It’s too soon to gloat.
That was my message to actress Rose McGowan after she tweeted this today:
Not so fast, Rose. It’s one thing to file charges against someone. It’s quite another to convict him.
A lot of people seem to have forgotten that today as they celebrate Harvey Weinstein’s perp walk from a police station, after he was charged with three sex-abuse offences.
You can’t blame them for celebrating. Allegations against Weinstein led to the rise of the #MeToo movement. He was the monster, the biggest and baddest of them all. The pain he allegedly caused individual women grew into a collective anger. So, yes, today is a victory for many people.
They will soon realize, though, it is only a partial victory. The dragon has been routed out of his lair, and he is cornered. The prosecution will move in for the kill, carrying the hopes of the #MeToo movement on their shoulders, and perhaps its very future. Victory is by no means assured, and the #MeToo movement could lose some credibility if the prosecution is unsuccessful. The dragon, incidentally, is carrying the hopes of some people, too. This could be a fiery battle, from which Weinstein could emerge victorious, if not unscathed.
That is the likely scenario. Weinstein will probably beat these particular raps, because it seems that they are impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. He says any sexual activity he had was consensual, they say it wasn’t. Given the time that has elapsed since the alleged incidents took place, and the climate under which the charges came about today, there are obvious grounds for reasonable doubt.
That is, if these charges even proceed to trial. Weinstein’s lawyer has already said, today, that he is seeking to have the charges thrown out. But if it should go to trial, he has already given the world a glimpse of the defence strategy. Yes, he acknowledges, everybody knows there has been a casting couch culture in Hollywood. Weinstein didn’t invent it, he said. It’s just the way it was in Tinseltown. But behaving badly, i.e. a scoundrel using all sorts of lines to bed someone, and criminal rape are two different things. In other words, Weinstein may have been a cad, but he’s not a criminal, his lawyer seemed to indicate.
So, if he coerced a woman into performing oral sex on him but didn’t actually force her to, is that a crime? Well, the state of New York thinks it is, even if the woman in question could have flatly refused and left the room — as other actresses said they did when he came on to them.
This could be an impossible case for the prosecution, and everybody involved might know it now. But the optics are good. At least, they’re good now. But they might not be so good for Hollywood as the trial proceeds. The Hollywood casting couch culture is going to get a lot of media attention. We’ll hear about men who manipulated women into spreading their legs for them. We’ll hear about women who happily spread their legs in order to advance their ambitions.
Hey, this kind of behaviour is not limited to Hollywood. It happens in many professions around the world. Bosses using employees, employees using bosses. It’s all part of the elaborate and at times pathetic mating behaviour of the human species.
The #MeToo movement has been trying to redefine the casting couch parameters, and is succeeding. But the allegations against Weinstein come from pre-#MeToo days. And proving that his sexual activity was not consensual in the parameters of that time is next to impossible.
Weinstein is almost certain to choose trial by judge, who would truly be impartial. It’s doubtful he could get a fair trial with a jury, and what jury would dare acquit the man, anyway, knowing the wrath they would incur from an angry #MeToo mob?
One thing is for certain: if it goes to trial, it will be one hell of a headline-grabbing show. And you know that no matter how it turns out, somebody in Hollywood will make a movie about it.