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By Morak Babajide-Alabi
UPDATED December 21, 2109:
The news that a financial settlement had been allegedly brokered between the disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein and the many women who accused him of rape and sexual molestation broke last week. This development didn’t take many by surprise. But what shocked several is the fact that these victims prefer a financial settlement than see Weinstein stand trial in a court of law. By the settlement, he is not obliged to plead guilty to the accusations. Odd world, you will say.
I wrote a piece on this unfortunate development about a once loved man who fell from grace to grass. I decided to reproduce the article first published on October 22, 2017.
When the story of Weinstein broke recently, it was like one that has been told over and over again in the past. It sounded overly familiar and got some people yawning and saying to themselves – “this is no news.” They are right because we hear these stories in the grapevine daily. The only difference this time around is that some brave victims have decided to go public.
Please raise your hands if you have not read or heard about the prevalence of sexual harassments and assaults in the movie industries – Hollywood, Nollywood or Zollywood. Or if you are too young to know that they are prevalent also in the academics, business or sports arenas. No matter where the stories come from, they surely are not the best-kept secrets in the world.
Weinstein is the unfortunate rabbit that is caught in the headlight this time around. He is no small fish in Hollywood. He is an American film producer, who was good at producing hit films. The Hollywood actress, Lupita Nyong’o, in an article in The New York Times last week (October 19, 2017) said Weinstein was introduced to her as “the most powerful producer in Hollywood.”
For me, it was ironic that the day I watched one of the most iconic documentaries in recent times, “Time: The Kalief Browder Story”, that Weinstein got the “sack” from his own founded film company. The story of the 16-year old African-American Browder was gripping. Arrested in 2010, accused of stealing a backpack and kept in prison for three years, most of which were in solitary confinement, and without trial. The documentary was a dark commentary that got me shedding one or two tears between the 6-part series.
For almost one hour after watching this documentary, I was on the same spot ruminating on the failed judicial system of the supposedly most powerful country in the world. I could not get the fact that the young Browder and his mum had to die from the actions or inactions of America’s judicial systems and the operators. I sat numbly staring at the remote control in my hand, the words of Browder’s defence lawyer, Paul Prestia kept coming back to me, that he could not believe what Browder went through happened in the USA and not in a third world country. But in recent times we have seen and heard about worse things happening in the US than in countries such as Mali or Sudan.
Works such as the Browder documentary defined Weinstein’s career in the movie industry. If you watched films such as The King’s Speech, Django Unchained and Silver Linings Playbook, produced by his company, you would agree that he does have a golden touch. These are movies that catapulted the careers of many actors and actresses.
I had just finished processing the documentary in my conscious mind when I flipped the television channel to Sky News. The Breaking News was what would define the path of the downfall of the executive producer of a documentary that had moved me to tears. I was not shocked but I was seriously disturbed that a creative mind such as Weinstein could be possessed by as many demons as he was identified with on the news.
He did not wait for a long time before he raised his hands and owned up to these “demons.” And what best way to get out of this for him? Blame them on practices he saw in the 60s and 70s. This, no doubt was very lame and under no circumstance should he have used this as a defence for his actions. It was a classic excuse from an individual who has been caught pants down and needed to blame the action on something, no matter how feeble it may be. More details coming out from the US and the United Kingdom over time have all revealed how recklessly and irresponsibly Weinstein has behaved over the years.
Weinstein is in the public court right now, and the daggers are drawn on him. While the public is “shocked” by these revelations, the movie industry “players” are shrugging their shoulders and wondering who will be outed next. They know what goes on in their industry. Some of them have been victims of these sexual harassments but been quiet for so long that they have got used to it. Majority of these “players” are unwilling participants of the sexual games to either save or kick-start their careers. It is always a no-win situation for some of them.
Weinstein did get his fingers in many cookie jars. As at press time, over forty women had come out to talk about their unpleasant encounters with the producer. There is no doubt that he does have very fast hands, as many women alleged the speed at which he “grabbed” or “touched” them inappropriately. These victims told stories of the same pattern of abuse and subtle threats to their careers.
The worrying trend is that they had kept quiet for years as they endured the abuses. Let’s be honest, there are so much more victims that will never come out to tell their stories because they fear they may not be able to handle the shame. Some of them kept quiet for this long because they believed no one would “buy” their stories. Unfortunately, this set of silent victims would be in the majority. They will never come forward, thus denying the world the opportunity to know how bad the situation is in the industry.
We won’t deceive ourselves that Weinstein is the only sex monster parading the streets. Sexual harassment happens in all spheres of life and people such as Weinstein are always roaming the corridors exerting their powers and influences. They subject innocent people to unnecessary emotional and physical torture. The movie industry is more vulnerable because of the glamour and most times the desperation of the players to up their games. In Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood etc, there are unbelievable stories of sex being the currency for a shot at stardom. This is the stark reality of the world we live in.
Sex is a commodity that sells. Even in situations where predators such as Weinstein are not on the prowl, some individuals will seek them out and offer sex to them to achieve their ambitions. It is not only in Hollywood nor Nollywood that sex is a bargaining chip to success.
People such as Weinstein should be disgraced for what they are. The law should apply to them, convictions sought and long custodial sentences imposed. These individuals should not have any room in descent societies, because they are worse than animals. There are many Weinsteins in board rooms, academics, sports etc. using their positions for undue gratifications. They should be rounded up and castrated.
First published on October 22, 2017, in the Diaspora Matters Column, Sunday Vanguard.