The Culture Current: How To Clean Up Hollywood In Nine Simple Steps
The following is something of an appeal to any major power player in Hollywood who may find it. To anyone on my side of the aisle who reads this: This is the sort of thing we should be doing, regarding Hollywood—rather than isolating ourselves from it, or worse looking for any excuse, real or invented, to attack it. As I’ve often said, Hollywood is not a monolithic entity—and it is those in the industry with open minds and ears I wish to reach. There are more than you’d think.
The first United States President to come out of Hollywood said it best: “Maybe there are simple answers. Not easy answers, but simple.”
(Yes, when he said that, he wasn’t anywhere close to the White House at the moment. Bear with me.)
Look, Hollywood’s gone through a very trying period, this past month and a half. And the industry needs to go through a lot of soul-searching, if it really intends to make sure this never happens again.
It’s a complex problem…and we got here over a long and complicated process, filled with little baby steps—a turn to look the other way, a shrug-off at something because “they’re too talented to be worth throwing away”.
And it’s still complicated—he said, she said, the other “he” said. In some cases, we have ironclad, solid evidence—see: Harvey Weinstein. But in other cases it’s iffy at best—see: Ben Affleck, and James Woods. In some cases the accusers are very suspect in their motives—going on to attack the “climate” of Donald Trump’s election, for example…as though, politics aside, that has something to do with any of this.
Enough pointing away. Enough deflection. The time has come to cut out any talk about Washington, or public policy—whatever credibility the industry still had in talking about that got thrown out the window when all this broke out. Celebrities have no business whatsoever lecturing on what’s right and what’s wrong, when it’s revealed that heaven knows how many of them heard rumors and stories—if not actually facts—of these crimes, and chose to downplay them and look the other way.
If Hollywood wants to restore the trust of the rest of society…it must prove to be, well, trustworthy. And that means it must clean up its own house—pick out the plank in its own eye, before talking about the specks in the eyes of others.
And perhaps more importantly…it must take steps to ensure these scandals cannot happen again.
Who am I? At this point, no one of consequence. God willing, that may change. But in the meantime, look: This isn’t rocket science. There are some very simple steps that, when you really get down to it, will sound like little more than common sense. But just like with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, perhaps it isn’t until it’s actually explained that you’ll respond with “How absurdly simple!” Beforehand, no one thinks of it…except for the outsider.
As of now, I’m an outsider. And psychologically at least, I suspect that will never change.
So, let’s start with the simple reforms, and move to the bigger ones—bit by bit.
Step One: Give An Industry-Wide Acknowledgement Of The Problem
It’s straight out of Alcoholics Anonymous: “My name is Weinstein-Company/Netflix/Amazon/Fox/Sony/etc.—and I am an enabler of sexual assault and/or intimidation.”
The time for excuses is over. We get it—it was a complicated situation. That time is past. What’s done is done. Now, it’s time to make up for it.
Quentin Tarantino has shown how to do it. He owned up to what he heard, and what he should’ve done and didn’t. Everyone else in a position to have known anything about any such scandal would do well to follow his lead.
The upcoming award season is the perfect opportunity for this AA-style confessional. The industry’s big players must take advantage of the stage and microphone, so as to confess, repent—and call for reform.
Step Two: Make It Industry-Wide Policy That All Business Meetings Be Conducted In Offices OR In Public Places
Looks obvious, doesn’t it? All of these incidents have occurred in private—hotel rooms, basements, and so on.
For the ladies, the kids, and any other would-be victims: Never, ever, EVER agree to meet up with an industry player that has any power whatsoever, unless the meeting’s to be conducted…in offices OR in public places. Restaurants, outdoor cafés, whatever—keep it official. ANY time the person suggest to meet up in “my place” or “such-and-such hotel, room such-and-such” or “down there”—you must decline, for whatever reason you can think of.
Now for the obvious issue: “But…what about offices? After all, there’s a reason ‘The Casting Couch’ is a concept.”
