You're denizens of the internet. You know what this is. You've shared your outrage, your disgust, your #metoo hashtags. You know all about the accusations against Harvey Weinstein. And you know that it's more than just "sexual harassment". Some of it seems to be rape. Actually, a lot of it seems to be rape. And at the center of it is the perfect villain, the man who would show up on your movie set 15 minutes after you called Central Casting and asked for a "sleazy movie producer" type: Harvey fucking Weinstein.
I'm not interested in getting into the details, because there's already been plenty of good reporting on this issue. You're all pissed, and you're all right to be pissed, especially since this is indirectly affecting Harvey Fierstein, who is a completely different person (and a goddamn treasure at that) who nevertheless had to go out on Twitter and remind everyone that he is indeed a completely different person. Come on, folks, get your Harveys straight. (In fact, it's the straight one you're mad at.)
But what's the angry sound spilling out of the vast network of tubes that is the internet? Is that a hearty chorus of Whataboutism I'm hearing? Yes, it is the conservative media crying out, "See? Liberals are hypocrites, so, obviously, complaints about certain high-ranking Republicans being sexual predators are thereby negated. That's just logic. But, don't worry, folks! Liberals can play this game, too!
So, let the Whataboutism begin!
The Right can say, "What about Bill Clinton?", and the Left can say, "What about Bill O'Reilly?", and the Right can scream even louder, "What about Anthony Wiener?!", and the Left can yell at the top of its collective lungs, "What about Roger Ailes?!", and then both sides yell simultaneously, "What about Bill Cosby?!!!", and then they both look at each other, perplexed. The Right says, "I thought he was your guy, because of all the breaking color barriers in television", and the Left says, "Whoa, I thought he was your guy, because of his willingness to yell condescending things at poor black people."
Then they both look over and see the petulant little man-child in the White House; but everybody's already yelling about him anyway, so it's just another note in the symphony of screaming that is his entire existence. I imagine when Donald Trump closes his eyes, he experiences nothing but the ceaseless, toneless cacophony of the thousands he has wronged, washing over him in an endless cascade of rage. I imagine he finds it strangely comforting.
What neither side seems to realize is that this neither a strictly Left nor Right thing, and that there is plenty of hypocrisy to go around. In fact, it's exactly this kind of tribalism and protectionism that has allowed all of this to go on in the first place. The common thread running through all the "What Abouts?" above is men in positions of power, and entire institutional structures around them that were willing to look the other way.
So, sure, Hollywood, now that it's all out in the open and you can't look the other way, you're taking decisive action. Weinstein's been kicked out of the company he founded. The Academy of Motion Pictures booted him from their ranks. You're all happy that he's gone. Ding-dong, the witch is dead.
But what's that noise I hear? Is it Woody Allen telling us all not to embark on a witch hunt?, like the one that erupted after Allen's own sexual misconduct was brought into the light? You know, that terrible witch hunt that has completely destroyed his life and his career and limited him to only producing one new movie every year and winning an Oscar in 2012.
This isn't about one slimy movie producer. Weinstein is a convenient villain for us because his actions were so blatant, and because he looks like a wad of slightly moist bread dough that has had beard stubble blasted at it with an air cannon. This kind of behavior is tightly wound up in the entire history of the entire infrastructure of the entire entertainment industry. If Terry Crews can be a victim of sexual harassment and not feel like he has any recourse, then you know how entrenched this culture of power and control really is.
It's not just movies. It seems to exist in every tiny corner where some entitled man has a little bit of power. Remember Profiles Theater in Chicago?. Hell, look closer to home: remember Rochester Civic Theatre?
This is a problem, and we have to clean house on a massive scale. Chasing Weinstein out of the industry isn't enough. Even knocking down the sales of a few movies isn't enough. It requires a concerted and meaningful effort by everyone, from the executives in charge right down to the unpaid interns. We're talking "whole cultural shift" here, folks. We're talking, "you goddamn better get some new leadership up in here". (Ever thought about putting women in charge instead? It's worth a try.)
So, yes, please continue sharing your #metoo stories. They're incredibly important; but that's not enough. We cannot place the onus of fixing this entirely on the victims. And, yes, nail Harvey Weinstein's ass to the wall; but that's not enough, either. We don't fix a systemic problem by punishing the Bad Man. These things are enabled by the vast swath of people who are neither victims nor abusers, by the people who see what's happening and think, "better not get involved; not my problem." I know this, because people have very publicly tried to warn us about Weinstein for years, and everyone in the industry collectively said, "not my problem." You all have a duty to your fellow human beings to be better than that.
I often feel like I'm having deja vu when writing about the problems in the entertainment industry, so let's just sum up with the summation that I already gave in another story about obvious problems being ignored for way too long:
"It's a responsibility we all have, and I'm trusting all of you out there in the theater world to make the right decisions as we go forward from this. If you're an artist that has been affected by the bad practices of a company, speak up about it. If you're a company that has an artist come to with a complaint, listen to them. Take the time to make things better before they get disastrously worse. Make a plan and find the people who can help carry it out. Trust them to do it. I know you have a lot of other things you need to worry about, but you can do this. I believe in you."
A few other things
I won't be around to harangue you about things next week. Your next edition of News and Notes will be brought to you by my second guest writer, Laura VanZandt.
Also, the Twin Cities recently lost writer, actor and all-around good guy Charlie Bethel. A reader reached out to me to ask if I would share an event in memory of Charlie. All you have to do is be able to raise a glass and tell a story, which I would guess is exactly what he would want.