- 02 Nov 17
As the fallout continues from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, thoughts turn to how the harrassment of women in the film industry can be prevented in future.
There’s a trope in horror films called The Final Girl, that you’ve encountered dozens of times, even if you haven’t realised it. In horror films featuring groups of people – usually young people in their teens or twenties – there’s a traditional order of when they are killed off. Promiscuous women and people of colour are killed off first, whereas virginal women are the last ones left standing.
This is seen to be a reward for persevering through life with a strong sense of morality, but a question always remains. As the Final Girl is left standing, monster slain, blood covering her, there’s a question as she looks around at the carnage that she has survived: Where do we go from here?
This is a question I’ve been grappling with in the wake of the Weinstein scandal. As the numbers of women he abused, harassed and allegedly raped increases by the day and the awareness of inequality, coercion and abuse within the film industry has reached fever pitch, I wonder how – if at all – we’re going to act on this new and disturbing knowledge. Earlier this year, cinephiles were divided on the fact that Casey Affleck was nominated for and ultimately won an Oscar – mere months after it was revealed that he sexually harassed women on the set of I’m Still Here. Affleck allegedly non-consensually climbed into the bed with a female crew member as she slept, and locked himself and star Joaquin Phoenix in two women’s shared rooms to have sex with other women.
The complaints were settled out of court, with Affleck paying undisclosed amounts in compensation. Actress Constance Wu spoke out against Affleck’s Oscar nomination, and what that type of industry support conveyed to women and sexual violence survivors. In a lengthy statement posted to Twitter, Wu stated “the absence of awards doesn’t diminish a great performance… but the choices an awarding committee makes DOES increase the dignity of an award and brings light to the pursuit our craft seeks to honor.”
Despite support for Wu’s statement and tremendous backlash, the Academy still chose to award Affleck an Oscar, and this year he has continued to work in high-profile films. Similarly, actors and filmmakers such as Woody Allen, Mel Gibson, Roman Polanski and Sean Penn who have been accused of sexually or physically abusing women have continued to find industry and peer support.
So the question remains: we’re now looking at the carnage that has been inflicted, and the hordes of women who have survived. Where do we go from here?
It would be easy for the Academy, the Actors’ Guild and other high-profile organisations within the film industry to set up support systems so that individuals could complain about abusive professionals. For example, in cases where legal recourse isn’t possible, abusers could be penalised by being refused insurance, funding, distribution rights or union rights for periods of time. This is a deceptively simple solution; most industries have HR departments or processes of professional accountability and consequence for professionals accused of abuse.
But that would require the film industry to actually act on these latest reports of abuse, which they’re not known for doing.