DANIEL VAUGHAN: How Hollywood’s Moral Code Created Harvey Weinstein

October 16, 2017

DANIEL VAUGHAN: How Hollywood’s Moral Code Created Harvey Weinstein

You can learn a lot about a culture by examining its values. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, we’ve discovered that Hollywood’s culture has so devalued human life that sexual assault gets a blind eye.

Weinstein and his decades of alleged sexual harassment, rape, and attacks do not occur in a vacuum. It requires a Herculean effort to enable, provide for, and cover up crimes that affect hundreds of victims, all from just one perpetrator. And if one deviant — Weinstein — is allowed to roam free of consequence, it’s safe to assume that Hollywood culture shelters others like him.

We’ve seen versions of this story before. The Catholic Priest sex abuse cases involved thousands of victims, many of whom sued the church for millions of dollars. More recently, Fox News’ entire evening anchor lineup was turned upside-down after multiple women alleged that Bill O’Reilly harassed them. In each case, the first story to break was only the tip of the iceberg — there was always more to the story.

With this, we’re left with two questions: first, how deep does the rabbit hole go with Hollywood? We may never know, unfortunately, as only a few courageous souls have spoken up at this time.

Second, who or what does Hollywood value?

You either believe that people have intrinsic value — that is, a person is valued and given rights for no other reason than they’re human — or you think people have extrinsic value — that is, they only have value if we grant it to them. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt would likely refer to this as the sanctity foundation for morality.

The question we must ask regarding American culture is: do we value human life? Do we acknowledge other humans as having intrinsic value?

I don’t mean this in the sense of the abortion debate, but rather in a broader sense regarding all humanity. It’s important to know our answer to this question, because it informs everything from law to how we treat one another every day.

In the case the Catholic Church, the Church would say that people have intrinsic value and that the priests violated that morality. The Church failed to live up to that standard, but it does have a standard.

With Hollywood, there does not appear to be a standard of morality at all. The common thread running through every victim’s story, whether woman or man, is that they feared the sexually abusive culture of Hollywood. If they spoke out about their pain, it meant career suicide.

Hollywood executives seduce young new actresses into the industry, have their “casting couch” moment, and then force the star to become dependent upon them for future roles. Or the industry simply covers for them, as in the case of Roman Polanski, who recently admitted to raping an underage girl. It’s worth noting how quiet Hollywood was after Elijah Wood accused them of having child sex abuse rings.

My point here is that it doesn’t appear that Hollywood gives intrinsic value to anyone. Your only value exists to either provide sex to the depraved directors and executives or sell it on the big screen. Once you’ve outlived your usefulness to either one of those points, you’re tossed aside as insignificant.

The irony here is that Hollywood just finished awarding and applauding the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The story is supposed to be a cautionary tale regarding the perils of a Christian theocratic state, one where women are only used for reproduction and treated as slaves.

Sales of Atwood’s dystopian story skyrocketed in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, mainly because liberals castigated Vice President Mike Pence’s faith and saw him as a theocratic ruler. They were especially up in arms when they found out Pence had rules for dining with other women alone, namely that he avoids it.

But if Mike Pence’s Christianity is the dire threat the left makes it out to be, then what is Hollywood’s excuse? You can accuse Hollywood of being a lot of things, but a culture bent on perpetuating a Christian theocracy it isn’t.

Atwood’s Handmaid’s work far better as a critique of Hollywood’s culture of devaluing women, and men, to the point of being mere sex objects, both in the eyes of Hollywood executives and audiences. It’s not the Judeo-Christian God oppressing women; it’s the secularist gods who seek satiation.

Sexual harassment, assault, and rape aren’t difficult crimes for perpetrators to avoid. The victims aren’t doing anything that brings these heinous acts upon them. Weinstein tried saying he was a product of the 1960’s and 70’s and that’s just how things were in those days.

But the bulk of people who lived through that time didn’t make rape or assault part of their daily lives. And even if everyone in a culture commits an act, that doesn’t make it morally right.

If you believe people have intrinsic value, you don’t act like Harvey Weinstein. That’s a core moral truth that was freely available to Weinstein at all times in history.

There’s a line in the Handmaid’s Tale that says: “I want to be held and told my name. I want to be valued, in ways that I am not; I want to be more than valuable.” It’s a line that was apparently missed by everyone applauding. A culture that rejects intrinsic value is one that destroys itself.

Hollywood’s troubles won’t end until they stop seeing people as having only extrinsic value. A culture must protect life, treat it with sanctity, and see it as having intrinsic value. The number of victims will continue to rise unless a moral code is restored.

C.S. Lewis once remarked, “The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys.” It’s time for Hollywood to switch tunes before they create more Harvey Weinsteins.

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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.