At this point in the week, you can be forgiven if you can't quite remember which Hollywood stars have accused producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault, which ones have said they heard the rumours and didn't know what to think and which ones swear they knew nothing about anything.
The revelations, accusations and reactions have been coming thick and fast since last week's New York Times article alleging that Weinstein is a serial sexual harasser, followed by this week's New Yorker article alleging some of these assaults went as far as rape and a Times follow-up in which big names, including Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, revealed inappropriate advances from Weinstein when they were young actresses. By midweek, it was becoming de rigueur for every A-lister in Hollywood to issue a statement of some kind, even if only to say they disapprove of men who abuse women.
Some cynics have noted that, since Weinstein's own company fired him within a few days of the first article, it's now awfully easy for the stars to speak up: They no longer have anything to lose by displeasing the notoriously combative producer. When their careers might have suffered, they showed no particular courage in addressing rumours so persistent that they were the butt of a joke at the 2013 Oscar nomination ceremony, when co-host Seth MacFarlane congratulated the best supporting actress nominees because they no longer needed to pretend they were attracted to Weinstein. Back then, Hollywood giggled; this week, it piled on.
In truth, the reason Weinstein is no longer unassailable goes back much further than his board's decision to cut him loose. The mastermind of Miramax and the Weinstein Company was the mighty producer behind such hits as Shakespeare in Love, The King's Speech and The Artist and the instigator of Oscar campaigns so thorough and aggressive they left rivals reeling. Breaking the big studios' stranglehold on the awards back in the 1990s, he bested their predictable fare with indie darlings – smaller movies that had brains and class.
But today, Weinstein hasn't had many hits and his former company has hit a rough patch, with its 2016 box-office grosses dropping to $64-million (U.S.) from figures in the hundreds of millions earlier in the decade. Recent movies, including the costume drama Tulip Fever and the transgender drama Three Generations, have tanked, playing to unenthusiastic reviews and poor box office after much-delayed releases.
Part of the problem may be that, at 65, Weinstein has lost his touch or his nerve – according to a 2016 Hollywood Reporter story, a cash crunch may have contributed to the company's capricious release schedule – but much of it has to do with the rise of Netflix and Amazon as the new purveyors of high-quality, independent films aimed at niche audiences of smart adults. Weinstein's world had been disrupted long before The New York Times picked up the phone. That may be why journalists finally found women willing to speak about the obscene propositions Weinstein had made to them early in their careers.
Weinstein's former lawyer Lisa Bloom, in an attempt at damage control before she resigned the gig, described the producer as an old dinosaur learning new ways. Optimistically, you might draw that conclusion from his dramatic fall; his whole modus operandi, from shepherding quality films to the Oscars via the multiplex to taking meetings with young female staffers alone in his hotel room, is dying. The producer represents the last chapter in the long and dirty history of a Hollywood practice so routine they even gave it a name: With Weinstein's fall the casting couch is finally headed to the trash heap.
The trouble with that hopeful analysis is that it overlooks the reality that Weinstein has fallen not because he had abused his power but because he was already losing his power. The Weinstein Company, allegedly filled with staff who felt uncomfortable about the way they had to set up unnecessary private meetings with young actresses, only fired him because the media had exposed him. According to reports, multiple payments had been issued to various complainants over the years, but apparently nobody at the company thought that a few basic precautions – no meetings with actors permitted unless the actor's agent is present – might have been in order.
As he issued an insufficiently confessional apology talking only about the pain he had caused colleagues and his need to seek help, Weinstein (who denies that any encounter was non-consensual) became the umpteenth example of the guy who regrets his actions because he got caught.
So what happens to the self-styled boardroom Lotharios who are still at the height of their professional powers? Well, look no further than the Oval Office, where a chief executive who has been caught on tape admitting that he used his position as a television celebrity to assault women can apparently just ignore a string of similar accusations because he's the dude who got himself elected to the presidency.
Oddly, right-wing voices on social media greeted Weinstein's disgrace with glee – here was a well-known Democratic fundraiser and Hillary Clinton supporter caught in behaviour that should outrage liberals – as though in the horribly polarized United States two wrongs actually did make a right, or sex scandals were a zero-sum game. In truth, Weinstein's fall has refocused attention on Trump's behaviour. If the sexual assault history of a fading Hollywood producer merits such complete social disavowal from all sides, how should Americans react when their President has clearly exhibited a similar pattern?