Variety has released its Power of Women issue. As part of the issue, Ashley Judd revealed to the magazine that she’d been sexually harassed by one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. She describes him as “one of our industry’s most famous, admired-slash-reviled bosses”.
OK. So… we all know who this is, right? You don’t need me to call it right out and risk getting sued do you? Because how many movie moguls are brand name recognisable? Great. Now that we’ve agreed on who it is, let’s talk details. Because Ashley’s giving us a lot of them.
It’s the late 90s. She’s shooting Kiss The Girls. And he “groomed” her. Which means he told her to come meet him for dinner at the hotel only to send word when she got there that he was in his room and so she’s obliged to go up to his room and he’s power tripping over her, asking her to pick out his clothes for him and eventually requesting that she watch him take a shower. And remember, through it all, he’s insinuating that if she doesn’t, if he doesn’t get to play with her like this, to f-ck with her head, she might not get the part. Click here to read the full story in her words.
This is power. Or, really, the imbalance of power. And even though she felt empowered to share her story, you’ll note, she’s still not able to say his name. That’s not on her either. As she says towards to the end of her piece, “…this system is one that all of us participate…We’re all part of the problem, but we’re all part of the solution”. It’s not just the mogul. It’s an entire ecosystem. Because if she calls him out openly, even now, what would happen to him. Would people stop financing his films? Would her peers stop accepting his film offers? Would they turn down roles that had “Oscar nomination campaign” promised to them? Ashley herself tells us that there’s an entire community of people who have similar experiences with this pig. That they too were told to watch him shower. And that there’s a process of “retaliation and ridicule” that has ensured their silence. Why should any one of them jeopardise their careers to expose him? They’ve already been disrespected. And they have to carry the burden of responsibility of setting that straight? It’s terribly unfair. Not just in that business but across business. Sometimes being first doesn’t pay, at least not in your lifetime. Not in these cases.
So…where do we start? Well, this is why diversity is critical. Hollywood is run by the white dudes who get recycled over and over again. That’s not helping to reshape their perspectives. It’s not just that they look out for each other, it’s that they’re not being asked to broaden their awareness. The more people you put in a room with different kinds of experiences, the more you can let those experiences yield their true impact, and force change. And I use the word force deliberately. Frederick Douglass once said that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” These gross molesty movie moguls will never give up their chokeholds willingly. So to go back to Marion Cotillard and the statement she made recently about filmmaking and gender (“Film-making is not about gender,” she said. “You cannot ask a president in a festival like Cannes to have, like, five movies directed by women and five by men. For me it doesn’t create equality, it creates separation. I mean, I don’t qualify myself as a feminist.”), that’s exactly why film festivals should be leaned on to showcase more voices, more women. Because otherwise, how else will the power be redistributed?