It’s been six months since New York Times journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor first exposed Harvey Weinstein’s history of abuse of power that sparked the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. The onslaught of sexual misconduct allegations from women (and men) throughout media and entertainment industries has been a stark reminder of how abuse of power has shaped our popular culture. While the news alerts have died down in recent months, I continue to swipe through Netflix with the question: “what do we do with the work of a predator?”
What happens to House of Cards now that we know Kevin Spacey made the set a toxic work environment by preying on less powerful people who worked on the show? And is it still possible to laugh at Louis CK’s jokes about being a pervert when he is accused of masturbating in front of women at work? I guess you could say his life imitates his art. I just have a hard time smiling at his exhibitionism now that I know the women who spoke out about it were blacklisted from comedy.
But perhaps the question of what we do with the work of artistic geniuses is a selfish one. Producer Judd Apatow thinks so. He told The New York Times that what happens to the work isn’t the important question. “We all have an instinct to instantly try to figure out how to redeem all these people and still be able to enjoy all this work, and it’s a very selfish instinct...All our energy should be with the victims. What happened to them? How did people handle this? What could we do going forward to support them in a productive way?”
It’s a good question and one that inspired the video above. In it, I talked with New York Times journalist Amanda Hess about connecting the dots so that we can move forward in a productive way. In her article, How the Myth of the Artistic Genius Excuses the Abuse of Women, Hess writes that drawing connections between the art and the abuse of power allows us to see the artist's work more clearly and understand what the actresses on screen had to deal with in order to achieve such a performance. “The knowledge that Ms. [Selma] Blair or Lupita Nyong’o weathered harassment in their careers only makes their performances even more extraordinary. If a piece of art is truly spoiled by an understanding of the conditions under which it is made, then perhaps the artist was not quite as exceptional as we had thought.”
To hear how life has changed for women now that we’re having this conversation, I spoke with actor and activist Alysia Reiner. She told me it’s her hope that men and women will come together to “create art that will be even more glorious and more inclusive. That we will create a world that has more safety and equality for all. And it’s only through awareness that and deep discomfort that, that change happens." But I needed some reassurance. When I asked if it was ok to feel uncomfortable right now, she replied, "I think we are all meant to feel deeply uncomfortable. Get comfortable with the discomfort.”