In 2016, a long-brewing storm began to stir to life.
In 2017, that storm broke ground.
In 2018, we are still in the process of coping with this deluge.
That storm that I did my best to analogize is the #MeToo movement and the wave of individuals stating that they have been sexually harassed or assaulted by people in power or celebrities.
Now, I’m not here to talk about the movement itself; I’m here to talk about its effects as someone who has been at the end of more sexual harassment than I like admitting.
Today, we’re here to talk about the storm and what it means for all of us left in its wake.
But there’s one thing that needs to be said immediately before we can go any further.
Sexual harassment isn’t new.
This is not something that started last year, 10 years ago, or even 100 years ago. For as long as there has been the patriarchy, there has been forms of harassment. There are old rituals that were for “fertility” that now would essentially just be bride-kidnapping. Look at Lupercalia. Men in wolf skins run round and whip each other and women for the sake of fertility. Well, if a man in a wolf skin came anywhere near me now, despite me being a Classics student, I would absolutely call the police.
And as societies change, our attitudes on courting rituals changed. There is not a universal definition of rape and while many places agree loosely on what consent, there are always a few that seem to have less strict definitions on the act. Even though, universally, most understand the difference between “No” and “Yes”.
Let’s start with what many will agree was the canary in the coal mine for all of this: Bill Cosby. Cosby was America’s black dad. He was non-threatening, intelligent and funny in a family sort of way. He seemed wholesome. He seemed like a good person. He seemed non-threatening. We were all very wrong. Women recently began to claim that Cosby drugged and assaulted them. But many did not believe these women, there are still people that don’t believe these women despite Cosby being on trial now for his crimes. How could America’s chill black dad be a monster? Turns out, he could be a monster pretty easily and now most who read the news regularly enough know that he’s a monster and don’t question such a fast. And now we are left with this hollow shell of a reminder that someone once beloved is now nothing short of a villain.
Because let’s not mince words, one man’s flattery is another woman’s sexual harassment and that brings us back to #MeToo and the continued predation that directors, writers and producers have used to manipulate and control their actors both male and female. The stories are tragic, heartbreaking and exhausting and all of them are believable.
So what do we do now that this is our new normal?
I’d like to present an example near and dear to my heart: Quentin Tarantino.
Tarantino is…eccentric and he’s actually one of my favorite directors of all time and the creator of some of the finest films this generation has seen in my humble opinion. In a scene in Inglorious Basterds he is shown choking one of his actresses with his own bare hands because he was the only one who could do it just right. He famously berated and endangered Uma Thurman during the filming of both Kill Bill movies (some of my favorite films of all time). And even though we knew that he was a tough director and had less than ideal interactions with actresses: he was an artist. Hell, in a past life I praised him for that scene in Inglorious Basterds. It takes vision to realize that only your hands look good choking the life out of an actress.
But after Uma Thurman came out and provided a much needed humanizing voice about the actual horror that happened behind the camera. Suddenly, many of these scenes that were once praised are now tainted under a new darker lens.
And honestly, that can be said about many directors. Stanley Kubrick terrorized more than one actress during the filming of his excellent filmography. Alfred Hitchcock terrorized several of his actresses while he was making moves that would change cinema forever. But in their day, and in books, articles and interviews: that was just what it took to get the scene and they were visionaries for it. And that doesn’t even include all the microaggressions producers and directors have used to get the scene just right.
And 10, 20, 30 or more years ago: that was fine.
It was perfectly acceptable for such behavior.
One problem: it isn’t now.
So where do we go from here?
I’m not being cynical at all by saying it’s exhausting living in a world where suddenly everyone you looked up to is a monster. That is not said to minimize the allegations, they are all very valid, but as we judge older social mores by current views: how will we continue to move forward as lovers of media and hell, just as folks who lover conversation?
I’m not one that often enjoys hearing that the world is too politically correct now. To me, that’s an excuse often used by men who are out of touch and need a convenient line after they’ve said something repugnant.
I’m happy we are now in an era where a woman or man who screams “harassment” is listened to. I’m happy we are now in an era where a woman or man of color can say that they have experienced hardships because of their race. I am thrilled that LGBTQIA folks can candidly discuss the issues they face with great dignity daily.
I’m concerned that we will only continue to look on the actions of the past with harsher scrutiny. But that concern is tempered with hope. I do worry that some more nuanced things are lost in the conversation. I do worry that we may just one day become too politically correct.
But this is where we are now. Daily, more and more people come out against those who are famous and not so famous. Daily, we make steps in the right direction. Sure, sometimes those steps mean we stumble. But every single damn day we move forward so that one day, a little cosplayer will never have to face the harassment I did. We are reaching towards a day that an actress will never be preyed upon for the sake of advancing her career. We are quickly approaching that day.
And I welcome it.