, meaning: Women, people of color, queers, and all those “others” with the vastly under-told stories. As the way is cleared by the felling of the Harvey Weinsteins, and the culture that bred them, in that vacuum and out of that rubble, perhaps, we can find the loam to finally grow our own Mesopotamia.
In a time when going to the movies feels like every possible story has been told and re-told and re-made and franchised and done to death, there is actually a wild, rich, fertile field of stories that have truly NEVER been told on screen. A land in which we get to be pioneers.
How exciting is that?
That will be the good that can come from so much bad.