(ED: The recent spate of sexual assault and harassment stories coming out of Hollywood speak directly to a long-running dilemma within the geek community of appreciating art created by people who are problematic. How should we respond to our love of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Firefly in the wake of what we now know about Harvey Weinstein and Joss Whedon? Guest blogger Bill Ernoehazy suggests a possible answer.)
How do they get away with it?
It is true that Harvey Weinstein is now hip deep in trouble. NOW. But for decades, he preyed on people with impunity. Assaults on people in public, simply looked away from and ignored. Sexual assault accusations, covered up by local DAs and senior law enforcement officials.
How do they get away with it?
It’s easy to say “powerful people do”. It puts the problem comfortably over THERE, makes it something we can deplore in others.
That’s comfortable. That’s also a half-truth, at best.
Consider, for a moment, Joss Whedon.
How many of you, reading this, were uncomfortable at that very sentence? How many of you have a friend who, when they heard the stories surface, said “that couldn’t be Joss”? Or accused the people coming forward of lying in order to get at Joss? Maybe, just maybe, some of you reading this actually thought that yourself. Said it. Wrote it.
How many people around Joss heard something… or knew something… and couldn’t bring themselves to believe it, because of their belief in him?
It’s easy to blame Weinstein’s defenders, because he had money, and power. It’s easy to consider them venal and corrupt and bought off. But Weinstein supported many causes near and dear to people’s’ hearts, was considered a powerful ally because he publicly supported causes that mattered. Just as Whedon did.
It’s easy to look away when you want to.
No; it’s easy to look away when WE want to.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s the thing we should take away from the last month, from the revelations of Whedon’s ex-wife, to Weinstein’s fall, to even from Woody Allen trying to fly cover for abusers by crying “witch hunt” — too soon, Woody, really too soon.
Maybe, just maybe, we need to stop, when we hear something awful about someone we approve of. Someone we respect; admire; venerate…
Stop. Listen to the person coming forward. Don’t dismiss them because your hero might have done something wrong. Don’t tear that person down just to save your hero.
Bill Ernoehazy is an emergency medicine physician in Jacksonville Florida and environs. He was the editor of an anthology of transhumanist science fiction short stories, Against A Diamond Sky. Other fannish pursuits include speaking at SF conventions on medicine in and of space (he was once a NASA/Univ of Florida Physician Affiliate), martial arts as they’re portrayed in genre fiction (he is a researcher in medieval German combat styles), and punditry on futuristic developments. Following Steven Brust, he hopes to get some sleep Any Day Now.