To Cinema, With Love – Deep Cut
Episode 9: When Idols Fall
Disclaimer: This article primarily talks about accusations made in the #MeToo movement against various directors and producers in the film industry. The article in no way wants to offend or belittle the victims, their struggles or their courage. Further details of each case and several others can be found at the end of the article. This article is an opinion piece and not an investigative one, therefore each and every case under Me Too is not mentioned in this either. This article in no way supports or idolises the actions of the accused. The article in no way wants to give a conclusive statement to the Art vs Artist debate either.
There is a thing I found on Reddit recently called the sausage principle. The sausage principle states that if you love something, never find out how it is made. Although following the sausage principle is good for our own peace and sanity, it is important for us to confront the things we love to grow as a person. If only I knew how hard it was going to be.
When you want to become anything, you invariably create heroes you aspire to be. They are the role models you constantly look up to and want to be like. This is why aspiring cricketers put up posters of Sachin Tendulkar on the wall, and aspiring rock musicians walk around wearing an AC/DC t-shirt.
And I was the same as an aspiring director. When I see directors winning Oscars or giving interviews to the Hollywood Reporter, I can’t help but imagine myself becoming like them.
But what does one do when these very idols turn out to be monsters?
It is often said, never meet your heroes.
In 2015, I saw Good Will Hunting. It was easily one of the best performances of Robin Williams and Matt Damon I had ever seen. It was both a masterpiece in terms of writing and direction. The final scene between Will Hunting and Chuckie Sullivan is a scene I rewatch even today.
In 2016, I saw Pulp Fiction. Then and there I was captivated by the magic of a Tarantino-esque film. The snappy dialogue, funny one-liners, and the non-linear storytelling structure– all of it was a film nerd’s dream come true.
While watching these two remarkable yet incredibly different movies, I couldn’t help but notice that they were produced by the same producer. I marvelled at the genius of this producer who was able to find such gems of scripts and turn them into the marvels that they were.
In 2017, Harvey Weinstein, owner of The Weinstein Company and the ‘genius producer’ behind the aforementioned films was accused of sexual harassment by several actresses. The details of this case horrify me to this day. This triggered a movement, now known as ‘Me Too.’
Harvey Weinstein is one of the 101 celebrities of the film industry accused of sexual harassment. And this is just in Hollywood. Imagine the number when all of the film industries of the world are combined. Imagine if we include even the ones whose accusations have not been made public yet?
Heroes become Monsters.
All of a sudden, almost overnight, my perception of directors, producers, actors completely changed. I almost started to question who these people I wanted to be, are? Are all of them the same? How can I appreciate any crew member of the next great film I watch, without first knowing if they are a monster or not?
To find my answers, I began reading. The internet was and still is, swarmed with several thousand opinions on this topic. All these opinions, in a way, did help me shape my own take on this. Two things, though, were clear to me from the beginning. First, there is no way anyone should be allowed to get away with something like this and secondly, the victims coming forward need to be supported.
A lot of people say that these people are geniuses. That, to a certain extent, is true. A lot of the people such as Woody Allen and Roman Polanski have inspired several future filmmakers to aspire to become like them. But what people need to realise, as I did, is that their genius in no way gives them an excuse for inappropriate, sometimes heinous behaviour.
Next, a lot of people say that the art shall be separated from the artist. Whatever the internet may say, Woody Allen’s Annie Hall will most probably be shown to me in film school next year. I might be asked to marvel at the film and even write assignments on the ‘genius’ of Woody Allen. But what people don’t realise is that every artist does leave a part of themselves in the work they create. A feminist filmmaker will showcase the women in their film in a way better manner than a misogynistic director.
When I say the art shall be separated from the artist, I in no way mean they should get praises and standing ovations. Separating the art from the artist does not mean you nominate Roman Polanski at the Venice Film Festival when he actually has pleaded guilty for his crimes.
Take the example of the film Kabir Singh. The film was widely criticized for its misogyny and depiction of toxic masculinity. A lot of people said that it is just a film and films should be allowed to show problematic characters. Sure, films should be allowed to showcase problematic characters, but that doesn’t mean they should be justified. The actions of Kabir are actually justified by his writer and director, as revealed in a recent interview by Film Companion.
And that is my point: if you showcase the art, the truth about the artist shall also be known. Because no matter how much you try to separate it as an audience, an artist can never separate themselves from the art they create.
After several of these cases have come out, and many more still continue to do, the questions I have still increase. Figuring out the aftermath of a sexual-harassment accusation, and how I should feel about the work of the accused in light of their actions, is still a labyrinth I am trying to find my way through. But the only important takeaway I had from this, as someone who hopes to enter this very industry going forward, is that I have a responsibility now. It is my responsibility as the ‘future’ of this field to go forward and create a more inclusive, respecting and secure industry. An industry where people from all castes, creeds, religions, sexual orientations, genders can feel that they belong here. An industry where they are not afraid to meet a certain director, producer, actor or any other crew member. An industry where they feel that their work and merit is all that they require. An industry where no one ever again is silenced ever again.
Here is a link where you can find details of all 263 (of USA), and counting #MeToo allegations: https://www.vox.com/a/sexual-harassment-assault-allegations-list/
Here are lists of allegations of sexual harassment against powerful men in the Indian film industry: https://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/bollywood/me-too-accused-men-list-harassment-5396034/
~ Siddhant Chandak, Amity International School, Noida3 Likes