CW: Rape, Sexual Assault
On the 24 February, a New York jury found former movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, to be guilty of first degree and third-degree rape. Despite being cleared of the more serious charges relating to predatory sexual assault, the former film producer still faces up to 25 years in prison for his crimes.
Despite some spectators fearing that he would be acquitted, the trial saw justice for the crimes Weinstein committed against Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann. Mann compared Weinstein to “Jekyll and Hyde” because of his ability to present a facade of respect to the world and yet be so monstrous in private. Hopefully, Weinstein’s conviction brings some closure for his scores of accusers.
Before the lid was blown off Weinstein’s widespread secret crimes in Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s damning 2017 New York Times article, he was Hollywood royalty. The article and its ramifications have seen the former film producer lose his respect, his wife and, finally, his freedom. As co-founder of his film studio, The Weinstein Company, he oversaw the release of blockbusters such as Django Unchained and The King’s Speech. He was one of the biggest names in Hollywood and could frequently be found rubbing shoulders with other big names such as Oprah Winfrey and the Clintons.
The initial allegations against Weinstein began a domino effect that, over two years later, is still in full force.
The initial allegations against Weinstein began a domino effect that, over two years later, is still in full force. The Weinstein Company fell on hard times as a third of the members on the board of directors resigned and the company eventually collapsed in mid-2018. Georgina Chapman, Weinstein’s then-wife, also saw her fashion label, Marchesa, boycotted by once faithful celebrity clients.
Perhaps the most positive thing to come out of the initial allegations and recent conviction is the Weinstein Effect and closely linked Me Too movement’s unification of all who have been sexually harassed or assaulted. The Weinstein Effect and the light it shone on the dark side of Hollywood has dragged the crimes of famous faces such as Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman out of the shadows and into the light.
Actresses and Weinstein accusers Rose McGowan, of Scream and Charmed fame, and Ashley Judd, who is best known for films like Double Jeopardy, both reacted with a sense of relief to the conviction. McGowan labelled it as “a huge step forward in collective healing” whilst Judd addressed the women who testified in the case and thanked them for their “public service to girls and women everywhere”.
McGowan, who recalls being raped by Weinstein in 1997, will never get her day in court because of a statute of limitations preventing the historical incident from being tried in a court of law. McGowan has been a massive voice in the Me Too movement and the journey to seeing Weinstein convicted. She has described the film industry as hiding a “rape factory” that sees untouchable and powerful names in the business taking unfair advantage without consequence.
The guilty verdict acts as a major victory for the Me Too movement as it sees one of the most notorious sexual predators of recent history finally held accountable for his actions.
Weinstein’s conviction heralds the end of a hard-fought campaign against a man who, at one point, seemed untouchable and all-powerful. The guilty verdict acts as a major victory for the Me Too movement as it sees one of the most notorious sexual predators of recent history finally held accountable for his actions. Despite the jury spending five days deliberating, it seems as though the truth has prevailed. Despite being acquitted of the more serious charge of predatory sexual assault, the fact remains that Weinstein has still been found guilty of sex crimes and the law now considers him to be a convicted sex offender.
The Me Too movement’s fight against Harvey Weinstein is far from over, as the disgraced film producer is set to be trialled in Los Angeles after being charged at the beginning of the year with the rape and sexual assault of two separate women in 2013. With no date confirmed for this trial to begin, nobody knows how long Weinstein’s legal battle against these further allegations will be dragged out for.
The movement’s macro mission of bringing justice to victims of sexual harassment and abuse is also far from its end. Harvey Weinstein is the first well-known figure that the movement has seen brought to justice. There are still other perpetrators, celebrities and non-celebrities alike, who are yet to be made to pay for their crimes. There are undoubtedly still so many women, and also men, who haven’t felt ready to reveal their own experiences. The dream of a world in which the Me Too movement isn’t necessary is still very far away. However, the prosecution of one of Hollywood’s biggest names can be seen as a beacon of hope as it is possible that this could open up the floodgates and accommodate more prosecutions.
It is also worth keeping in mind that the film industry is not the only industry in need of a cleanse and overhaul. The media has focused heavily on the Me Too movement and its impact within the film industry, yet there are several other famous names that have garnered Weinstein-level media attention. The Jeffrey Epstein case could be considered the most well-known sex abuse case outside of the film industry, but this is undoubtedly because of Epstein’s connections to Prince Andrew and the allegations made against the royal. The movement’s next step may be to pursue cases against unknown names rather than Hollywood royalty and billionaires.
On the other hand, there are some who disagree with the belief that the Me Too movement has anything to do with Weinstein’s trial and subsequent conviction. They see it as a cultural phenomenon separate from the film producer’s crimes and that it had no impact whatsoever in determining the verdict made by the impartial jury. Even if this is true, the movement has still accomplished so much in terms of empowerment.
With Weinstein being held at the notorious New York prison, Rikers Island, until his 11th March sentencing hearing, some fear that he could attempt to take his own life and the scenario would eerily mirror that of fellow convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein. There are also fears over his health and frail appearance having a possible effect on the Los Angeles trial and how his appearance as weak and ill could sway the jurors into being sympathetic rather than neutral and dedicated to serving justice.
Weinstein maintains his innocence and plans to appeal. In a remark that will undoubtedly go down in history, one of the film producer’s lawyers recalled him saying “I’m innocent. How can this happen in America?”. It is clear that Harvey Weinstein feels as though the America that has given him so much in terms of power, money and status also owed him a get-out-of-jail-free-card and immunity from justice.
Harvey Weinstein’s conviction proves that justice can be served. All the women who he hurt hopefully now have some sort of closure as the man who attempted to degrade them for his own selfish and predatory purposes is forced to face the consequences of his actions and, through his punishment, perhaps face just an ounce of the pain he put so many women through.