Rose McGowan’s long crusade against Harvey Weinstein has finally paid off with revelations against him finally making the mainstream media. Years of women speaking out against the film producer and studio head has finally bore fruit now that the allegations and “open secret” moved beyond talk show banter, sitcom jokes, and tabloid headlines.
The first open rumblings about him I’ve found go back to the '90s, an era when some of the youngest people he’s harassed were toddlers. Weinstein isn’t even the first person who’s been accused of sexual assault, just arguably the most powerful in Hollywood. Sexual assault and rape have been part and parcel of Hollywood and our society since … well, forever. The stories just keep happening, we keep writing about them, and nothing changes.
Since all of this started, I’ve been following along on social media and the news and quite frankly, nothing new is there. Oh, sure, the names have changed, the places, the particulars, but it’s all the same. Some rich, powerful guy uses his position of power to extract sexual favors or even outright commit assault or rape. Then he threatens the victim with retribution if they tell, gives them some sort of payment in cash or opportunity, or even bribes officials to make the whole thing disappear. The idea of this in Hollywood is so common that “casting couch” has its own Wikipedia page. Seriously. In fact, I have no doubt that someone who has committed assault and covered it up financed or played in a film or show about a sexual predator at some point.
That’s the thing, this whole thing is so pervasive, it’s seriously a trope at this point. Yep, “casting couch” even has an entry on the TVTropes page. There are always the years of allegations, like the ones with Cosby going back to the '60s. There are the in-jokes by talk show hosts and meta-comedies. Then there’s the big reveal in a tell-all book, or when the story moves from tabloid fodder to respected journalism outlet.
Now we get to move on to the characters in our morality play; the villain who is always some rich mogul, the apologist peers in the industry (in this case Woody Allen in probably the best argument that satire is dead), the female apologist (Donna Karan), and the army of long-suffering victims (we’re at about 48 at latest count). Now we move on to the plot tropes, which include the praise for the outspoken man who speaks out first, the men who waited until it went public to come forward to voice outrage, and the people who are shocked, yes, shocked, to discover this happened.
The newest characters in these tales are now the outraged internet mob that turns on each other for not being outraged in the right way (the whole Twitter boycott that fell apart because of disagreements over intersectional activism), and the political opportunists who use a friend-of-a-friend meeting and photo op to score points for their base. Seriously, Republicans, you can’t say crap about Hillary Clinton taking money from Weinstein when you elected “Grab 'em by the pussy” to the White House.
The newest one I’ve seen is going after the victim for being aggrieved in the wrong way and the once-sympathetic mob turning on them — Rose McGowan made a bad comparison of rape victims and race and Twitter went after her, but she and her #Rosearmy persist.
Now we cue up the Vox explainer articles, the BuzzFeed listicles, the viral videos, the snarky satire from the comedians. We run through the stats on sexual assault and harassment, we have testimonials from victims, we have the very deep thinkers on the web give their take on sexual assault and rape from every angle. I kid you not when I have seen everything from toxic masculinity to music, half-understood psychology, rape culture, and even capitalism blamed for why men assault and rape women. Then you have the male victims of assault come out and speak up, you have the "I didn’t learn how it was till I had daughters" men speak up, then you have the people asking when we’re going to talk about the other victims of assault. We shame people for caring about celebrity cases but not those in poverty; we praise the activists. There are all these huge mea culpas and confessions that come out left and right and a million and one articles are produced through this whole process.
And then it dies down and goes away until it happens again.
Nothing new ever gets written because it’s all been written about before. It has all happened before, it will happen again. Some writer will have to just rearrange the same old words in a new order and change the names and few particulars, but nothing new happens. The Onion could treat rape and sexual assault like it does mass shootings; just create that one article and just change the particulars and create a bitter joke about the frequency of it all.
The only way we will ever see a new, fresh take on rape and sexual assault is if we actually change ourselves and our society. This isn’t going to be done by the victims and activists. Jesus, they could do their interviews on the topic, their educational seminars, conduct their fundraisers, and write their articles in a Nyquil coma. The only way any of this changes, the only way we can change this narrative, is if the players in these stories change. Even the answers for how this can happen aren’t new. It’s always about how men need to speak up early and loudly. We need to listen to the victims, change the way we view masculinity and power. There needs to be an entire change in the culture with how we view power and sex, and it’s going to be a lot of hard work.
There are no new takes left, no new charts to post, and we will always have a supply of people to speak out about their secret of being a victim or enabler. This is a never ending loop, and the only way to change it, is to change what causes it. Consider this my “rape is bad” article that I’ll just change a few details for until it’s time for a new one or, God willing, it’s not needed anymore.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @amanda_kerri.