Arts and Entertainment

Entertainment is Good but Hollywood’s Rape Culture Isn’t

In the highly-pressurized environment of Hollywood, rape culture continues to exist and little is being done about it.

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By Catherine Joh

Hollywood’s rape culture is deplorable, and yet, it continues to exist. One of the main sources of the problem is Hollywood’s power complex. Many of the people seeking to break into the industry find themselves at the whims of others with more power in the business. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, now a household name, had praised Harvey Weinstein in her first Academy Award acceptance speech in 1999, but now condemns him for his sexually abusive acts. After her first distasteful confrontation with the former producer, Paltrow said she kept quiet out of concern that she would lose her starring role in “Emma” (1996), and over the years, she had tried to ignore Weinstein’s alternating kind and bullying personality.

Within Hollywood’s atmosphere, monetary pressure and an unstable career can silence those who suffer. An investigation by The New York Times found that Weinstein has been paying off accusers for at least two decades in the three that he’s been known to have committed sex crimes.

One of the better known cases of this is with actress turned activist Rose McGowan, who had been assaulted by Weinstein at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. After McGowan made hints about making her allegations public, Weinstein’s close associate reached out to her with an offer of $1 million in exchange for signing a nondisclosure statement. With money and high esteem, Weinstein could easily boost careers and often did so after forcing aspiring young women to unwillingly succumb to his sexual acts.

The co-founder of the Weinstein Company isn’t the only sex offender who has been able to get away from the attention of the public eye for so long. In another recent series of allegations, “House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey was accused of trying to seduce actor Anthony Rapp when Rapp was only 14 years old. Since then, at least a dozen others have joined Rapp in accusing Spacey, including former Boston TV news anchor Heather Unruh, who spoke of Spacey getting her son drunk before proceeding to grab the then 18-year-old’s genitals. In a Twitter response to the allegations against him, Spacey admitted to having sexually assaulted Rapp and came out as gay soon after.

Media outlets blew up, but rather than focusing on Spacey’s admission of sexual assault, they focused almost exclusively on the actor’s coming-out. Only when the public criticized the lack of attention on Spacey’s illegal actions did the media stop covering up the accusations. The media follows Hollywood’s lead and tries to make revenue through enticing topics like sexual orientation rather than heavy ones like sexual abuse. Comedian Cameron Esposito says it best in her reaction to Spacey’s tweet, “Being gay has nothing to do w[ith] going after underage folks.”

The media’s reluctance to address the real problems is a common issue. When an unpleasant subject matter is being covered, news sources will often still downplay the magnitude of the situation, as with the news coverage of Spacey’s tweets.

Though Hollywood promotes liberal messages, its rape culture is still prevalent. The scandals and sexual crimes that continue to pop up in the news are directly correlated to Hollywood’s biased nature and inability to confront its own problems.

The quietness of victims further enables sexual harassment. Of the more than 80-something women who have spoken out against Weinstein, only a handful have chosen to relay more information either themselves or through representatives. However, actress Scarlett Johansson defends those who are silent, saying, “It’s irresponsible to take a bunch of actors [...] and throw their name into a situation they couldn’t possibly comment on.” The people who refuse to or cannot speak are not to blame. Those who choose to take action can be putting their careers in jeopardy or may even face the failure of not being heard.

What may be contributing to victims’ inaction is the inaction of the community around them. Commenting on the rumors about Weinstein raping McGowan, actor Alec Baldwin said to Entertainment Weekly, “It was for Rose McGowan to prosecute that case.”

At times in his interview, Baldwin certainly sounded like the man he impersonates on “Saturday Night Live.” Though he extended his sympathies, Baldwin made himself complicit by victim blaming. It almost seemed as if Baldwin was trying to provide cover for the assaulters, or had tried to remain neutral for the sake of reputation.

In his interview, Baldwin implied that he wouldn’t want to risk his job just to help someone in need, and in a later tweet, he called the sexual assaults a matter of gender inequality. Despite his words of empowerment, Baldwin’s excuses for his inaction completely revoke his sympathetic gestures. These types of excuses are rampant in Hollywood circles and make many unknowing bystanders.

Hollywood’s efforts to be liberal are inconsistent since many of its actions directly counteract feminist messages. Few harassers are punished severely, and accusers often aren’t taken seriously or even believed. It’s increasingly problematic when also considering that actresses get asked questions about sexual assault more often than actors, including those who have responded to allegations. This proves the public’s difficulty focusing on the bigger picture: that both men and women are victims of sexual harassment and have the responsibility to act accordingly toward our problematic rape culture.

Each new allegation that arises doesn’t badly affect the industry, which is churning out more movies than ever. This year has had quite the movie lineup, with films such as the long-awaited revival of “It” (2017) and the recent releases “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017) and “Justice League” (2017).

Hollywood has set the standards for filmmaking and is revered around the world. However, in the social sphere, it needs to start taking initiative, even if that means having its best people marginalized. Many of Hollywood’s celebrities have been outed for their crimes, but have faced minor consequences and continue to do well in their professions. People need to get past the facade that actors and studio-goers put up and start prosecuting these criminals for hurting countless women and men. Like it does for its films, the American movie industry must also set the standards for how it treats sexual assailants.