We tend to think of Hollywood as a place were supposedly liberal or progressive ideas and attitudes happily roost, and from which new mores emanate across the fruited plains like crashing waves. These mores seep into the ground on each coast, but run off the hard, dry acreage of the great American middle.
You’ll allow me some poetic license, but you’ve the heard the story.
Here’s the thing, though.
If Hollywood were sentient, it would be Harvey Weinstein. Hollywood is one of the few American institutions that has been allowed to routinely and for-profit objectify women under the guise of art and progress, all while paying lip-service to equality and fairness.
Our civic and religious institutions have trended over the past 100 years toward gender equality. They’re not there yet in anything resembling absolute terms, but they are empirically progressing. At the same time, Hollywood produces more and more material using the female body to tantalize, a process that necessarily objectifies women and encourages a disposable view of them.
I’m not saying we need Victorian convictions about decency. Those are actually also part of the problem. But it occurred to me in reading about the allegations surrounding James Franco that most sex scenes or instances of female nudity in film probably exist because the directors, writers, producers or whomever else are creeps. How many of those scenes are necessary to the plot and integrity of their respective projects? I’m willing to grant that some are. But, in light of everything we’re learning about powerful people in Hollywood, my gut says the balance are someone’s exercise in wish fulfillment.
It’s ironic that calls for decency typically come from the American middle, and are chaffed at because of those origins. And because, like the Victorians, the American middle is, perhaps, a little too hung up. But Hollywood is hung up even more so. I think that’s obvious now.