Dear influential showrunners/comedians/writers of Hollywood,
We all agree that the Harvey Weinstein revelations have been horrifying, and today they somehow got even worse. If you want to voluntarily sink into the swamp of sadness that is this story, you’ll find an insane series of discoveries around the great lengths Weinstein went to in order to protect himself from consequences for his actions. People in Hollywood must have noticed abuse on this scale, which was so carefully contrived and executed. In fact, we know that a lot of people did. But the way some of these influential people tried to “inform” the public about Weinstein’s actions was through little in-jokes, which seem to fall short of actually helping to end such horrific abuse.
When people hear jokes about a powerful person sexually assaulting people sandwiched between other throwaway wacky gags, no one takes them seriously. Everyone was quick to retroactively praise Seth MacFarlane for his very mild Weinstein joke at the Oscar nomination announcements. Speaking of the nominated actresses, he said, “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”
After the Weinstein allegations broke, MacFarlane said that he made the joke from “a place of loathing and anger,” adding, “There is nothing more abhorrent and indefensible than abuse of power such as this.” Which are both things he could have publicly said at the time instead of making a severely watered-down joke.
The Hulu show Difficult People has been making Kevin Spacey jokes for years. No one understood what that meant except for people who already knew the rumors about Spacey. Sitcom jokes are not an agent for change. The audience doesn’t get the coded messages we’re being sent about sexual predators.
If you want to accuse someone of something, do it like Hannibal Buress, who is credited with bringing Bill Cosby’s rape allegations to new public attention. He didn’t wink or nudge us. He said, “You rape women, Bill Cosby.” And he encouraged his audience to go home and Google “Bill Cosby rape.” This led people to actually do that, and many discovered the allegations against Cosby for the first time, which led to more allegations and eventually a trial.
Buress’ joke shone a light on an injustice — an amazing thing that good comedians sometimes get to do. MacFarlane’s joke did nothing. Which is a shame, because he’s one of the few men in Hollywood powerful enough to do something about this issue.
It’s really hard to get a man kicked out of Hollywood, especially a white man. Look at Mel Gibson, who was caught on tape admitting to punching his girlfriend in the face while she held their child. You can catch him this weekend starring in Daddy’s Home 2. So don’t worry, powerful men of Hollywood. It literally doesn’t matter what you do. You’re going to be fine. If you are an influential creator and you have anything to say, go ahead and say it. No winks or nudges necessary. We’re listening.
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