Hollywood has discovered a new and highly effective way for a high-profile player to become a household name around the world. This is significant because in Tinseltown building name recognition, being in the press, and having constant public visibility are key components of the game.
The bad news is that this “surefire” strategy for recognition will not only put your name in lights, it will get you “surely fired.”
I’ll call it “the Weinstein Strategy.”
It was launched in October by Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of the highly successful entertainment company Miramax, aka The Weinstein Company. The strategy is disarmingly simple: Use your power and prestige as a wealthy Hollywood film producer to intimidate, harass, assault, grope, flash, abuse, rape and otherwise sexually exploit the beautiful — and often very vulnerable — young women who come into your world. The strategy can work very well, as long as the exploited ones keep their mouths shut. Substantial cash payments may work to facilitate the silence … for a while.
Actually, I mistakenly said Harvey launched the strategy. Truthfully, the more than 50 women who surfaced with allegations of sexual abuse against him launched the strategy. The seemingly endless parade of women to the microphones and TV cameras of America started a tsunami of accusations, which now has touched not only Hollywood and New York media, but also the Washington beltway.
I need not add to the growing list of men with targets on their backs and resignation letters or pink slips in their pockets. Ironically, it was Miramax, the company which produced “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” that dismissed Harvey.
Meanwhile, millions of people — condescendingly referred to in the LA/NYC axis as “those from the ‘I’ states” — follow the now-daily revelations of sex abuse with their own forms of shock and awe. Even in a nation now clearly “post-Christian,” there is a common sense of national decency about the way men should treat women, about socially acceptable behavior of those with power toward the vulnerable — including children — and even deeply held, faith-and-Bible-based convictions about sexual morality.
It is here that we find the razor-edge of conflict in this discussion. For 36 years, I worked the freeways of Los Angeles and the taxis of New York building and tending relationships with the power brokers of global media. Most are decent people, using the most expansive definition of the word. But in the earliest years of my research into the values of Sunset Boulevard and Sixth Avenue, I learned that their moral consensus was light years away from what I was taught in church in the Midwest and in the community outside the church.
My Judeo-Christian culture even used different words — words that are out of vogue and even offensive in politically correct worlds. For instance, we did not celebrate being “sexually active.” We used now-obsolete words for this behavior like whore, whoremonger, scarlet woman, libertine man and being promiscuous. I once heard a prominent Hollywood actress on a talk show declare, “I don’t consider myself promiscuous. I’ve only had 12 men.” Hardly a definition of “chaste” where I come from.
Call us stupid, but we believed God created two sexes. We knew people unlike us had different bedroom behaviors and “sexual identities,” but the ideal for us was marriage to a person of the other gender after walking the aisle of a church to solemnize a contract, “a sacred vow” of loyalty and faithfulness until separated by death.
We didn’t have guidelines about not sexually exploiting another person. We didn’t need them. The central ethos of our lives was not to exploit anyone … in any way, at any time, anywhere! To do so would be an affront to the life and teachings of our Savior. We didn’t need 50 whistleblowers to punctuate the fact that such behavior was, well, evil.
Even in something so basic as dress, we were not from the same galaxy as the Filmland folks. Our people were not Amish or Old Order Brethren and were not from the Bible Belt. We were garden-variety Catholics, Protestants and “Metho-Bapterians. But it would have been absolutely unthinkable for one of our women to show up at the annual Kiwanis Club dinner dressed with less fabric than a Victoria’s Secret model. For us, some award-show female fashion approaches soft porn.
So suffice it to say, there is a chasm between the Hollywood culture and the world of what was once called (unfortunately) the moral majority in flyover country. We are light years apart.
Final note: I used the past tense in describing the norms of the “flyovers.” I shouldn’t have. There are millions of believers in the nation and thousands of believers in media who still espouse and personify these virtues and this faith. And the believers in media are creating films, TV shows, novels, video games, websites, blogs and other content extolling these virtues and the spiritual redemption at their heart. Watch and see.
• Larry W. Poland, Ph.D., is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Mastermedia International, and spent more than three decades consulting with executives in Hollywood and New York media on the Christian community as a market for media product.
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