The entertainment industry appears to be engaging in a superficial public relations campaign in response to the systemic sexual harassment crisis, which has severely tarnished the once-golden Hollywood brand.
In the fall of 2017, numerous women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, charges that spanned several decades and dealt with inappropriate and possible criminal behavior ranging from harassment to rape.
What has followed the initial Weinstein related expose is a host of harassment and sexual misconduct allegations involving actors, producers, directors, and other high-profile individuals.
Many of the alleged incidents are said to have taken place in hotel rooms. In a number of instances, women who believed they were attending a business meeting were instead subjected to various levels of improper behavior.
After the earth shattering revelations had come to the public forefront, what the appropriate response on the part of the entertainment community should have been was, at a minimum, to immediately cease the practice of holding meetings in hotel room suites.
Tragically, this did not occur and the practice of conducting private hotel room meetings continues to take place, despite the avalanche of news stories surrounding the biggest scandal in Hollywood history.
Elite decision makers in the industry argue that the private hotel room setting has been used to conduct meetings for those seeking roles in movie productions or television programs since the early days of Hollywood.
The continued use of hotel rooms for meetings has finally led SAG-AFTRA, which is the largest labor union in Hollywood representing actors, performers, broadcast journalists, and other entertainment professionals, to actually do something.
The union had been under fire in the wake of the sexual impropriety scandal for failing to protect its members from potential sexual misconduct. After holding a series of public meetings and forums with its members and industry leaders, the union has released a new set of guidelines regarding the conducting of private meetings in hotel rooms and residences, which calls for an end to the practice.
SAG-AFTRA is urging its members and their respective representatives to refrain from accepting professional meetings in “high-risk locations.”
If for any reason a producer and actor fail to come to an agreement on a meeting location, the SAG-AFTRA guidelines establish the concept of a “support peer,” which is an individual who will be available to accompany a performer to the meeting.
Distressingly, the guidelines may prove to be ineffective in the long run, since they are voluntary rather than mandatory.
To understand the industry’s intrinsic conflict, a cursory examination of a significant segment of the entertainment business is necessary; one that seems to have escaped a cultural airing and public dialogue—the music business.
Male music performers, who have had serious accusations lodged against them, seem to have been permitted to take a brief leave from their public appearances. And when a seemingly adequate amount of time has passed, they are subsequently allowed to go forward with their careers as if nothing ever happened.
–Singer Chris Brown was accused of assaulting then-girlfriend singer-actress Rihanna and additionally had similar problems with another girlfriend in 2017. The subsequent girlfriend was able to obtain a five-year restraining order to address claims of abuse and violent threats.
–Singer R. Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, nevertheless has for decades been trailed by accusations of abuse of women and of having had sexual relationships with minors.
–Epic Records chairman and CEO Antonio “L.A.” Reid made a swift exit from Sony Music after having been accused of sexual harassment by a female assistant at Epic Records. Variety reported that “multiple” claims were made against Reid. This year Reid announced that he had formed a new record label, Hitco, which has signed rapper Big Boi.
–Singer Trey Songz was recently arrested for felony domestic assault. The felony charge of hitting a woman while at a Hollywood party was rejected by the Los Angeles District Attorney. Songz’s case is still being reviewed by the L.A. City Attorney to determine whether or not to charge the singer with a lesser charge of misdemeanor domestic violence.
–Rapper XXXTentacion was arrested in 2016 and is awaiting trial for aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness tampering. The rapper is also facing other felony counts relating to the case and was under house arrest from late December 2017 through March 2018. The rapper recently reached number one on the Billboard Artist 100 chart to become the top musical act in the nation.
–Rapper Fabolous was recently charged with third-degree aggravated assault and third-degree terroristic threats. The rapper allegedly punched a female victim in the face with enough force to knock out her front teeth.
The revelations regarding the horrific practices that were going on in all corners of the entertainment industry were a long time in coming. No superficial image repair has the means to restore the integrity of an individual or to address in any meaningful way the wanton exercise of arrogant power.
Perhaps when criminal prosecutions begin to take place, persons in positions of power and influence will be deterred from taking advantage of employee hopefuls, vulnerable subordinates, and would-be stars.