Life Imitating Art: On Harvey Weinstein

During the early Renaissance era of art, the revival of the classical style was utilised in replicating humanity along with deities. Craftsmen were aiming to materialise life in art. People would see these portrayals of ‘perfect’ humanity and place its creators on a pedestal, praising them for having actualised beauty. This project, however, did not concern itself with challenging or adding normative value to societal narratives. Broadly speaking, craftsmen were simply shrouded under the cloak of power, and the people would implicitly absorb damaging messages.

This still occurs today. In my perspective, the new art form is cinema – with the eye now consuming the vivid life of moving picture. However, with production companies having access to extremely large markets, full of money to be made, the state of the craft has been in decline. This is especially the case with a greater portion of the industry comprising of borrowed intellectual property, harking a new production-line era not seen since the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of US cinema.

This gold mine, combined with the proliferation of entitled men within the industry, enables the production of the male perspective of ‘perfection’ of this property. This allows the Michael Bays of the world to run loose with multimillion-dollar budgets, ultimately objectifying women and continuing to stereotype people of colour. If this is what the industry is allowed to create, then why should it be a surprise that sexual abuse and harassment is so widespread in Hollywood?

However, this pattern was not obvious to everyone – evident when survivors bravely shared their stories. The mainstream media gasped: “The horror!” The men in the industry asked: “How could he do these horrible things for so long?” The Academy then kicks him out.

But for women, both inside and outside of the industry, this is nothing new. These men benefit from exploiting their positions of power, and use the means associated with that privilege to maintain the abuse. In workplaces and homes across the world, women are disempowered to speak out, especially when the perpetrator silences survivors by employing the very same norms that limit their autonomy. This is especially poignant in this case, with corporations denying survivors a medium of disclosure. Even when these tools are offered, a torrent of victim blaming and shaming consistently flows through the canals of social media.

The current landscape does look dire. Weinstein’s production company still kicks on. Shitty films will continue to be made. Actors will still be complicit in maintaining the locker-room culture of Hollywood. Women in the industry will still have to continue to ‘prove themselves’, even after the critical and commercial successes of films such as Wonder Woman.

However, we can vote with our eyeballs. If Oscar Wilde believed that life imitates art far more than art imitates life, then activist action used in existing movements can be applied in the movie business. Women’s spaces within the industry need to be reclaimed to ensure their stories are told accurately. As consumers, we need to continue to demand diverse stories, that are created free from exploitation and abuse. Being one of the most proliferated products in the Western world, films made under this direction can shine light on other equally dark facets of our society in compelling ways.