[dropcap]They[/dropcap] say that 2016 was the year all our favourite celebrities died and 2017 was the year all our favourite celebrities were dead to us. With the 90th Academy Awards fast approaching there has been a steady showcase of the same immense talent that graces our screens every year. But award season this year has been unavoidably shrouded in controversy.
The Me Too movement took Hollywood by storm with celebrities taking a stand to confront a dark issue that has plagued the industry for years.
Over ten years later, the campaign resurfaced in a way that was fiercer than ever after actress Alyssa Milano brought it back into the spotlight with a new hashtag that took social media by storm. What was so distressing about the movement was just how sinister and widespread this issue was.
Two of the earliest revelations and arguably the most despicable came in the form of Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. Weinstein’s allegations ranged from forcing women to massage him and watch him shower to rape, brought to light from a litany of actresses including Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd. Spacey faced allegations from fellow actor Anthony Rapp, who accused Spacey of making sexual advances on him when Rapp was just 14 years old.
The ensuing media storm and both Weinstein and Spacey failing to outright deny many of the allegations meant that both men’s careers were over in a flash. The bravery of the victims helped to ensure the men would never work another day in show business ever again. But what’s next for Hollywood following the revelation of widespread abuse?
A strange fact to acknowledge is this wasn’t necessarily news. In fact, one could refer to this culture in the industry as an open secret. References to powerful and abusive producers have been joked about by comedians. Hannibal Burress famously called Bill Cosby a rapist during a stand up set which ultimately led to his alleged past behaviour being brought into the public eye.
Meanwhile, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane had called out Weinstein’s behaviour during the 2013 Oscars ceremony. While calling out the nominees for best supporting actress MacFarlane joked that the women “no longer had to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.” The comedian and writer talked about the joke this year stating that it came from a place of “loathing and anger”.
Some of the most famous and revered producers and directors in the industry have had a questionable or outright despicable past. Roman Polanski, the mind behind classics such as The Pianist and Chinatown, was arrested in 1977 for drugging and sexually-assaulting 13-year-old Samantha Geimer. Polanski served 42 days in jail before fleeing the US while Geimer has since appeared in court urging judges not to charge Polanski further.
The history of abuse doesn’t stop there. Alfred Hitchcock was famously obsessed a number of his leading ladies, the most obvious example being Tippi Hedren of The Birds fame. Hedren famously opened up about their complex relationship in later years while also revealing the extent of Hitchcock’s control over her life, revealing that he had forcibly tried to kiss her a number of times.
And of course one has to mention Corey Feldman, who appeared on television (including our very own Late Late Show) a number of times discussing his past as a victim of child abuse at the hands of agents during his career as a child actor.
There is no doubt the movement has had a profound effect on the industry that will change the way things operate in show business forever. While the movement has been met with widespread support there are still those who criticise it. Famous writer Margaret Atwood and actor Liam Neeson have warned of the dangers of lack of transparency in terms of accusations made against a number of people from different walks of life.
There is no denying the movement has caused a stir in many ways. All one has to do is log on to any news site before they see an article about the latest allegations of sexual assault, Hollywood in-fighting and accusations of hypocrisy. Case in point; Casey Affleck and James Franco.
Hollywood and the film industry hangs in the balance and is facing a crossroads of a magnitude like no other. While it is still unclear exactly how these issues will be handled in the coming years, it is important to realise that people are at least listening. The stain that tarnishes an industry that brings a lot of joy to many of us will not be forgotten, but hopefully will be learned from and actors, producers and directors can work on the one thing that is most important about the trade, the art.