His name has been deleted from the list of 8,400 members. The way the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has expelled film producer Harvey Weinstein over sexual assault claims is unprecedented. In its 90-year history, the Academy has expelled only two members. The first one was 83-year-old actor Carmine Caridi, who was expelled for violating specific written rules about sharing screener copies of films in 2004. The Academy has taken disciplinary action against Weinstein only after three women alleged the producer had raped them.
Indeed, it’s an extraordinary move, as it is difficult for any organisation to take actions against a person, like Weinstein, who has produced a number of blockbuster movies, such as ‘Shakespeare in Love’, ‘The English Patient’, ‘Chicago’, ‘The King’s Speech’ and ‘The Artist’, over the years. Weinstein’s movies have been nominated for more than 300 Academy Awards and he won an Oscar himself as producer of the 1999 hit ‘Shakespeare in Love’. It’s a fact that public opinion is against him right now, with stars, like Kate Winslet, criticising Weinstein openly for his indecent behaviour towards women. Still, the Academy’s decision is a bold one. By making such a decision, the Academy has recognised its large social responsibility. It is to be noted that the complaint was not against any institution, but against an individual. And by expelling Weinstein, the Academy has made clear that crime against women is a social issue and it should be dealt with accordingly.
Soon after board members of the Academy held a special meeting in Los Angeles on October 14, the board said in a statement: “We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues, but also to send a message that the era of wilful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behaviour and workplace harassment in our industry is over.” It added: “What’s at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society. The board continues to work to establish ethical standards of conduct that all Academy members will be expected to exemplify.”
In fact, the Academy has created a new era for Hollywood. In the past, a number of heavyweight Hollywood personalities sexually abused many actresses. However, people forgot those ‘incidents’ and the glory of ‘fame and power’ helped those ‘criminals’ stay in the limelight. High-profile sexual or domestic assault allegations were made against figures, like Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby and Mel Gibson. But, they were not expelled by the Academy for unethical or potentially criminal behaviour.
Weinstein’s case is an exception. It’s not because he is a different person or the charges against him are exceptional. It’s all about time. The time has changed. Crime against women (especially sexual harassment) has become a sensitive issue in recent times. The media, too, have become active. For people, like Weinstein, it isn’t possible to cover up a crime nowadays.
At the same time, women have learnt to enjoy their ‘rights’. It was not easy for them to speak of sexual harassment a decade ago. Now, the question is whether Weinstein’s fate makes the old criminals feel worried. If one person has been expelled for committing a crime, then how can others roam freely after committing the same crime? The curiosity remains.