As I was reading the latest New York Times’ Harvey Weinstein story, I did begin to wonder – as I saw many of you wondering in the comments this week – about the narratives around certain actresses. Whether it’s the spoiled princess narrative given to Gwyneth Paltrow or the wild-child goth-girl narrative given to Angelina Jolie around the same time, how many of those narratives were laid down by Harvey Weinstein and men like Weinstein? As in, if Angelina ever wanted to make her Weinstein story public, Weinstein had already painted her, behind-the-scenes, as a wild child and likely a fantasist to boot. It’s not a perfect theory, and obviously, Jolie and Gwyneth definitely did a lot in the ‘90s to perpetuate their own narratives, both good and bad. But God, sometimes conspiracies are facts.
What has become clear – as if we didn’t already know – was that for more than two decades, Harvey’s power was unchecked, and he wielded his power indiscriminately, to make or break careers with one phone call, to ensure that certain women never got another good script ever again, to destroy lives and livelihoods. Even if a woman rejected his advances, all he would have to say is that she threw herself at him for a good script and he rejected her, and her reputation would be ruined.
Well, by now, I think everybody has read Lainey’s years-old blind item. The BI was widely believed to be about Gretchen Mol and Harvey Weinstein, although Lainey has never confirmed. It’s especially rough to re-read the blind after hearing all of these stories in the past week. But here’s the thing – Gretchen says none of it ever happened. Mol wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter – you can read it here. Here’s a portion of it:
I am angry and disgusted about Harvey Weinstein’s abuse of power and his shameless assaults against women. This kind of abuse of women is grossly familiar, and for many of us, it’s hard to muster up surprise. I feel deeply for the women who had to deal with and navigate his incredibly entitled, bullying, revolting and inexcusable behavior. I am grateful to them and applaud their bravery in speaking out.
For 10 years or so, I’ve been aware of rumors that I had some kind of transactional relationship with Harvey Weinstein. They seemed to start on a gossip website that made money by peddling ‘blind’ items. A few facts had been taken from my Wikipedia page, were combined with stories about a movie mogul who was known for harassing women, quotes from “reliable sources” were added and a malicious, viral rumor was born. Over the years, it was gleefully embroidered, becoming increasingly bizarre and baroque — but the salacious, slut-shaming and misogynist message to the fable remained the same: In Hollywood, a young woman must build her career by humiliating herself and sleeping with powerful men.
Since Jodi Kantor’s New York Times piece about Harvey Weinstein was published, I’ve watched how these rumors about me have become “well-known facts” in some comment sections, shoddy blogs, and on Twitter. I’ve been challenged, as one of the silent victims, to summon the courage to speak out. People will believe what they want to believe, but I now feel compelled to answer publicly:
No. I did not exchange sexual favors with Harvey Weinstein, or anyone, for advancement in my career. I was never paid any settlement. The truth is that I have never been alone in a room with Harvey Weinstein. The extent of my interactions with him has been a handful of polite hellos at various premieres and award shows. This is in no way a defense of this person, it is merely a statement of fact.
I had heard similar rumors about other actresses and Harvey Weinstein for years, even before I heard them about myself. I knew that it was not true in my case, so I naively assumed it was equally false in general. The consistent implication was that actresses were eager for the bargain, that we wanted fame and fortune so desperately that we would make this kind of nauseating concession. This is another kind of misogyny, and blame-shifting. It makes the victim complicit. The facts that are known are much simpler, and there is only one person to blame — a perverse, power-drunk man who sexually assaulted women. The rapist classically claims the victim wanted it, or was asking for it. Gossip bloggers sold that same garbage, and it was heart-breaking how many people were ready to believe it.
To be fair to Lainey, she never said it was Gretchen and she never said it was Harvey. But we all knew it was Harvey. Here’s the thing though: how much of this kind of gossip was actually started and perpetuated BY Harvey? It’s quite clear he had deep connections to many media outlets and by all accounts, he planned and micromanaged his predations like a serial killer. The media campaigns were part of that – punishments and rewards for women who acquiesced or rejected him. Anyway, I feel sorry for Gretchen. It wasn’t enough that she was the subject of that degrading BI, but then she was basically forced to make a public statement denying the whole thing.
Photos courtesy of WENN.