Step Three: Make It Industry-Wide Policy That Every Office Of A Studio And/Or Production-Company Must Have A Visible, Well-Placed, Working Camera Recorder, To Keep A Record Of All Goings-On Within Said Office, 24/7
There must always be witnesses. In public places, you have the folks that happen to be around—and they are many. In the office, well, there’s a problem: whatever witnesses would be around are connected in some way to the office-holder.
Therefore, in the absence of objective human witnesses without a dog in this fight…it must be the eye in the sky, with working recordings. Then, if there’s any potential scandal—BOOM, we have proof of what really happened.
“Oh, but…but every office? You have any idea how expensive that would be?”
Uh-huh. And how much do blockbusters cost to make, nowadays? Budgets for movies are inflated like crazy nowadays! I don’t care how much realistic CGI you need, these movies should not cost hundreds of millions of dollars, all right? And yet studios spend that, without feeling the need to address that problem—and why? Because they think they can afford it.
If they can afford that…they sure as heck can afford to put cameras in their offices.
“But…wouldn’t that mean the studio or production company controls access to the recordings?”
Sure. What are they going to do—say they lost the tape, or they accidentally turned it off? If it’s industry-wide policy to have those cameras, and the company’s being difficult about it—that’s on them. Bad publicity, isn’t it? And yes, if this past month has taught us anything, it’s that there is such a thing.
If the office-holder can’t provide the recordings…well, that should be viewed as grounds for suspicion. Unfair? I don’t know. At the very least, that should motivate the studios/production-companies to preserve the recordings with their proverbial lives.
Step Four: Make It Industry-Wide Policy To Inform Everyone Of Their Rights
In the case of actresses, or child actors, or any other potential victims, that means making absolutely clear to them their “power”, in any given situation.
One of the industry’s most beloved current A-Listers, Amy Adams, has recently noted how she’s making sure to mentor up-and-coming actresses on their right and ability to say “no”, in whatever situation. She has the right idea. It’s exactly what we need—in so many ways.
Step Five: Encourage The Rise Of Support Groups For Would-Be Victims
This is absolutely vital, to ensure a safeguard against any kind of industry intimidation. Obviously, it would be best to have different groups for different demographics—for actresses, child actors, etc.
Ideally, there should be more than one group for each demographic, so as to ensure a lack of corruption.
Further, this anti-intimidation policy should not be limited to matters of sexual abuse. There have long been reports of certain industry players who have constantly felt bullied into silence because of political ideology. James Woods, at one time one of the most beloved character actors in Hollywood, has recently announced his retirement, on the grounds of exactly that sort of intimidation.
Now, whether the industry at large feels these concerns are warranted or not…remember how humiliated Hollywood is now, after years of everyone downplaying claims of sexual harassment and abuse—and the intimidation connected to that.
Step Six: Evidence…Evidence…Evidence!
This is Step Six, and not One or Two or Three or Four or Five, for a reason. With the cleaned-up environment described above, we’ll have effectively minimized the environment of intimidation and silence. We’ll have also, therefore, minimized the situations where we run the risk of blaming the victim.
This is important: Once—and not until—we’ve cleared away the possibility of ambiguity as much as humanly possible…then we can safely return to the good old American Way of: Innocent Until Proven Guilty.
Both sides provide evidence, if possible. And again, the recordings of the office meetings must be of paramount importance (no pun intended). If they’re lost, damaged, or tampered with in any way…well, that’s a mark against the office-holder.
In the meantime, the alleged victims must of course enjoy a right, not necessarily “to be believed” (a sad rejection of due process), but “to be taken seriously”, enough to warrant an in-depth look at all evidence involved.
Step Seven: Punish The Guilty—With No Exceptions Or Excuses
This whole situation with Weinstein should by all accounts wake the industry up to just how terribly it has handled the Roman Polanski affair. Innocent or guilty, he had no excuse whatsoever for fleeing arrest—and Hollywood should acknowledge that, with no more hesitation, downplaying, or excuse-making about “rape-rape”.
No fundraising for such individuals.
No standing ovations for them.
Rather, we must demand they return to face judgment—to the full extent of the law.
Once, but not until, they pay their debt to society (and it is a debt to society, not merely to the victims in question), then we can possibly move on and forgive. But not until then.
