The Writer Of Moana Shared Sad Truths About Insidious "Mentors" In The #MeToo Era

Photo: Courtesy of Disney
The past six months have been a reckoning for Hollywood, with many coming forward about the entertainment industry's seemingly accepted culture of sexual misconduct. Yet while many have shared harrowing stories of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of powerful men in entertainment, not every #MeToo tale involves physical threats — but that doesn't make those incidents any less damaging for the survivor. Moana writer Pamela Ribon took to Twitter to share how so-called "mentors" are able to get away with sexual harassment by preying upon newcomers, and how it's the subtle, insidious nature of these relationships that make them so destructive.
Ribon, who was part of the writing team on Moana, as well as one of the writers on Wreck-It Ralph 2, wrote a lengthy thread on Twitter about the mentors she worked with when getting started in the entertainment industry. She began by stating that this is the conversation she didn't engage in when asked about who her own mentors were during a panel on Thursday — but now, she feels it's important to speak up. She wrote:
"When you are starting out, and someone notices you and says you’re special, it’s very difficult to see their true manipulative intent. It goes against optimism and belief in yourself to say, 'He must just want to get in my pants.'"
Ribon added that, like so many stories that people have shared about inappropriate jokes or unwanted sexual comments, the writer felt she had to put up with it for the sake of her career.
"And then one day, when he does say some kind of joke about wanting to get in your pants, you think, 'We are friends who joke like this because this is comedy, and how this peer group communicates.' You read the room. You take the joke."
"Your mentor wants more time with you. To mentor, yes. That’s in there. Stories and encouragement and feedback. You are a life source, a fountain of youth. You are special because you make him feel special. You make him feel funny and sexy and alive."
"You remind him he was once more visible or less visible. You remind him of all the choices he once had and now he gets to narrow down yours. Your career is his second chance. But he really just wants you all to himself. The prettiest, funniest pet. He saw you first. Dibs."
"We can be so grateful to be seen that we don’t learn the true lens being used to watch us until it’s too late. Until gratitude gets mixed up with the emotional grind of these early gigs, of learning how to survive the hustle, the late nights, the notes, the mistakes."
She included that even when she began to recognize the truth about her mentor, it was difficult to navigate.
"You're a grown-up on your own, but you’re also young and don’t know when or how to speak up, and that fuzzy gut feeling of something wrong wrestles with your insecurities and says, 'Maybe this isn’t about your talent, but also maybe this is the only chance you’ll ever get.'"
"So you deal with the jokes and the rumors and the lies because at some point this is supposed to have been worth it. You numb yourself from the worst of it, you roll your eyes at the dumbest of it, but it won't just stop."
Perhaps the most difficult part is how, because certain lines are not crossed, it's all too easy for these abusers to get away with it. Ribon stated:
"He will never admit he’s using you; it’s important he keeps you on tilt. He has a job to protect, and a life and often a wife and all his real accomplishments. In the end, you are just an experiment. One of his experiments. A project in development."
"He will never be okay with you wanting his attention and affection differently, and the only way to change it is to remove yourself from the situation. From the job. Sometimes even the career."
Ribon told followers that this is something that did not just happen once, but multiple times over the course of her career in Hollywood. The solution, she added, is having more women in mentorship positions.
"I didn’t say all that last night but I wish I had. Because I would have been able to see all the women in the room and say: We have to be each other’s mentors. Don’t stay grateful for the spot you got. Get someone else there, too. You just might be saving her life."
With more women in positions of power, acting as a guiding light for their peers in the industry, perhaps these insidious relationships will be squashed — or, at the very least, not something that women believe they have to put up with in order for their careers to exist.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

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