Another day and another dude in the entertainment industry accused of sexual assault and harassment: Today it’s Brett Ratner, who six women accused of impropriety in a Los Angeles Times article, including actress Natasha Henstridge, who recounts an encounter two decades ago that basically amounts to rape, and Olivia Munn, toward whom Ratner has been pretty much a horny shit for more than a decade now. It’s been a pattern that once a few substantive accusations are out there more come forward (see: Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Bill Cosby), so I don’t expect the next several days are going to be very happy ones for Ratner. Nor should they be.
I imagine it’s likewise a very uncomfortable time for a lot of men in the entertainment industry right now, as they search their own pasts, recalling incidents that they are probably hoping to God are not dredged up toward the light of day by the women (or men! Or non-binary folk!) they’ve been horrible to, as the “whisper network” stops being whispery and starts talking out loud and unafraid. Ratner is the most recent powerful man in this particular barrel, but it’s deeply doubtful he’s going to be the last.
I don’t doubt it’s uncomfortable for everyone else in the industry, too, for all sorts of reasons. Let me explain it in personal terms: Currently I have several projects in various stages of development for television and film, mostly with people I’ve met with and liked but fundamentally know very little about except through the scope of their work. I am praying that none of them has been carrying on as a creepy, harassing piece of shit. Because, aside from all the very serious problems with that, there’s the extra added concern of what it will mean for the aforementioned projects, which would then have a radioactive person attached to them who no one will want to do business with, if not for ethics then for optics. I have ethical and also purely business-related reasons for hoping my associates are not fucking creeps. Multiply my position by everyone in entertainment right now, and you see the problem.
(And to be fair, the problem is in both directions: The people I have my options with know me mostly through my work, too. They don’t know what I’m doing in the rest of my personal and professional life, either, or whether or not I’m a creepy creep who creeps creeptastically, and my creepularity has simply just not been revealed to them — the “whisper network” doesn’t reach to where they are. I’ve not been asked to attest that I’m not a harassing piece of shit. They’re taking it on faith that I’m not.)
So basically everyone in entertainment right now, you could say, has the smallest inkling of what it’s like to be a woman in the entertainment industry, and not to know whether the person you’re meeting with will blow up your project or your career because of their behavior. Let’s not overextend the simile — the chances I or lots of other dudes will face a “casting couch” situation to get a project made approaches zero, for example — but certainly the question of “who are you really and how will who you are hurt me and my goals?” is one lots of people are asking in a different way these last several weeks.
On a vaguely-related note, someone sent along a bit from a detractor of mine who was hoping that I would be outed as a harassing creep because wouldn’t that be perfect, ha ha ha. Which will tell you two things: One, I don’t need to seek out people saying awful things about me because people feel free to send those along, so I have a crowd-sourced clipping service of people being shitty to me; and two, my detractors are terrible people.
This fellow is going to be disappointed, I think. Consent is important to me, and historically speaking I’ve been able to take “no” for an answer. Likewise I make an effort not be a harassing shithead of a dude (spoiler: It’s not that difficult to make that effort). I try to live my life so that people don’t feel like I’m just waiting for the right moment to be a creepy fuck to them.
With that said: Are there times I might have made someone uncomfortable, or said or did something they found creepy? Yes, probably! I’m not perfect and as I’ve written about before, the decision as to what’s creepy rests with the other person, not me (or you). So it’s certainly possible something I’ve done or said rang some worry bells in someone else’s head, and they prefer not to be near me or have anything to do with me. In which case a) totally fair, and b) I’m sorry.
Which is all easy to say, mind you. One of the things that the recent weeks has done is to cause me to go back and really look at how I have interacted with people, particularly women, over the years. I can think of times now where I’ve revised my opinion of my past actions downward (how I dealt with my long-term crush in high school is one example — I used to think it was puppy-dog swoonish and now I think it’s a little sad and creepy), and others in more contemporary times where I feel like I can do better and will try to. I think at least some of my detractors are of the opinion that I hold myself up as a paragon of perfect behavior and thought, and, well. Let’s just say I live in my own mind and know it better than they do. Trust me, I’m so not perfect. But I do try to be decent to people, and that’s a constant process.
(I do have a useful rule of thumb, with my actions toward other people and with life in general, which is: Is this something I’d tell Krissy about? If this answer is anything other than “yes, of course, unreservedly,” then there’s a problem, which, incidentally, is a cue for me to talk to her about it right then. You would be surprised — or possibly you wouldn’t — at how useful this rule has been over the years. You may also assume that there’s very little my wife doesn’t know about me.)
To go back to the entertainment industry, none of this is done yet: More people (mostly dudes) are going to be exposed for their harassing and assaulting actions, and even more people are going to have their lives and livelihoods thrown up in the air because of the fallout. It’s necessary but it’s going to be a mess. And it all could have been easily avoided. All it takes is not harassing, assaulting or treating other people like shit. Try doing that, entertainment dudes! You’ll be (tragically) surprised how effective it is.