‘A villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told yet,” wrote Chris Colfer in The Land of Stories, which I am pleased to see will be made into a movie by someone other than the Weinstein Company. Even so, you may find yourself declining to submit to reports about Harvey Weinstein’s pending stint in rehab, where professionals will help him get to the bottom of his terrible condition. He has basically punished himself by checking in to a place where wandering round in bath robes is almost mandatory.
As the radioactive movie mogul put it himself to reporters on Wednesday night: “I’m hanging in, I’m trying my best. I’m not doing OK but I’m trying. I gotta get help guys. You know what, we all make mistakes … Second chance, I hope.” Second chance? There seems to be some kind of accounting error here. The second chance is estimated to have been used up some time in the very early 1990s. If not before. Either way, that’s certainly the most boggling statement from Weinstein since his first attempt to hand-wave away his mushrooming sexual harassment scandal by describing himself as “an old dinosaur learning new ways”. I guess you can’t libel the dead, which insulates Harvey from a class action suit brought on behalf of every stegosaurus that hasn’t apparently wanked into a restaurant plant pot.
Still, let’s focus on the help he gotta get. There are varying reports of Weinstein’s clinical plan, but many suggest he has now begun several weeks of in-patient treatment at an Arizona head spa, before journeying for the final stages to a second facility in Europe. Some kind of happy-finishing school, presumably.
Here’s hoping it’s just your basic $2,000-a-night sex offender programme. Wherever Weinstein ends up, I picture the place as a sort of alt-justice simulator, which lovingly recreates the atmosphere of the classic nonce wing, right down to the Michelin-starred salad bar and fluffy bathrobes. Or maybe they’re trying to wean Harvey off bathrobes, I don’t know. The key point is: it operates outside standard correctional procedures. In many ways it’s like the indie criminal justice system. As well as the boutique feel, there’s a freshness you don’t get with the big studio prisons.
According to multiple reports, Weinstein is to be treated for sex addiction, which seems ... inappropriate. You might as well treat him for anorexia, or diphtheria, or some other illness he hasn’t got. Look, I’m the first to agree with Blades of Glory’s Chazz Michael Michaels that sex addiction is a real disease, with doctors and medicine and everything. But Harvey Weinstein isn’t addicted to sex in any accepted definition of that condition. Weinstein’s alleged behaviour is abusive, coercive and non-consensual. Is he an “abuse addict”? Is that a thing now? Has this twirled conveniently into the rarefied realms of a mental health issue, and out of the vulgar dimension of criminal offence?
So it seems. If you are still resisting this narrative direction, please don’t. Just relax. Stop making a scene. You’re embarrassing him. Come on. Five minutes. Please. As one of his representatives said in a statement to the New Yorker: “Mr Weinstein has begun counselling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path. Mr Weinstein is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance.”
Let’s assume the progress will be measured in days clean of allegedly carrying out sexual harassment, or perhaps in a 50% reduction in alleged sexual harassment incidents, with a view to eliminating them completely around the same time the US pays off its national debt.
As for the wider implications of the scandal for Hollywood, it would be easy to get carried away. In one sense, the record-breaking G-force fall of Weinstein leaves a huge gap in the industry. Purely in terms of business temperament, Weinstein was almost wistfully considered the town’s Last Great Monster, especially since Michael Ovitz handed in his badge and nunchucks (circa 1995). On the other hand, you certainly wouldn’t rule him out making some sort of return in due course. I still recall fondly the scoffing correspondence I received after suggesting that Mel Gibson would in fact be back after that business with the Jews and the sugartitted traffic cop. My favourites were obviously the people pointing out that Hollywood is all run by the Jews, so he wouldn’t ever be resurrected. As you may know, Mel is a much-respected moviemaker again these days, able to draw big stars, and was nominated for a best director Oscar only this year.
For now, though, the focus on the Weinstein story makes one strongly suspect that Harvey is taking one for the team. If everything can be telescoped on to him, that would be better all round. In fact, I can’t decide who wants this story to go away quicker – the “similar operators” to Weinstein in Hollywood, or the “similar operators” to Weinstein in the news media. Various parties’ desperation to treat it as a political football serves as a reminder that this is never about women’s rights for them. Consider Fox News village idiot Tucker Carlson, who on Tuesday called for a justice department investigation into “Hollywood’s culture of systemic sexual abuse”, lamenting that “people in charge have covered it up and made excuses for it, in each case protecting the powerful from the powerless and the abused”. Strong words, and all the more resonant coming from one of the few Fox figures yet to be exposed as someone who regards the sound of them masturbating as suitable hold music during calls with their PA.
For those wondering when things will die down, I spoke to a made-up Hollywood scientist who calculated that moment will come that at the precise second that anti-Weinstein coverage stops grossing more than Weinstein movies. Meanwhile, you will have noted that the coverage has already metastised again. Second stage was Glynn from your accounts department snorting that “the whole town knew for years”, in the manner of someone who’d like you to assume he spent the early 90s round at Carrie Fisher and Bryan Lourd’s house but never brags about that whole scene. We’re now at third stage, which is guys explaining that having daughters made them re-evaluate their views on sexual assault. (As a woman, I’m always grateful for these takes, which are the equivalent of the authors publicly branding their own foreheads with the words “TOTAL SEX CASE”.)
But I suppose we’ll have to play out by finding some kind of bright side. So let’s just say it’s not all bad news for the lady actors of Hollywood. Frankly, there has never been a better three-week window to get cast for a role. That may be an overestimation of the period for which the town’s grossest powerful men will be on their best behaviour – but I think if you manage to nail down your next two roles in the next two weeks, you pretty much guarantee a hiring process free from the threat of reflexively inappropriate behaviour or peremptory sexual assault. After that you’ll be too old to work anyway, at least for the couple of decades until you start qualifying for Madeleine Albright biopics or films about a latter-years companionship between Elizabeth I and a Moorish servant or whatever. So happy hiatus, gals! God knows you’ve earned it.