Talent or no talent, justice must be served. No exceptions. There are enough people with talent to fill in any “void”. To pretend otherwise is the worst kind of absurd.
Step Eight: Purge The Political Activism—At Least For Now
As I explained, if this whole series of scandals has proven anything, it’s that the industry has no business whatsoever talking about social and societal right-and-wrong—let alone lecturing the public about it. Those outside Hollywood, looking in, can only wonder how many celebrities on those repetitive-to-the-point-of-parody PSAs were in fact enablers of Weinstein, and the other guilty parties.
“But they have the right to!”
Of course they do. That doesn’t change whether it is right to—certainly in the current climate. People have the right to be hypocrites. That does not change the fact that they are hypocrites—and are best treated as such. Namely: not to be taken seriously.
As such, Hollywood en masse had best take a long lull in any celebrity taking any kind of open political stance. This is a matter of repairing goodwill with the public—nothing less. Therefore it is best to convey as trans-partisan an image as humanly possible. The public would be especially grateful for this, considering the current hyper-partisan climate. Cinema has long held a tradition of escapism, since the 1930s—when it provided a beautiful escape from the Depression. Were Hollywood to provide that again, as a rule, it would go a long ways towards repairing trust with the moviegoers of America.
As Michael Jordan famously noted, Republicans buy Nikes too.
Step Nine: Strive For Ideological Diversity
One of the major reasons things get overlooked in life is because of the “echo chamber”. When everyone’s expected to agree with everyone, self-delusion inevitably results.
It is often claimed that Hollywood is apolitical, because it cares first and foremost about money. Certainly the key players believe that. However, we see the results of the “echo chamber” mindset, for example, in the long string of hyper-political Iraq War films throughout the 2000s, each one bombing miserably at the box office until Katheryn Bigelow jettisoned politics with The Hurt Locker—which did not bomb.
No one making those films set out to lose money. However, it is clear that they constantly overlooked a pattern, and refused to acknowledge it even after Bigelow’s film.
Further, many are the stories from openly Conservative celebrities of a “New Blacklist”. Now, whether the stories are true or not is of little consequence—the important thing is, the notion of a “New Blacklist” has effectively intimidated industry players of a Right-leaning persuasion into silence, by and large, while Left-leaning counterparts feel no such restraint.
Ideological diversity must be encouraged in Hollywood. There are truly talented, Oscar-worthy people on both sides, and the industry must be sure to welcome both, with open arms.
Benefits Of Political Diversity:
This would, again, go a long way towards reestablishing goodwill with the public—a reassurance of balance from Hollywood, if it must go political. No one goes to a movie theater to hear their point of view insulted—and so long as people of a certain persuasion feel they will be insulted, they will be reluctant to enter the theater.
Further—to connect to the major issue of cleaning up the industry—the greater the ideological diversity in Hollywood, the less likely an echo chamber exists that clouds the minds of the industry establishment. Challenging of established mindsets is, naturally, essential to hold the feet of everyone to the proverbial fire. The side-effects of that would go a long ways toward ensuring that people will be less likely to “look the other way”.
All of this must be given full and serious consideration. Hollywood is in dire need of reform. No one can or should deny it. To borrow a phrase, there’s a swamp that must be drained. And so, I call upon all who read this—inside Hollywood and out—to join me in the effort to put these reforms into practice.
Join me in this…and together, we can and will Make Hollywood Great Again.
Image Source: HansMeex/Pixabay
License: CC0 Public Domain
Eric was raised by Conservative Christian parents, but first became especially passionate about politics in high school, through reading up on economic theory. He also first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged around this time, for the ARI's essay contests. He now owns a great deal of Ayn Rand's work. Also included in his library are the collected works of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, etc.
Eric is no stranger to writing commentary, as the writer of the Conservative Considerations column on CampCampaign.com, and as a film critic and commentator on FlickRev.com. He has also carried on the Conservative tradition of talk radio commentary, as the host of "Avengers of America" for the USF student radio station, Bulls Radio. In the meantime, he is practicing what he preaches: Striving to enter the professional realm of Hollywood, he has already written and directed short films for the Campus MovieFest, which can be found on his YouTube channel, Hard Boiled Entertainment.
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