Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Louis C. K. Matt Lauer.
The news is inundated these days with allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. Men in powerful positions have been accused of using their positions to sexually assault and harass others. Victims, most of whom are women, have been encouraged by the bravery of those speaking out against their assaulters. From formal, public accusations to the #MeToo movement, women are finding their voices, and they are finally being taken seriously. These are big names though, and it’s easy to feel helpless as these victims come forward, unsure of how to proceed or make any kind of real change.
All of the men listed above, after determining that accusations against them were credible, quickly found themselves without work. Networks, studios, and TV shows have run far, far away, quick to show the world that they will neither support nor condone this kind of behavior.
And yet, in the not-so-distant past, while trespasses like this certainly cast a shadow on the accused, they were not career-ending. Not wanting to give up on favorite movies or TV shows, many used the excuse that they could still enjoy the art separately from the person.
One such story that distinctly comes to mind is that of Woody Allen, whose new movie Wonder Wheel was just released.
In 1992 Woody Allen came up against sexual abuse allegations during his divorce from Mia Farrow. In custody proceedings, Farrow accused Allen of sexually assaulting their young daughter, Dylan. Witnesses stepped forward, telling stories of the two that seemed damning. Allen fought back, declaring his innocence and shoving the blame onto Farrow, whom he accused of poisoning their daughter against him in anger. After evidence was presented, a judge ruled in favor of Farrow, denying all visitation rights to Allen. But he was never charged for sexual assault.
Despite the allegations, Allen’s career didn’t falter much. He continued to write and direct movies with great success and acclaim, even earning award nominations. His movies continue to be a draw for the best in Hollywood and moviegoers alike.
In recent years, the Allen saga became even more muddled, though. In 2014, as an adult, Dylan told the New York Times that Allen had, in fact, molested her. Still, Allen’s career barely skipped a beat. Then in 2016, Ronan Farrow, Dylan’s brother, wrote a viral column for the Hollywood Reporter condemning the media for not taking Allen to task on the gross allegations against him. Allen vehemently denied it all.
Even though we’re just a year and a half removed from Ronan’s lightning bolt call to action against his father, Ronan’s exposé of another Hollywood man caught traction in such a way Allen’s never has. That man, of course, was Harvey Weinstein. Ronan was one of the first to unveil Weinstein’s legacy of sexual deviance in a piece for the New Yorker in October. Weinstein’s unraveling began a reckoning that shows no signs of slowing down.
So if Kevin Spacey was ousted from House of Cards, Matt Lauer swiftly dethroned by NBC, Louis C. K. humiliated on the very day of his movie premiere, what’s to be expected for Wonder Wheel, the latest work by a man who allegedly ranks among these others and which was produced by Amazon Studios, whose executives have also come under fire for sexual offenses? Allen’s fate seems to lie with the us, the audience, a bit more than these others have.
Perhaps it’s easier to blame the victims, to think that they are accusing in anger, want to make some money, or even, dare I say it, had it coming. It’s perhaps more comfortable to think those things than to believe that someone we have developed an attachment to through their fame, on-air personality, or performance would be capable of something so terrible. Or maybe it’s easier not to think about it at all. After all, those things happened to someone else, and it doesn’t affect my life, right?
But doesn’t it?
As a woman I have been sexually harassed with words, inappropriate grabs, and, yes, an attempt at something far worse. I can recount stories of friends and family who have faced similar and often much more terrible instances of sexual assault. It’s hard to share those stories. It feels embarrassing, like I’m the one who did something wrong instead of the attacker. It’s easier to protect that shame, hide it, bury it, and pretend it never happened. I imagine it’s even harder to share on an extremely public stage, against a very famous person, where the skeptical public is ready to direct ire at the victim.
As a woman, I won’t stop at a gas station alone at night. I walk to my car, always scanning the area around me. When I leave to go to the bathroom in a public space at night, I make sure to have someone with me. Every time I exit my car at night, I put 911 on my phone and get ready to push call, just in case. This is my reality—and I think it’s one I share with many women.
I will have to teach my daughters and my son about these things. I have to tell them and show them that it is not OK to be treated like this or to treat others in this way. But as I’ve seen promotions for Allen’s latest film, glittering with Coney Island scenery and the star power of Kate Winslet and Justin Timberlake, I’ve come to realize that if I’m to genuinely teach my children about not accepting this behavior, I can’t give myself a pass. And part of that means not watching movies, sports, or TV shows or listening to music that support these offenders.
I just can’t.
Maybe Hollywood won’t miss my $14 movie ticket or my ten plays of a song on Spotify, but it might if more people—men and women alike—refused to do the same. Just like those victims who came forward and gave courage to others, we too can stand together and let our voices be heard. We aren’t helpless to support them. Nor are we blameless if we choose to avoid what’s happening around us (and to us). Wonder Wheel reminded me that I can play a role. And sometimes that role is as simple yet impactful as choosing a different movie to see on Saturday night.