Is Hollywood Cleaning House Amid Sexual Misconduct Scandals Fallout?
It hasn’t even been a month since the Harvey Weinstein scandal first broke, and since then dozens of women and some men have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against director James Toback, director/producer Brett Ratner, executive Roy Price, and actors Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Piven and Dustin Hoffman.
Each man has reacted in some way to the allegations made against him.
Though Weinstein has admitted to wrongdoing, he has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex. Toback denied 38 allegations of sexual harassment, saying the women’s claims were “biologically impossible” due to his medical conditions. Ratner’s attorney told ABC News his client “vehemently denies the outrageous derogatory allegations” made against him by six women, and he sued another for libel. Piven slammed a groping claim made against him as “appalling.” Price resigned from Amazon in light of an allegation of harassment, and Spacey and Hoffman both apologized for possibly engaging in inappropriate behavior several decades ago, though Spacey said he did not remember the alleged incident.
But the sum total of allegations has people wondering if Hollywood is finally cleaning house.
Melissa Silverstein, the founder and editor of the blog Women and Hollywood, calls it an “industry-wide moment of reflection.”
One that is long overdue, said Martha M. Lauzen, the executive director for the Center for the Study of Women in Television, Film & New Media at San Diego State University.
“As more women speak up, it demonstrates that sexual harassment has been a part of the Hollywood culture for many years, that it is not aberrant behavior confined to just a few individuals,” she told ABC News. “The longer the issue remains visible, the greater the likelihood that we will see a shift in behavior and policy. Visibility is key.”
Talk in the entertainment industry has been about little else these days. At the recent Producers Guild of America’s third annual Produced By NY conference, sexual harassment and what to do about it were hot topics during the day-long panel discussions.
“We all, as producers, have to stop and do something a little different,” Lori McCreary, the head of Revelations Entertainment and co-president of the PGA, told the audience.
The Directors Guild of America has vowed to do the same.
“For far too long, many have not spoken out – directors, agents, crew, executives, performers, producers, writers. This shameful code of complicity must be broken,” DGA president Thomas Schlamme said in a statement on the guild’s website.
“As directors and team members who solve problems for a living, we are committed to eradicating the scourge of sexual harassment on our industry,” he added.
In the days after the Weinstein scandal broke, LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy called for a commission to develop “new, industry-wide protections against sexual harassment and abuse.”
“It would be interesting to hear what she has in mind,” Lauzen said. “Certainly, industry-wide action is what is needed since harassment and the lack of gender diversity is an industry-wide problem.”
Now the PGA is working with the directors guild, the writers guild, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Television Academy to discuss creating such a commission. Meetings are scheduled for Nov. 10 and Nov. 15. The Screen Actors Guild has a safety hotline for actors to report workplace concerns, and SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris noted that the organization is collaborating with the International Federation of Actors (FIA), the AFL-CIO, and others to develop best practices relating to complaints.
Similarly, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson also told members in an email last week that the Board of Governors would establish a code of conduct for members, which will include a policy for evaluating alleged violations. Harvey Weinstein was expelled by the Academy last month amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
It can’t happen too soon, Lauzen said.
“The film and television industries are in fairly urgent need of some central organization or source that would push for and oversee greater diversity, track overall progress or lack thereof, and keep records on sexual harassment claims,” she said.
But it will take more than just addressing claims of sexual harassment to shift the culture in Hollywood. It’s going to take changing the whole look of the industry.
“Once our film crews look more like our audience, our industry is going to be better for it,” McCreary told the audience at the Produced By NY conference. “We’re going to know how to treat each other. We’re not going to let these kind of things to perpetuate for another 30 years.”
Silverstein agreed. “The fight for gender equality, which I’ve now being doing for 10 years, is so relevant to reframing the film world — the film culture,” she told ABC News.
She said the lack of women in leadership positions has led to a “deficit of diverse voices and different perspectives,” which only feeds “this toxic white masculinity that pervades everything in this business.”
The DGA, which, according to its website is 23.4 percent female, notes that hiring decisions are made by employers, including studios, networks and producers.
However, the DGA has successfully campaigned for female and minority directors to be given opportunities, and recently found for the first time, a sharp rise in first-time employment in episodic television, according to a September 2017 report.
“Finally, after years of our efforts to educate the industry, hold employers accountable through our contracts, and push them to do better, we’re seeing signs of meaningful improvement,” Schlamme said.
“The fact is, it all starts with the pipeline,” he continued. “The hiring decisions employers make today can have enormous impact on the composition of the pool in two years, five years, ten years’ time. Our research shows that when employers actually do the work of being inclusive, they find talented directors who overwhelmingly succeed in establishing longer-term careers.”
Similarly, last year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a plan to overhaul membership policies with the hope of doubling the number of women and diverse members by 2020.
Still, amid all the fallout created by the Weinstein scandal, Hollywood certainly has the opportunity to remake itself and change the way it does business. But Lauzen questioned if it will.
“Will any of the leaders in the industry suggest putting more women in positions of power in an effort to short-circuit or lessen the chances that this type of behavior will occur in the future? Or will they wait for the smoke to clear and conduct business as usual?” she wondered.