The starting point of our conversation about using Hollywood as a case study was an article which addressed the striking difference in attitude of men and women of the film industry at the 2018 Golden Globes (1). The article highlighted that while most women who spoke on the red carpet and on stage brought up the topics of sexual assault, the sexist culture of Hollywood and the Time’s Up movement, none of the men chose to discuss these questions. This silence was particularly disappointing when it came from directors and actors who were nominated for films or TV series which treat of sexual assault, domestic abuse and gender inequalities; for example Alexander Skarsgard who was nominated for his role as an abusive husband and rapist in the show Big Little Lies and yet failed to discuss how relevant to real-life events his role was.
We thought there was an interesting paradox between the fact that Hollywood could be such a public or “loud” community and yet still be characterised by this idea of oppressive silence, a silence which allowed Harvey Weinstein to thrive as a producer despite his abusive treatment of women. Starting from there, we realised that this tension between noise and silence could be found in many aspects of Hollywood’s darker sides. For example, we wondered to what extent the online character of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements had allowed them to be “louder? Sanjana also brought up the notion of “whisper networks” which exist among the women of the film industry (and other professional worlds) and aim to protect women from abusive men of said industry. Comparatively, similar “whisper networks” probably allow the same abusive men to protect themselves from being exposed.
We felt that this noise/silence dynamic came along with several other paradoxes. Ideas of public vs private, male vs female, and individual vs collective were all frameworks we thought could be useful in our analysis of the Hollywood community. Another tension that we felt was relevant to this topic was the constant interaction of fiction vs reality in Hollywood. For most of the 20th century, the film industry has contributed to the construction of a certain idea of masculinity. Confidence on the verge of arrogance, emotional distance and a sense of superiority are all characteristics of the masculinity that actors like Clark Gable, Alain Delon and Sean Connery cultivated. This observation made us wonder to what extent this idea of a man who can get away with anything especially when it comes to women had transferred to real-world interactions in Hollywood.
These are some of the questions and key-words that came up while we were brainstorming to develop a more focused research question:
- How does it build as part of a community? Is it layered across different industries?
- Do you have to have these experiences to consider yourself part of a movement?
- All women have been subjugated to the cruelty of men? Universally, to the same extent, continually?
- Nuanced – does this community actually do much legally / practically?
- Private discussions that become public domain – how do these conversations, feelings and thoughts become used? What do they do practically, or how can they be used legally?
- Would these campaigns (Time’s Up, #metoo) have the same impact if they weren’t started/supported by famous women?
- Time’s Up & #MeToo
- The inclusiveness of these movements / white-feminism
- Toxic masculinity cultivated by movies / how masculinity is performed in Hollywood
- Bechdel test
- Roman Polanski / Woody Allen