An astonishing number of women are now coming forward and accusing powerful males of sexually molesting them in days of yore, well not exactly when knights roamed the countryside of course but in the days of early cell phones and messages sent via fax machine and even before that. It’s alarming just how many men were doing exactly what they could get away with – comforting too because it means that it definitely wasn’t only happening in my little corner of West London and North West Kent. Jimmy Savile’s name springs immediately to mind in this context of course, along with many others. Harvey Weinstein certainly doesn’t stand alone. I feel ever so slightly cautious, however, about removing all plaudits concerning the work of these men. Whatever we might think about Savile, and most of us don’t think much of him these days, he did raise one hell of a lot of money for charity and worked tirelessly at this over decades. Is Kevin Spacey overnight to be considered a grossly inferior actor because now we understand more about the dark side of his nature than we did a month ago? And are we supposed to tell ourselves that Roman Polanski is actually a mediocre film maker because there are too many accusations of sexual misconduct attached to his name? And to go back in time a little further should we chuck Chaucer into the darkest corners of obscurity because he celebrated the rape of a minor in The Reeve’s Tale? It’s tempting of course because he sounds like a Patriarchal Prat but on the other hand…..
Jokes about the casting couch have always abounded and mostly evidence truth. Household names were subjected to the practice as long ago as the 1930s. That in no way means it should have ever been condoned but it seems to me that a proportion of the quite grown up women subjected to it should have understood the implications a little more clearly than they obviously did. Why would anyone go to a powerful man’s hotel room unless they were hopeful that he might be able to help promote a career? Alternatively was his sexual magnetism so great that self control went out of the window? And whilst on the subject it should be stated that a lot of the time Harvey W seems to have been extremely pro-active and helpful with career building.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not my intention to make excuses for these predators – heaven knows I stumbled across enough of them myself in the past. You’ve only got to read CHALK PITS & CHERRY STONES or 8.10 TO CHARING CROSS to realise that. And when my colleagues in and around Denmark Street were encouraging me (age 16 or 17) to inspect parts of their anatomy I had little prospect of a film part out of the deal. There was an imbalance of power certainly and they should have known better. They did it because they could get away with it, because it was a different time with different standards and different acceptable norms. And the other reason they did it was because I failed to stop them.