“Is there a way back for them, Bryan?” A certain Will Gompertz, apparently well known, asked Bryan Cranston if Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey could ever return to their respective reigns. There was a heartfelt urgency in his voice.
This was from a November 13th, 2017 interview. Many more kingdoms were to crumble after that but at that moment those two names were the most prominent.
I had never heard of Will Gompertz. But I haven’t stopped rolling that question over in my mind. When I first heard it my attention was squarely focused on Cranston’s answer. I was rooting for the talented chameleon, certain that he would answer with compassion for the victims and some kind of insightful, diagnostic condemnation for the perpetrators. And he did. So why is it still tossing and turning in my mind like an insomniac?
Because Gompertz asked the wrong question.
And as playwright Eugène Ionesco said, It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.
Weinstein didn’t accidentally come out of any of those hotel bathrooms naked while a young female colleague patiently awaited professional collaboration. He didn’t inadvertently torpedo anyone’s career after they rejected his advances. He didn’t unknowingly and unwittingly hire double agent reporters to destroy the reputation of a young woman he had already settled out of court with after raping her. There was no ‘oops’ in the equation of his life. The only mistake Weinstein made in his calculating career of predation was the MO that caught up to him. The staggering number of victims who fell prey to that same MO proved to be too great even for him to silence. Not unlike Bill Cosby.
The way “back in” for those who’ve done wrong is largely facilitated by our perception of and belief in their de facto innocence, an essential blamelessness we can tap back into if we excavate enough layers of circumstance.
We seek to forgive the abusive parent after learning that they themselves were abused as a child. We easily forgive the child who actually did not know better. Some even forgive their unfaithful lovers after soul searching and reconciliation.
But the sociopathic predator who premeditates his crimes and commits them behind closed doors? The corrupt king who buys silence?
But more importantly — we don’t need them back. I cannot underscore this enough.
We are in serious danger of perpetuating our culture of violence tolerance when we fail to acknowledge that these are men who committed crimes. Future victims, women and men, remain in physical danger if crimes are treated like careless dalliances and criminals are treated like errant loved ones who will return to the fold when they’re ready. Their rehabilitation is not our responsibility. Nor should the prodigal rapists be the primary concern of the public. When criminal coddling is the only priority given air time and discussed in the public sphere, it creates the impression that it is more important than victim remuneration. And the cycle of violence continues to burn. Perhaps Weinstein will be the backfire, the controlled burn, we need to manage the wildfire if we’re ever going to stop it.
These men abdicated their own thrones. And the world is no less colorful without their creativity. We are not suddenly in a dark vacuum overrun by talentless hacks. We don’t need to devote public sympathy to nurturing the recovery of predators.
Don’t misunderstand. I believe in rehabilitation. But rehabilitation happens in the realm of experts, not the court of public opinion. I trust organizations specializing in recidivism reduction like Sponsors, Inc in my own hometown to undertake that comprehensive and compassionate work of transitioning offenders who have served their sentences back into society. Their goal is recidivism reduction. That is to say, future victim reduction. Because that matters. But what we do with criminals who evade every successive step of due process, let alone serving a sentence, is more than I can figure out right now.
What we do need is journalists asking questions that promote justice and creativity. We need the journalists who get to interview bright minds to ask questions that matter.
Is there a way to restore the creative careers of those sidelined by predators?
Is restorative justice possible after statutes of limitation expire?
What kind of restitution is possible for victims?
How can we update and modernize the criminal justice system?
How can shocked bystanders become reliable allies?
But instead, one old white man asked another old white man what these perverted old white men can do to get back in the public’s good graces. As if that is the most pressing issue. What script can we give them so they can parrot what we need to hear? What performative penance can they do to relieve our own feelings of complicity? Maybe for Gompertz, this is the most relevant question. Maybe Gompertz thinks its answer contributes the most to this collective conversation.
Yet he did not ask a respected actor how to restore the nipped-in-the-bud career of Ambra Gutierrez that Weinstein snuffed out and the NYPD exacerbated when she was brave enough to pursue legal action. He did not ask what Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. could have done differently in that case or if there should be legal repercussions for American Media, hired by Weinstein to silence allegations against him by destroying the credibility of his accusers. He didn’t ask Cranston if there’s a way back in for Rose McGowan. Are there roles for her besides the bubblegum teen fluff she was relegated to when she began her career? Is there a way back to prominence for her from slander, libel and subsequent Hollywood marginalization?
He didn’t ask if there’s a way Hollywood can give Italian actress Asia Argento twenty years of her career back. Since Weinstein can’t un-rape her, is there a way we can un-fuck her life, the non-disclosure agreements, the threats, the abandoned dreams? Even their family lineage couldn’t protect Rosanna Arquette and Mira Sorvino, at the height of their careers, from having the Hollywood needle scratching to silence. Is there a way back to the limelight for them? At a minimum, what about remuneration for lost wages had their careers continued, even if they gradually descended their own bell curves?
No one has asked.
Weinstein traded dreams for nightmares, starring in his own fantasies as their monster. And the myriad ways that decades of women handled the trauma they found themselves in are as varied as the women themselves. But I can only mourn the lost creativity of the women who retreated from Hollywood afterward and regret the fortitude the women who stayed had to divert from worthier endeavors in order to survive and to thrive in a business rife with predators. What movies might the women who left have made? What more creative use of inner strength might there have been for the women who stayed and endured his demands?
Another old white man, but one of consummate and visionary talent, was the Gothic restoration architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, world renowned for his 19th century renovations of medieval churches in France and beyond.
In his Dictionary of French Architecture, Viollet-le-Duc defended the practice of many medieval French artists who did not sign their works. He refuted claims that this indicated anything submissive, that these artists were not anonymous machines who churned out work without heart:
It proves only that they thought, not without reason, that a name on the bottom of a statue adds nothing to its real value in the eyes of tasteful people … In this they were simple, like men who count more on their demeanor and way of carrying themselves to be well received everywhere than on the decorations with which they might adorn their buttonholes.
Weinstein and Spacey have ensured that their true demeanor is now known in the eyes of tasteful people. There is no way back for them no matter what movies they’ve decorated their buttonholes with in public while they were destroying lives in private. And even if there were a way back in, we need not preoccupy ourselves with finding that path for them. We should be too busy creating ways back in for their victims.
Originally published at heathermedwards.com.