Blue skies, streets lined with palm trees, a man jogging, and melancholy music marked the start of the new BBC documentary, Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein. It looked picturesque. It was Hollywood, a dreamlike illusion on the surface masking the nightmare underneath. Directed by Ursula Macfarlane (IMDb, 2019) , this documentary did not disappoint in telling the stories of the women who were violated by Weinstein. However, what struck me from the start was the feeling that I had fallen into a dream. The documentary was preoccupied with both Weinstein’s dreams and his exploitation of women’s dreams. The message that seemed to be conveyed within the 90-minutes was that there is a thin line between dreams and nightmares.
To get to the bottom of this nightmare, this mass exploitation of women, we must go back to the beginning when Weinstein was still setting the foundations of his dream: Miramax Films Corporation. Founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein in 1979 , Miramax was extremely successful, producing hits such as Pulp Fiction (1994) and Good Will Hunting (1997). Weinstein’s thirst for power in the movie industry was insatiable and his brutish behaviour was not just reserved for the bedroom but instead, it permeated everything around him, including within the walls of Miramax. He was a dictator who ironically titled himself, “the sheriff of town” (39:31:00). A former colleague described, “Miramax broke a ton of people, Harvey broke a ton of people” (00:20:43), “you either dealt with it or you left” (20:46:00). One employee described having an ashtray weighing about 5 pounds, made of marble being thrown at him (20:33:00). These incidents escalated over the years. Journalists, Rebecca Traister and Andrew Goldman had the misfortune of provoking Weinstein at a party by merely asking for a comment on his latest movie. Weinstein called Rebecca a cunt and when Goldman intervened, Weinstein put him in a headlock all the while shouting, “I’m glad I’m the fucking sheriff of this fucking lawless piece of shit town.” (01:08:16)
As Weinstein’s dreams of a vast Hollywood empire grew, the women he sexually assaulted, shrunk into the shadows of this empire. The feeling that overwhelmed me as I watched the documentary was that I could see myself in the women telling their stories. Erica Rosenbaum had a sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face as she said: “You hear stories all the time of people just putting it all on the line and taking the big chance and going out to Hollywood and then it happening” (00:50:00) The passion in Erica’s voice as she mentioned Hollywood reflects the sheer hope and ambition that countless women across the world feel in their journey to fulfil their dreams. The haunting thing is that alongside those big dreams, there can be people in positions of power who can take advantage of young and keen ambition very easily, particularly young female ambition. It is just as journalist Ronan Farrow put it, “there’s a Harvey Weinstein in every industry” (01:30:58).
Weinstein was the kind of predator who preyed on women’s dreams. He told actress, Nannette Klatt, “I can make or break your career, so show me your breasts” (50:34:00). Zelda Perkins, a former assistant of Weinstein was told to stop being a “prissy” (25:02:00) when he appeared naked in front of her, telling her that it was just a part of the job (25:01:00). These encounters with Weinstein left women terrified, betrayed, and as Hope d’ Amour said, it affected them psychologically for a long time. These women had reached out to Weinstein, trusting in him to make their dreams come true and whilst he did, it came with a hefty price.
Hollywood was ruled by the fear that was inspired by Harvey Weinstein. He made women like Zelda Perkins sign non-disclosure agreements for six-figure settlements to keep quiet about the assault they had suffered (30:10:00). Paz de la Huerta said she did not go to the police because she was “terrified that he would destroy me” (53:35:00). Hope d’Amour also did not go to the police because she thought they wouldn’t believe her.
It was the work of investigative journalists: Ronan Farrow, Megan Twohey, and Jodi Cantor that unravelled the scandal. Their investigations and persistence to getting the truth about Harvey Weinstein out there are what launched the #MeToo movement . As women bravely spoke up about their ordeal, it was no longer just a Hollywood scandal. The investigation invigorated women everywhere to speak out against predatory men. The #MeToo movement is a collective experience for women, unifying us, creating sisterhood, and most importantly working to banish sexual exploitation. This is just the beginning of a better future, a future where women’s dreams and ambitions no longer turn into nightmares.
- IMDb. (2019). Untouchable (2019) – IMDb. [online] Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9358228/ [Accessed 3 Oct. 2019].
- En.wikipedia.org. (2019). Miramax. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miramax [Accessed 3 Oct. 2019].
- Macfarlane, U. (2019). Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p07hbyjc/untouchable-the-rise-and-fall-of-harvey-weinstein [Accessed 4 Oct. 2019].
- Time.com. (2019). Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and Ronan Farrow: The World’s 100 Most Influential People. [online] Available at: https://time.com/collection/most-influential-people-2018/5217592/ronan-farrow-jodi-kantor-megan-twohey/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2019].