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The Weinstein Effect

By Mark Ehrenkranz

The term casting couch originated in the motion picture industry which demanded sexual favors in exchange for movie parts. The rise of the studio system was riddled with atrocious stories about young starlets falling victim to this predatory behavior. In 1946, the actress who played Scarlet O’Hara choose not to participate and attributed Columbia’s head Harry Cohn for ruining her career.


Over the years many others have voiced their misogynist encounters and detestable propositioning. We may never know the names of the countless abused women, however here are a few who vociferously expressed their pain. Actress Joan Collins came out about it in her autobiography Child Star, and actress Shirley Temple claimed that producer Arthur Freed exposed himself to her in 1940 when she was 12. Jenny McCarthy accused Steven Seagal of sexual harassment, and in her 2005 autobiography, actress Goldie Hawn stated that cartoonist Al Capp sexually abused her. Megan Fox and Charlize Theron stated that leading film directors made sexual propositions while casting for film roles, and Barbra Streisand and Lesley Ann Warren were both molested when they auditioned for producer Ray Stark


Ryan Phillippe admitted on the Howard Stern Show that he had had to flee a “creepy” casting-couch session when he was 18 or 19, and in 2011, Corey Feldman alleged that more children were also victims. Corey Haim and he were given drugs and Feldman recently launched a campaign to make a documentary to bring down a powerful Hollywood pedophile.


The most recent explosion involves Harvey Weinstein and his publicized despicable sexual pursuits. He and his brother Bob Weinstein, both from Queens, NY, had become concert promoters in Buffalo, NY. In the late 70’s they decided to open an independent movie studio which was named by combining the first names of their parents Miriam and Max (Miramax). It was created to distribute independent films deemed commercially unfeasible by the major studios. They became responsible for bringing some of the major, classic, indie films to the world, including Sex, Lies, and Videotape; The Crying Game; Pulp Fiction; Reservoir Dogs; and Clerks.  Miramax became the most recognizable moniker for the best in discerning art films.


They were the first to significantly promote what we know today as the modern “Oscar Campaign”. They were buzzmeister experts who sent out lavish packages with VHS screening copies of the films for Academy members to view and consider. It was also all about their attention to the quality and accuracy of the mailing list. Miramax was responsible for the careers and births of some of the most powerful movie marketing and public relations companies today who got their Masters and PhDs at The University of Weinstein. Collectively, they managed to earn best picture awards for Shakespeare In Love, The English Patient, The Artist, and Life is Beautiful.


The success of Miramax encouraged numerous other independent, mini-major and boutique studios to succeed. These included Lions Gate, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures Classics, Roadside Attractions as well as the now-defunct October Films, Gramercy and Polygram. The Weinstein effect impacted the US and the world and helped to revolutionize the standards of independent filmmaking that we all enjoy today.


They were pioneers in developing a great deal of highly profitable, direct-to-video concept, which included the Air Bud, Santa Paws, Pup Star series, and the MVP: Most Valuable Primate franchise. They quickly discovered that more money could be made by sparing the costs of prints and advertising (P&A) and not doing a theatrical run. Their far-reaching pursuits had a colossally positive effect on Hollywood and the careers of many such as Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Kevin Smith. 


Just recently their heralded success headed for the hills and went in the complete opposite direction. They are now famous for having an enormously negative impact on the business and sexual harassment in the workplace. This has stirred many courageous actresses who now feel strongly enough to shout out their own abuses to the world. Today, the negatives are most definitely trumping the good they did for movies. 


Hopefully some good will come out of the wreckage and encourage others to express their own horrible experiences. Their effect initially spawned 38 women to accuse director James Toback of sexual harassment. During the following days, more than 200 other women, including actresses Julianne Moore, Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams, came forward to complain about Toback’s abusive behavior. Then Artforum magazine publisher Knight Landesman resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct by nine younger women. Ariane Bellamar and Shelby Welinder respectively tweeted that Jeremy Piven had sexually harassed them and more came out about Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, and now director Brett Ratner’s sexual misconduct on film sets since the 1990s. There was also an extreme fall out at Amazon Studios.


In their infamous style, the Weinstein incidents have now paved a wider road for predatory justice which comes after Anita Hill, Bill Cosby, and Roger Ailes. Social media now empowers individuals who otherwise might have felt powerless against their predators. They now have the ability to come out publicly or blow the whistle anonymously under social handles or pseudonyms. There is little hiding and hopefully, potential perpetrators will be discouraged to act atrociously and learn how to treat all sexes with respectful boundaries. Harvey’s sick behavior should have an additional impact on learning more about deviant minds and to provide prevention and treatment. The latest Weinstein effect might just be the most powerful one to continue feeding awareness in stopping sexual abuse, to enable more people to be less afraid, and cry foul to prevent further atrocities from continuing.