'Hollywood needs to step up': Sexual harassment after Weinstein

Los Angeles (AFP) –


The #MeToo movement sparked by sexual assault charges against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein brought down many Hollywood celebrities, but insiders believe the entertainment industry has a long way to go to change its culture and handling of harassment.

While the conversation surrounding predators in positions of power in Tinseltown has moved into the open, the underlying behavior often continues -- as do attempts to cover up incidents by people surrounding the accused.

Only two years ago, before #MeToo erupted, it was "kind of unthinkable ... to even ask Gwyneth Paltrow or Rosanna Arquette, 'Did you get assaulted by Harvey Weinstein?'" said the Hollywood Reporter's Kim Masters.

But even now, "I hear stories all the time that we can't even get to the point of publishing," said Masters, who has written extensively on the scandals.

Recent films such as "Bombshell" and the Apple TV+ series "The Morning Show" have earned praise for portraying predatory sexual harassment in the media world.

Yet some studios and agencies still threaten lawsuits to try to prevent true stories emerging, and only take action against the accused individuals once they get publicly caught, said Masters.

"When you finally fight your way through it, they suddenly say that 'We take it very seriously'," she said.

It is a far cry from the hopes raised when an October 2017 investigation by two New York Times reporters revealing Weinstein's predatory behavior sparked the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

Weinstein has since been accused by dozens more women, both famous and anonymous. He denies any form of harassment.

The once-powerful producer of "Pulp Fiction" and "Shakespeare in Love" faces a criminal trial in New York from Monday, which is separate from charges levelled by dozens of other women that he settled for $25 million last month.

"There's no question that some of the secrecy around sexual harassment and sexual assault has been shattered," said Megan Twohey, one of the two New York Times journalists who broke the story.

For a long time, reporters had people "slam the door in our face" and the fact that "tips and victims are now coming to us is massively significant," she told Vanity Fair.

"At the same time, there hasn't been the type of systemic reform" that everyone was expecting, said Twohey, pointing to the enduring use of financial settlements and confidentiality clauses that "helped conceal the conduct of Harvey Weinstein for years."

- 'Step up' -

While many actors and actresses in Hollywood are reluctant to speak publicly on the issue, others have voiced fears or anger that the harassment is not being tackled.

Actress and model Emily Ratajkowski appeared on a recent Hollywood red carpet with the words "Fuck Harvey" written on her arm in black marker.

Weinstein "won't have to admit wrongdoing or pay his own money" under last month's settlement with some of his victims, she wrote in an angry Twitter message.

"Ratatouille" star Patton Oswalt told AFP the industry was "seeing a lot of visible progress."

"But what I'm worried about is the stuff underneath that we don't see," he added. "You read these reports, and you're like 'Oh my god!' ... Sadly you know it is (still going on), you know it is."

Jodi Kantor, the other Times reporter who broke the Weinstein scandal, told Vanity Fair that "everything's changed and nothing's changed."

She does believe the industry has finally realized that attempting to cover up a case is ultimately more damaging in reputation terms than confronting it.

But that does not necessarily ring true for Masters, who believes that "any woman who speaks out is going to be the one who ends up having problems, not this (accused) star."

It is a feeling echoed by the Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity, a consortium of television writers, whose members asked not to be individually named by AFP for fear of harm to their careers.

"I think people are still very scared for their jobs and scared to be blacklisted," they said.

Actress Rose McGowan, who has accused Weinstein of rape and frequently speaks out against sexism in Hollywood and the media, recently tweeted that she has been "unemployed for almost five years, ever since I started pushing truth & fighting the lies."

"Hollywood needs to step up, if not for me, then for my fellow Silence Breakers," she wrote.

"We need people to step up for us, as we have for them."