America loves to see a Hollywood villain go down—and Harvey Weinstein is a true Hollywood villain. Creepy, leering, looming, odious. Even in Miramax’s heyday, the company would have had a hard time conjuring a monster as vicious and bullying as the man revealed in back-to-back New York Times and New Yorker exposés.
So it’s been gratifying, if not altogether surprising, to see the rush of outrage and condemnation that has accompanied Weinstein’s thud from grace. In stunning succession, he has lost his job, his wife, his kids, his membership in the Academy, his status, his power. His alma mater has decided to revoke the honorary degree it once bestowed on him; the USC School of Cinematic Arts has rejected the $5 million guilt pledge he made to support a program for women filmmakers. Meanwhile, speculation is growing about the cascade of potential legal actions that could be lobbed at both him and his former company. “I expect a flood of lawsuits to be headed his way if they are timely and he hasn’t already bought off the victims,” Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times.
All this is as it should be. When a man preys on scores of women with impunity—“like a hunter with a wild animal,” as the actress Emma de Caunes described her encounter with Weinstein for The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow—he should be cast from his power perch and forced to contend with the fallout of his crimes. But as the outrage has crescendoed, with everyone from Hillary Clinton to former Weinstein protégé (and known boob grabber) Ben Affleck beating a righteous drum, it’s been frustrating that one of Weinstein’s most prominent co-conspirators has gone largely unacknowledged: the film industry itself.
By this I don’t just mean the retinue of aiders and abettors, silent witnesses and sleazy sycophants who enabled Weinstein’s reported thuggery for more than two decades. These men—and, yes, even women—blithely served up Weinstein’s victims for him, delivering them to hotel rooms and casting couches, and then dutifully cleaned up his messes; they should be held accountable. But the circle of guilt spreads well beyond the once-hallowed doors of Weinstein’s Tribeca studio all the way to the to the vast, glittering man-swamp that is the world’s film capital.
Hollywood, for all its liberal grandstanding, is a deeply sexist place. This statement is so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing to have to write it. But it bears repeating and dissecting, as the industry begins to grapple with the fact that that one of its most powerful members seemingly got away with raping, assaulting, and harassing tens of women for years on end. Otherwise, there’s a danger that the scandal, while toppling Harvey Weinstein (no small feat, to be sure), will leave the infrastructure that enabled his abuse intact.