Hollywood, as a concept, seems an impenetrable thing. The stars that inhabit it have always claimed an aura of the elite that has existed since classic cinema. The glamour, excitement and shininess of these lives are well-accepted facets of the Hollywood celebrity. But behind these stars and their fantastic lives, there is also an acceptance of those who work behind them. Those who have the real power, who wield the biggest swords. These ‘moguls’ are the ones pulling every string. The BBC’s documentary, Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein, depicts Weinstein as the epitome of this big, bad boss. The one-off episode depicts how one of the most powerful men in Hollywood used his influence to exploit dozens of women and how, until so very recently, he was allowed to get away with it.
Several actresses and assistants were interviewed for the 90-minute showing, which takes the viewer through a visual timeline of Weinstein and his company, Miramax. Weinstein’s successes, such as his acquisition of several successful films and a huge payday by Disney, are shown in all their glory. He became a very rich man relatively quickly, but one who was willing to “break the rules”. Miramax was not a big-budget company: they shot independent, highly acclaimed films, and they did it well. My Left Foot, Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love: all hugely successful and well-received films that solidified Miramax, and therefore Weinstein, as serious competitors in the movie-making industry. Weinstein became a staple of award ceremonies and parties and was known to be someone who could “spot the next Gwyneth Paltrow”, and then go on to actually make her Gwyneth Paltrow.
But simultaneously to being a powerful mogul, Weinstein was also the predator he is known as today. “I didn’t hit him. I didn’t try to scratch his eyes out,” Hope Exiner D’Amore says early in the documentary. She was young and excited by the prospect of accompanying such a prestigious and respected man. But the encounter she had with Weinstein, like so many others, quickly turned sour. She recounts how she told no one of what happened, and how as a young woman she was convinced that no one would believe her against such a tycoon. His image was maintained while she suffered in complete silence. It seems important to note that Weinstein was well known for his ruthlessness: he was never a warm, fuzzy boss on high. Instead, his reputation was scattered with rumours of affairs and violence and an “abuse of power”. He was “a caricature of the Hollywood mogul”; a resemblance of the power-hungry bosses of Hollywood’s past. This persona allowed for Weinstein’s exploits – and the lack of repercussions for them at the time.
Untouchable, as the title suggests, depicts for the viewer the epic fall from grace of one of Hollywood’s most powerful men. But what it also reveals is the ways in which power was wielded to allow for such types of behaviours to occur. Harvey Weinstein was a powerful man, but also a protected one; protected by money and non-disclosure agreements and the power to destroy the careers of those who defied him. What has become apparent over the last few years is the imbalance of power in Hollywood’s integral structure. Harvey Weinstein led a very lavish, very public life, yet somehow his most vicious exploits remained private for two decades. In a post-#MeToo era, this seems unbelievable. That so many women were abused, and so little was revealed until recently, seems almost impossible. But this only further displays the scope of Weinstein’s power. As more and more women come forward, things seem to finally be moving ahead. But Hollywood, somehow, must be held accountable for forcing so many to suffer in silence in the name of power, money and saving face.
Image: Georges Biard via Wikipedia