Story after story plays out in the same tawdry way. A man becomes rich and influential, with a reputation and fans and a secure life. I try to imagine myself in that position, and it’s not too hard; I’m not rich or famous, but I’ve got reasonable income that means I don’t have to worry, children who’ve grown up and made me proud, and a stable, happy, long term relationship. What if I were an order of magnitude more wealthy? What if I was powerful enough to have clients who relied on me to further their career?
I like to think that if I were in such a position, I’d use it to help people who needed it, would use my greater influence to shape the world in ways I like, would be able to do more to help my family. There’d be a bit of selfishness, too, of course — I’d have more computer toys, more books, more nights out at fabulous restaurants with my wife. At least, I think that’s what I’d do with more luxury.
But apparently not. As a man, if I were wealthy and powerful, this is what I’m supposed to want.
Two decades ago, the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein invited Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what the young actress expected to be a business breakfast meeting. Instead, he had her sent up to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower, she recalled in an interview.
There’s more. There are years of Weinstein using his abilities to play cheap sexual games with the women in his employ.
In 2014, Mr. Weinstein invited Emily Nestor, who had worked just one day as a temporary employee, to the same hotel and made another offer: If she accepted his sexual advances, he would boost her career, according to accounts she provided to colleagues who sent them to Weinstein Company executives. The following year, once again at the Peninsula, a female assistant said Mr. Weinstein badgered her into giving him a massage while he was naked, leaving her “crying and very distraught,” wrote a colleague, Lauren O’Connor, in a searing memo asserting sexual harassment and other misconduct by their boss.
I don’t get it. It’s so pathetic — Weinstein is an otherwise normal man, wealthier than most, with a career that lets him fund (and profit from) the production of art, and this is how he uses his power, to play cheap, needy games with those with less power, to attempt to get momentary pleasures out of the suffering of others? To rise so high in one’s own domain and then to use it in such a shabby, contemptible way…why? And it happens so often, with recent examples of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. What disease lurks in men’s hearts that this kind of childish, cruel, pointless behavior emerges as they get older and richer?
At least it makes me happy that I’m unambitious enough that I don’t desire to rise out of my ordinary middle-class life — who knows what kind of monster I’d turn into if I had a million dollars? But it does suggest that we need to start a charity to save the poor pitiful Hollywood moguls and spoiled heirs and corporate big guns. We need to restore their humanity and rescue them from the emergence of the poisonous imago dwelling within them by taking most of their money away and distributing it to the poor. It’s the only decent thing to do.
I wonder what the threshold for spawning the horrible man-child incubating within us men-folk is? I don’t think it would be ethical to do the experiment to find out.
Or it could be that Harvey Weinstein is and always has been a terrible human being.