Last Saturday the 54 member board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to remove Harvey Weinstein. The board issued a statement on the reasons for this decision. From the NY Times:
In a statement, the academy said the vote was “well in excess of the required two-thirds majority.”
It added, “We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues, but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over. What’s at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society.”
In short, no more sexual predators in our industry. But some are asking if that swift decision is limited to Harvey Weinstein or if it applies more broadly. What about director Roman Polanski who was applauded by Hollywood and given an Oscar years after he was convicted of raping a 13-year-old? What about accused rapist (his trial resulted in a hung jury) Bill Cosby? A spokesman representing two of Cosby’s accusers calls the decision to allow Cosby to remain in the Academy baffling. From Page Six:
“We are baffled by this,” said p.r. man Edward Lozzi, representing two of Cosby’s accusers, actresses Louisa Moritz and Carla Ferrigno, wife of new academy member Lou Ferrigno.
In a letter to AMPAS president John Bailey, Lozzi said of keeping the men in the group, “This is negligent hypocrisy.”
But at least one unnamed member of the Academy is worried about where this could all end. “This could be like the removal of Civil War monuments,” the member tells Page Six. He added, “Isn’t this how McCarthyism started?”
Well, no, not quite. There are differences between running accused (or admitted) communists out of the industry and drawing the line at accused (and convicted) rapists. One is a destructive ideology, the other is a violent crime. Generally speaking, we draw a line between ideas (even terrible ones) and violent acts.
To be fair to this unnamed Academy member, there is the potential for a kind of moral panic to set in where the accusation itself, even made without any support or evidence, is enough to end someone’s career. That would indeed be a problem, but I don’t think Hollywood is at that point yet. At this moment, Hollywood is still supporting people like Roman Polanski who was convicted of the kind of crime Harvey Weinstein has been accused of engaging in. What is the logic behind allowing him to remain?
Here’s the Academy, including Harvey Weinstein (at 1:17), giving Polanski a standing ovation in 2003.