Jeff Simon: The harassment earthquake still has a long way to go - The Buffalo News

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Jeff Simon: The harassment earthquake still has a long way to go

Leave it to the New York Post. The tabloid that once gave us the immortal newspaper headline "Headless Man In Topless Bar" gave us last week the jolliest joke yet about the harassment earthquake that is toppling male reputations right and left.

"Pervnado" the Post called it, in tribute to "Sharknado," the hilariously high-rated garbageous cable TV movie series about sharks whirling in flight around major cities.

The Post's explanation: "Louis C.K., Roy Moore, Steven Seagal, Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein. And so many, many more (who's next?)"

Next to it all was a picture of C.K. and the line "Comedian admits I'm a Jerk."

There is, of course, nothing funny about any of this for anyone in America who has been victimized by the uglier acts that have been uncovered in American media since the Weinstein case exploded and blew doors open.

What has been happening has been of escalating public drama. Bill Cosby will reportedly be retried again after a hung jury. The late Roger Ailes was fired after virtually inventing Fox News and running it like his own private predatory pasture. His biggest star, Bill O'Reilly, was forced off the air to cling to whatever piece of the best-seller list he still could.

Then came Harvey and the Harvey Deluge in Hollywood and elsewhere. Weinstein was thrown out of his own company and, for good measure, the Motion Picture Academy which had been at his virtual beck and call. Gal Gadot has said she'll have nothing to do with a new "Wonder Woman" movie if Ratner directs it.

C.K.'s movie "I Love You, Daddy" was dropped by its distributor when long-festering rumors came home to roost with the disgusting stories about the comedian fully reported in the New York Times. Most surprisingly of all, after a series of harassment charges by formerly young men -- one of whom was only 14 at the time of the harassment incident -- Spacey's film in which he stars as Gore Vidal is now in distribution limbo with a cloudy future at best. Spacey has been replaced by Christopher Plummer in Ridley Scott's upcoming film about John Paul Getty's refusal to pay the ransom for his kidnapped grandson.

That film is slated to come out before the end of the year so that bit of crash-through cinematic razzle dazzle at this late stage game is being accomplished by re-shoots and  CGI.

It's at that point -- with multi-million dollar movies being torn apart and small independent ones being buried in the cat litter, now added to all the firings -- where a lot of people are finally beginning to understand the gravity of what's happening.

What I've been calling a "sea change" in American attitudes toward gender and sexual abuse since the Times' first reportage of the allegations against Weinstein has now become the biggest story in America since the successive seismic shocks -- from different political fault lines -- of the last two presidential elections.

I can't say that it's the biggest and most influential story I've ever written about but it's in the running. No critics or commenters could avoid the Vietnam War or 9/11 or the Nixon resignation. I was less than 15 weeks into a writing job here when I covered the Woodstock Festival whose influence on the America of the next decade may be analogous to what we're seeing now.

It's easy for people to say "it's only Hollywood and everybody's always known they're perverts anyway." To which I'd say "guess again." When the first gay characters started showing up on TV sitcoms, people would start saying the same thing: "It's only television. It has nothing to do with the rest of us." Gay marriage is now legal. The idea of homosexuality in America has been turned upside down.

We may now be seeing in Alabama a Senatorial candidate who seems like an ancient joke about the life of the glands below the Mason-Dixon line (Didn't Louisiana's Jerry Lee Lewis, after all, marry his 13-year old cousin Myra Brown in the '50s so that the gossip magazines of the time quoted him saying "She may be 13 but she's all woman."?) Almost everywhere else but the fringes of Fox News, it's being ground into a fine powder and used to panic over the future of the U.S. Senate.

Until all of this happened, I'd have to admit that I'd have wanted to see Spacey play Gore Vidal in a movie that has already been completed and I'd have wanted to see C. K. in "I Love You Daddy" despite the queasy feelings I've always had about the latter, amid all the praise I've encountered from people I respect. (Brilliant? Yes, sometimes. Even at his best, though, C.K. was no Cosby.)

But Spacey's "Gore" has been commercially orphaned and so has "I Love You, Daddy."

Abuse of woman has been standard operating procedure in Hollywood in so many ways that a movement to stop it in its tracks is of historic significance. When it all happens in the Internet Era, it means almost any occupation is now fair game for similar exposure.

To be blunt and candid, truly great journalistic venues, the New York Times and the New Yorker, have discovered that one of the most ancient of journalistic tenets -- "names make news" -- is a guarantee of readership and circulation when those names are pinned to fact-checked, thoroughly reported stories about those names caught in the act of sexual misconduct. Once a president of the United States was impeached for being caught, by evidence, en flagrante delicto,  all bets were off.

In the world we now live in, what it means to be male and female is under radical reconstruction. Almost half of the American population is likely to insist on it.

It's that simple. And to that half of the population, over due.

I'm enough of a romantic to hope that new realignments allow all the old room for humor and adventure among sex partners but anyone still pretending that the world of 2017 is the same as it was last Jan. 1 is nothing less than blind to our time.

email: jsimon@buffnews.com

 

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