Boffo Answer To Moguls
Harvey Weinstein had to know that he was foul, that his grotesque seduction routine was, in truth, the modus operandi of a serial sexual harasser and abuser. Perhaps he recognized his evil, or merely sought to cover it up. As such, the former movie mogul busied himself performing the role of a feminist. He said the right things about empowering women. He championed the careers of talents such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep. In January, one day after another accused sexual predator was inaugurated as president, Weinstein showed up at the Women’s March in Park City, Utah, home to the Sundance Film Festival. Naturally, he also used his fortune to drive home that he was a good ally to women. He tried to purchase his absolution by giving money to Democrats and liberal feminist causes. Those politicians and entities now can’t move quickly enough to refund Weinstein’s money, or to give it to charity. The University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts is certainly done with him. It declared it would reject Weinstein’s $5 million endowment intended to serve female filmmakers. USC was pressured to sever ties by a student, Tiana Lowe, who declared in her change.org petition, “I’d like USC to finally muster the moral spine to refuse Harvey Weinstein’s blood money in exchange for its soul.” But the university, and everyone else giving back Weinstein’s “blood money,” has a responsibility beyond saving face. Refusing a donation to appear feminist isn’t any better than making a donation to appear feminist. Any person or institution that claims to want to end sexual harassment must help change the power dynamic that makes predation possible. USC and others need to focus more on increasing the number of female CEOs and filmmakers. The latter group is exactly the population that Weinstein’s donation was intended to support. Women make up the slight majority of the moviegoing population, and three of 2016’s most profitable releases had majority-female audiences. Yet a 2017 study from San Diego State University found that among the top 250 grossing motion pictures last year, only 17 percent of the central filmmaking jobs were filled by women. The number of women directing these films was just 7 percent. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ejected Weinstein from its membership, but 76 percent of Oscar voters last year were male. Women received only 39 percent of new membership invitations — they are more than half the population. USC, with one of the preeminent film schools in the world, has a special duty to educate and encourage women who seek to balance these ridiculous ratios. A lackluster 41 percent of the film school’s students are female. One thing these numbers don’t reveal is how many women drop out of the industry because they become convinced that indulging monsters is the price of success. Though it makes sense to give back Weinstein’s money, it also makes sense to create a fund for female filmmakers. Perhaps another Hollywood mogul, who’d like to signal his virtue, will locate $5 million. Or USC could supply the cash from a university endowment that reportedly hit $6 billion in February. The predatory behavior of famous men only seems to grip the public fascination for as long as it takes to condemn them. Other Harvey Weinsteins are out there. If we remain content with denouncements, they will stay in the shadows, and nothing will change.