#MeToo: Actors, models and directors on how the landmark movement is shaping a new Hollywood
As more and more women feel empowered to share stories of harassment, male privilege and power imbalance, we look forward to a Hollywood that is just and equitable
A vast number of professions have been experiencing a purge over the last couple of years as many brave women and men came forward with their stories about being harassed, molested, and raped at the workplace. The revolution began with the #MeToo movement and the ripples of the movement can still be felt as more and more women feel empowered to share their stories and discuss the nuances within harassment, male privilege and power imbalance.
Accusations against certain celebrities polarized communities and the case of comedian Aziz Ansari is probably the best example of such polarization. Now, nearly a year later, we see Ansari accepting his mistakes, acknowledging that coersion during a night for sex is not a "bad date," and that we need to continue having a dialogue.
Actress Amanda Warren, best known for her roles in 'The Leftovers' and 'The Purge,' tells MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), "There is more of a desire and a want to listen to one another and to be open to one another and to really hear what's going on at the moment. People are listening more and taking time to understand each other and that is a great start. I think that is the problem in the global community right now and, for many decades and many centuries, people don't want to listen and understand one another."
For the first time, victims are not the ones who are expected to feel shame. Instead, the perpetrators are being chased out of positions of power and asked to offer reparations, which in most cases hasn't happened yet. In fact, people like Kevin Spacey and Louis CK laid low for a couple of months before causing violent waves by mocking the #MeToo movement and the "witchhunt". Despite all that, more and more women feel empowered to come forward. For once, society as a whole is willing to listen to the victims before shunning them.
Actress Carol Kane, who has been working in Hollywood since 1966, says the change in perception has been undeniably significant. "We've been so programmed all our lives to feel less than in order to be loved. Then there's certain things you think you deserve to happen to you because you're a woman. And when certain bad things that happened to you, [you assume] that's just because you're a woman and you're not supposed to speak out about them," she tells MEAWW.
"So, I think it's an earth-shattering change that women are realizing that maybe what happened to them that made them feel badly about themselves was not something that they had to cover up and be ashamed of. They're allowed to say no, they don't deserve that. In the forties and fifties, a woman's place was so well defined and it was so limited that, to want any more than that, [was frowned up on]. You have a husband and children... What more do you want of your own? Some personal expression of your own? That was just not acceptable. I think about it a lot, [many women], including my very own mother, suffered a great deal because their own personal expressions were found not to be acceptable."
Actress and model Frida Farrell, who at the age of 22 was kidnapped, sold as a sex slave and was routinely raped her for three days, before finding her escape said, "#MeToo is letting people know that it’s okay to speak out about your sexual harassment and it’s okay to tell your story without feeling shame, because that’s actually the first thing you feel. You're ashamed, you’re embarrassed for what happened and then you blame yourself. This is obviously crazy but is naturally the first thing one feels after undergoing such experience."
Farrell, who made an award-winning film titled 'Apartment 407' about her horrific experience, elaborates, "The thing is, it happened, and it’s not your fault and it’s okay to speak about it. That is what the #MeToo movement has done to me, and to a lot of people. It has told us that it is okay to talk about things that have happened to you, it’s okay to come out and be yourself. It is the first step in healing, it is a great movement."
Beyond everything else, #MeToo has forced predators to be held accountable for their actions. "It is more difficult for predators to get away for what they do. If you go out for dinner with a girl and if you are a director or producer, it’s gonna make you hesitate before you want to try something with the girl because you don’t know if she’s going to get up and talk about it and you are going to be screwed and will be thrown in jail. So, it’s a really good movement, which is giving women in Hollywood — not just in Hollywood, everywhere — the strength to be like ‘You can’t do this to me, you can not treat me like a piece of meat or mistreat me or disrespect me in anyway because I WILL talk about it,'" Farell says.
She reminds us about the cases before the MeToo movement where women who talked about being harassed "literally disappeared". "You never heard from them again or about them, they are silent. But now, you can’t silence thousands of women; you can silence one but you cannot silence thousands of them. It’s incredible, it’s exactly what today needed, finally."
However, Warren says how the movement will change Hollywood still remains to be seen. "Some of the people that I have personally looked up to have admitted to such allegations and it is heartbreaking and disappointing when you are a fan and you just pray that it gets better and that people can try to make adjustments in how they think about others and how they include others in the workplace and how we treat each other. We just really hope for the best. Right now, I think that this is the moment to just have a revelation and compassion and I think it is going to take some time to see if anything has improved," she says. That said, the change that we are already seeing is a great signifier of the better days to come.
Victor Levin, whose movies are notable for its three-dimensional female characters with meaty storylines and relatable backstories, told MEAWW: "I am happy they are here. I think everybody should be treated with respect and everyone should be treated equally. Anything that helps us as a business and as a society move toward that goal — as the #MeToo movement certainly does, crucially does — is good."
The movement has paved the way for women being hired in senior roles, getting paid equally, and donning director/producer hats. The true impact of #MeToo, however, will only be seen five or ten years down the line. The way things are going, we hope to see a new and improved Hollywood in the near future.