While some may be applauding Hollywood for the recent attention the acting community has placed on outing sexual predators, all the outrage belies a culture that has for years overlooked sexual assault in the name of art.
There is no more glaring example than Hollywood’s continued defense of famous (and infamous) director Roman Polanski, who pleaded guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” in the 1970s. The girl was 13 at the time, and Polanski spent about 40 days in prison for a mental evaluation. He then fled the U.S. to avoid further time behind bars and has never returned, fearing arrest.
Yet that didn’t stop Polanski from making films, including “The Pianist,” which earned him the Best Director award from Hollywood in 2003. Many in attendance that night gave him a standing ovation, despite the fact Polanski couldn’t receive the award in person given his crime.
Harrison Ford later delivered the Oscar to the director at a film festival in France.
Polanski’s talent is without question. And so is the fact he drugged and raped a child.
Somehow, the Hollywood elite reconciled those two aspects. When Polanski was arrested in 2009 in Switzerland (on his way to pick up a lifetime achievement award) and could have faced extradition to the U.S., a plethora of actors and directors signed a petition calling for his release.
More than 100 in the movie community signed it, including Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen (who’s had his own exploitation problems) and...wait for it...Harvey Weinstein. Similarly, at that time, high-profile women defended Polanski, including actresses Melissa Gilbert and Whoopi Goldberg. Goldberg claimed the assault wasn’t “rape-rape” and Gilbert similarly downplayed the seriousness of his crime.
Given his staunch defense of Polanski, it’s not really a surprise that Weinstein was the first to fall amidst allegations of sexual misconduct. Dozens of actresses have come forward, alleging they were victims. And Weinstein has fallen hard. Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. have also received swift punishment.
Perhaps the #MeToo campaign that started after initial reports of harassment and assault by Weinstein helped prompt the pushback. But it doesn’t excuse Hollywood from fostering an environment that has been so quick to forgive bad behavior by its own.