Frontline released an hour-long documentary delving into the behaviour of serial sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. In it, we see not what Weinstein did, but how those around helped to conceal his decades of abuse.
There is a lot of ground covered in the documentary, which starts at the beginning of his career in the '70s. Aided by interviews with former co-workers, victims, legal experts, and journalists, a dark and unflattering portrait of "Hollywood's open secret" is painted.
Men are finally speaking out.
The narrative of Weinstein's serial misconduct has been told largely through the countless women who have come forward. Men's silence has at times been deafening. This Frontline documentary is the first time that a group of men has intentionally sat down to have a meaningful dialogue about it. They describe Weinstein as notoriously difficult to work for. "I knew I was making a deal with the devil," Miramax's former president of production Paul Webster confessed. "But I knew also that he was at the epicentre of where I wanted to be." Weinstein's influence and power in the industry was undeniable, and this documentary shows that many people were willing to look the other way in order to benefit from that. "I think looking back that I did know and I chose to suppress it. I chose to hide from that fact," admitted Webster before adding, "I think we were all enablers. I think we were all complicit." Others conceded that while they did not know at the time, they were not surprised.
Journalists knew much earlier, but couldn't prove it.
How could something this pervasive remain hidden for so long? That is a question many of us asked when the New York Times first published their story on 5th October, 2017. According to the Frontline special, journalists knew much earlier, but you need a lot more than just knowing in order to run with a piece which challenges one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. Kim Masters, a former Vanity Fair writer, revealed that she first started hearing about Weinstein back in 1998 when Shakespeare in Love was released. He produced the film and reportedly harassed leading actress Gwyneth Paltrow. "She could take him on or have her career," Masters said of why she believes Paltrow didn't speak out at the time. "I wish I could have nailed the guy in 2002," said New Yorker journalist, Ken Auletta. "The problem was I couldn't prove it." Between non-disclosure agreements and a general fear of the fallout from speaking up, the industry remained silent. "To be in his circle was to be successful," added President of Women in Film, Cathy Schulman.
He's been a sexual predator for as long as he's worked in film.
With over 100 women counted among Weinstein's accusers, his harassment of women can be documented as far back as before his first film, The Burning. By now, the phrases "he was in a bathrobe" and "he asked me to meet him at his hotel," instantaneously cause your stomach to churn, but at the time, these women thought they were alone in their experiences.
One of the women who spoke for the documentary had not previously gone public with her accusation of Weinstein. Suza Maher-Wilson worked with the producer on The Burning. During the wrap party, he invited Wilson to his room where he proceeded to ask for a massage before leaving the room and returning in nothing but a towel. Paula Wachowiak worked as an intern on the set of the same film when Weinstein asked her to bring cheques to his hotel room. He also asked for a massage from Wachowiak while also largely undressed. Actress Katherine Kendall began the documentary with her story of a similar encounter with Weinstein in the '90s.
Weinstein kept many of his victims silent through non-disclosure agreements. What he couldn't keep buried, he made disappear through a series of paid connections with gossip journalists. The NDAs "allowed him to silence complaining victims and see it as a cost of doing business. He knew he had nothing to fear from continuing with the behaviour," explained New York University School of Law professor Stephen Gillers.
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