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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Harvey Weinstein Guilty Verdict Is Victory for #MeToo and a Warning to Hollywood

The guilty verdict delivered on Feb. 24 in the Harvey Weinstein trial is a resounding victory for the #MeToo movement that was ignited in the wake of sexual assault survivors coming forward after decades of silence.

The accusers giving voice to their traumatic sexual encounters with the once-unassailable Hollywood producer — and finally confronting him in a court of law — provided its own catharsis.

But there was a palpable fear that the accusers would not be believed by a 12-person jury, as Weinstein is alleged to have told victim after victim in private encounters. Day after day on Twitter and other social media platforms, there was evident anguish among women whose lives were negatively impacted by Weinstein (there are about 80 accusers in all, and we can only guess how many others have never spoken out).

It will be instructive to hear from the jurors. But for weeks, legal experts had warned that the he-said, she-said nature of this trial could doom chances for any guilty verdict. The lack of physical evidence and the fact that at least one woman accusing Weinstein continued to have a relationship with him after the alleged rape fit a pattern that our culture has until now been reluctant to condemn.

In the end, the jurors found Weinstein guilty of third-degree rape and a first-degree criminal sexual act, not the most serious charges against him, but nonetheless a condemnation of his behavior and a validation of the testimony of the survivors. He was found not guilty on the two most serious charges, of predatory sexual assault.

The verdict will buoy the battered but proud women of the #MeToo community, who continue to raise their voices and sustain a support network that goes beyond entertainment.

The convicted mogul — whose reign of power over the entertainment industry lasted for three decades, who was once synonymous with quality filmmaking and winning Academy Awards — now becomes an everlasting symbol of the worst behavior toward women chronicled in the annals of modern entertainment.

But it also sends a message to other abusers in Hollywood, dozens of whom have been drummed out of top positions of power in the industry and who now live in an odd purgatory of pariah status. They are neither able to work in the industry nor are they going to be prosecuted, in most cases. (At the Chateau Marmont recently, I spotted Kevin Tsujihara, who was ousted as CEO of Warner Bros. last year amid accusations that he helped an actress with casting opportunities while in a sexual relationship with her. That’s very far from the rape accusations leveled at Weinstein and a sign of Hollywood’s new sensitivity.)

As for Weinstein, we know his lawyers will appeal the conviction. But he also faces a separate set of criminal charges in Los Angeles.

It is quite hard to imagine him accepting going to jail. Ever. Still, the convicted mogul — whose reign of power over the entertainment industry lasted for three decades, who was once synonymous with quality filmmaking and winning Academy Awards — now becomes an everlasting symbol of the worst behavior toward women chronicled in the annals of modern entertainment.

It is a cautionary tale of the most unlikely kind. The women — the voiceless and the powerless — prevailed in court. It’s the kind of underdog story that Harvey Weinstein, once upon a time, would have loved.


Sharon Waxman is editor of The Wrap. Reprinted with permission of The Wrap. For more WaxWord and Wrap reporting on the Weinstein verdict, subscribe to The Wrap. 

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