The Harvey Weinstein scandal has shaken Hollywood to its core, particularly those at the top. For decades, Weinstein got away with sexually harassing and abusing young actresses just looking for a foot in the door, and the powerful producer took advantage of his position. With The New York Times and The New York Post each posting scathing accounts of his depraved, predatory behavior, and many more actresses coming forward since, Weinstein’s career as a Hollywood big-shot is dead as a doornail. To quote Laura Dern in her Emmy-winning performance in Big Little Lies, “you’re dead in this town.”
The Weinstein exposé has led to a real movement in which women everywhere have felt liberated to come clean about the men who have abused them in years prior. Many prominent actresses have helped lead this movement, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, and Rose McGowan, and just about every A-list star in Hollywood has gone on record to condemn Weinstein.
An additional uncomfortable reality about the Weinstein revelations is in just how active he was as an Oscar player. This is a guy who dominated the Oscars in the ’90s and early 2000s when he was leading Miramax, securing Best Picture nominations for My Left Foot (1989), The Crying Game (1992), The Piano (1993), Pulp Fiction (1994), Il Postino (1995), The English Patient (1996, winner), Good Will Hunting (1997), Life is Beautiful (1998), Shakespeare in Love (1998, winner), The Cider House Rules (1999), Chocolat (2000), In the Bedroom (2001), Chicago (2002, winner), Gangs of New York (2002), The Hours (2002), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), The Aviator (2004), and Finding Neverland (2004).
After Harvey and his brother Bob Weinstein left Miramax in 2005 and created The Weinstein Company, they found even more success. Films nominated for Best Picture under the Weinstein name included The Reader (2008), Inglourious Basterds (2009), The Fighter (2010), The King’s Speech (2010, winner), The Artist (2011, winner), Django Unchained (2012), Silver Linings Playbook (2012), Philomena (2013), The Imitation Game (2014), and Lion (2016). To recap, that’s 13 years in a row where Miramax films were nominated for Best Picture, and then seven of the last eight years for The Weinstein Company films. And even with 2015, the only year a Weinstein film did not get nominated he had Carol as his no. 1 contender, which still got six Oscar nominations, many of them in major categories.
These kinds of stats are virtually unparalleled, and show just how much Harvey and Bob were attuned to the specific taste of Academy voters. They knew exactly how to market their prestige films for maximum voter impact, particularly in the home stretch where they pulled off two of the most impressive come-from-behind Best Picture wins in history, with Shakespeare in Love beating Saving Private Ryan and The King’s Speech beating The Social Network. All the while, there was the occasional report about Weinstein’s bullying behavior and sexual assault claims, but such stories were often buried. It was an open secret in Hollywood, Weinstein’s tactics, to the point that comedians were even joking about it, like Seth MacFarlane announcing the Oscar nominations in 2013.
The Academy that loved Weinstein’s films for multiple decades has now seen the ugly truth underneath. The Academy’s board of governors voted to expel him from the group in an emergency meeting last Saturday. Now, when movie lovers rewatch some of these Oscar nominated films and see the Miramax or Weinstein Company tags at the beginning they may wince, but it is important to not think less of the films themselves. However, this will likely signal a big change in the types of individuals rewarded at the Oscars, and their respective movies.
This may be an Academy that earlier this year gave Casey Affleck an Oscar despite sexual harassment suits in his past and gave Mel Gibson a comeback Best Director nomination despite his blatantly anti-Semitic rantings, but the Weinstein bombshells have caused a seismic shift in this town. People are now hyper-aware of each other’s reputations, and it’s hard to imagine similarly slimy figures like Woody Allen or Roman Polanski getting nominations anytime soon, regardless of how good their projects may be.
There are also more young, diverse members of the Academy than ever before, and the old guard is dying off. The older white man who once had or still has power in Hollywood despite their disgusting pasts will no longer get a free pass now. Much like in the presidential election it’s still a secret ballot, and you can vote for whomever you want, but it will be hard to rationalize a vote for one of these kinds of guys to your friends. Even those who separate art from the artists will think twice before voting for a movie or a performance by someone with a not-so-sterling past, particularly if it involves sexual abuse.
I also see the aftermath of the Weinstein scandal as Hollywood shedding its skin of the past. I don’t think “the way things were” is going to fly anymore, and safe, familiar, “Oscar bait-y” movies, the kinds that have won so many times in recent years, are going to be passed over in favor of something fresh. I don’t know what that is yet, but Moonlight‘s win earlier this year (over the much more traditional Oscar-friendly film La La Land) showed me that the Academy and the industry at large was changing, for the better. We will see leaders like Ava DuVernay and Jessica Chastain championing voices not heard as often as they should in mainstream films, and there will be more of a desire to find movies and performances that challenge society.
Hollywood has a way of adapting, whether it be the silent era to the “talkies,” film to digital, or studio system to a more open, independent system. Weinstein will rot somewhere, hopefully far away, and the film industry will hopefully emerge from the ashes more aware of the damage caused to women in a system of toxic masculinity and rape culture, which could lead to a brighter future for female and minority representation everywhere. Or am I just a dreamer?