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How do we prevent another Harvey Weinstein? Burn down the system that created him

An industry that creates space trees and dinosaur theme parks can certainly imagine Hollywood: The Egalitarian Edition

The only way to prevent another Harvey Weinstein is to destroy the system that created him.

Burn it all down, make soap from the ashes, and start over.

Since The New York Times and The New Yorker published allegations that Weinstein has been sexually harassing and assaulting actresses for decades, Amazon Studios head Roy Price resigned after Man in the High Castle producer Isa Dick Hackett accused him of sexual harassment. Nickelodeon suspended Loud House showrunner Chris Savino after 12 women accused him of the same. Agent Tyler Grasham was fired after a former client accused him of sexual assault. More than 30 women have come forward to accuse director James Toback of sexual harassment.

This is a system that judges actresses based on whether their bosses see them as sexually desirable, a bar that actress Sophie Okonedo apparently couldn’t clear for Weinstein. Lupita Nyong’o, unfortunately, had the opposite problem. (Weinstein’s representatives have issued multiple denials of the allegations.) It’s a system that sees the top actresses of the trade as three times less valuable than their male counterparts.

Now it’s hunting season and the witches are coming. And by witches, I mean the legions of women who are fed up with having to treat men like they’re weather. But if this sexual harassment and assault crisis begins and ends with the ouster of Weinstein, Price, and a few others, we have failed.

What are we going to do now that we know the entire world is basically Sterling Cooper in the first season of Mad Men?

Me, upon reading account after account of #MeToo:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to dump Weinstein from its ranks. Good. What’s it going to do about Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby, and Woody Allen? What will studios, production companies, distribution companies and every other part of Hollywood do about the other Harveys lurking among them?

Why focus this klieg light on Hollywood? If there’s nothing else we’ve learned from #MeToo, it’s that there are Weinsteins in every corner of American society. But there’s value in starting with Hollywood as a place to demand change, answers and accountability.

Perhaps it can teach the rest of the country how to reinvent itself, too. After all, we turn to Hollywood to imagine what’s possible.

With minds brilliant enough to make Gilead way too real and turn New Zealand into Middle Earth, it ought to be able create a world where women — and men — are free from the worry of sexual predation. And if it can’t do that, it should at least be able to establish meaningful consequences that help prevent another Weinstein from arising. Are we really saying that’s not as plausible as talking animals, alien encounters, dinosaur theme parks, an operating system that turns into your girlfriend, or an adorable space tree that only knows one phrase?

Hollywood: The Egalitarian Edition — you don’t even need CGI to create it!

A new Hollywood that doesn’t revolve 90 percent around the whims, tastes, kinks, desires, and base proclivities of predatory men is a place that’s better for everyone, and I bet you Terry Crews and James Van Der Beek would agree.

Women and minorities, who systematically have been denied power and influence in Hollywood, have created prototypes for what this new world might look like. Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay, Effie Brown, Melina Matsoukas and Issa Rae, Dee Rees, Shonda Rhimes, Jill Soloway, and Justin Chon have been doing the work to make Hollywood a more equitable place that tells meaningful stories about women and doesn’t require them to sacrifice their dignity to do it. DuVernay has committed to boosting female directors by using them to shoot her OWN drama, Queen Sugar. Rees was insistent on using women for the crew of her new movie, Mudbound. Soloway, whose production company is called Topple (as in topple the patriarchy), insists on creating workplaces that are humane and collaborative. Rhimes and Brown make work that actually reflects the makeup of the world. Chon provides an example of a director who dispenses with ego in favor of collaboration. They and others like them have shown us how to create an entertainment business that treats women and people of color as humans, not decorative, money-making nuisances.

There are places for straight white men in this world, too. Erik Logan is a white man and he is the president of OWN. You can do it, guys! But in this New Hollywood, mediocre men will be expected to compete with excellent women and be found wanting.

We think of television and film and the industry that creates it as a mirror of our society. But is it such a bad idea to imagine an instance in which Hollywood could lead instead of following? What if the tail COULD wag the dog?

This is a world we can actually replicate, instead of the (admittedly satisfying) fantasy of sending Weinstein and every man like him to an exile colony inhabited by feral cats and the goblins at Warner Bros. who thought an all-lady remake of Lord of the Flies was a thing anyone wanted.

Hollywood, I implore you: Rather than making us suffer through another tepid remake of the last several hundred years of patriarchy, minus one Weinstein brother and a few other Bad Men, why don’t you imagine a new, far better story of anti-racist egalitarianism?

I bet it will be a smash hit.

Soraya Nadia McDonald is the senior culture critic for Andscape. She writes about pop culture, fashion, the arts and literature. She is the 2020 winner of the George Jean Nathan prize for dramatic criticism, a 2020 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism and the runner-up for the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for outstanding reporting on Black life.