It’s the year 2200 and women everywhere are lining up to win the prestigious Miriam Weinstein Women’s Award, a gift bequeathed by the noted philanthropist and women’s rights activist, Harvey Weinstein. The award is selflessly named after the philanthropist’s mother as a symbol of the hardships of women past. The name Weinstein is synonymous with the struggle of women everywhere, but especially in the arts, where they have to fight harder to make their voices heard.
“Receiving the Weinstein Prize for Women in the Arts has been a lifelong dream of mine” said Director Jessica R. Abbot, whose films depicting the struggles of lesbian space pioneers in the male dominated mines on Mars received critical acclaim, but underperformed at the box office. “The Weinstein award symbolizes everything we want the industry to be, it represents our highest aspirations”
The Weinstein Prize, which began as a $5 million donation to a local university, has grown in scope over time to become the prestigious award it is today—the pinnacle of achievement in gender equity and women’s rights.
This seems to be the futuristic movie that’s playing in Harvey Weinstein’s head right now.
Weinstein, who recently was deposed from his own company as a result of a scathing exposé in the New York Times outlining his sordid history of sexual assault and harassment, has announced that he is giving $5 million to the USC women’s film program. The award is to be named the Miriam Weinstein scholarship after his late mother. Weinstein calls the timing of the announcement “coincidental,” and says it’s been in the works for a year, but we shouldn’t discount the high probability that he saw the storm clouds of his legacy accumulating and was setting up this scholarship in an attempt to combat it.
Weinstein’s vision for the future isn’t as divorced from reality as we might imagine. That the past can be clouded over completely and that money can rehabilitate legacies is a truth with many precedents. Just look at the case of Alfred Nobel.
Alfred Nobel, most famous for the peace prize bearing his name, also happened to have invented TNT as well as various other weapons. Nobel was both an arms dealer and war profiteer. There’s a reason most people don’t readily recall that: money and public relations.
In the waning years of his life, a French newspaper mistakenly thought he had died and published a scathing obituary with the headline “The Merchant of Death is Dead.” The article’s lede read: “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” As a result of this visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future, Nobel decided that he instead wanted to be remembered for good things….as opposed to the things he actually did in life. So he ran what essentially was a PR campaign to rehabilitate his sullied name. Upon his death in 1896, when his empire consisted of over 90 factories manufacturing explosives and ammunition, he bequeathed the majority of his weapons fortune toward the creation Nobel Peace Prize.
et Voila! Within a few generations history was clouded. A few more and Nobel’s name has become synonymous with all that is good about humanity. It is the trademark symbol of hope and peace. We are only 121 years out from Nobel’s death but his legacy as a force for peace, despite his actual life’s work, has been cemented. Ask most people on the street about Alfred Nobel and they will tell you about the award, not about the war profiteering.
Is it really so far afield to imagine Harvey Weinstein attempting a modern remake of Nobel’s successful script?
Weinstein, too, sees his obituary—both professional and real—coming into clearer focus. He knows his only hope is to use his money to mask his lifelong lechery. He’s embarking on what amounts to a very expensive public relations campaign to affect the future narrative. I give Harvey good odds of success. This is a man who actively has been shaping narratives for over 30 years—a man who, after all, was able have his PR machine garner ”Shakespeare in Love” the best picture Oscar over “Saving Private Ryan.”
Weinstein is an operator working with the knowledge, rooted in history, that money and power buy narrative and legacy the world over. He assumes that image rehabilitation and historical whitewashing are always possible with enough money and force of personality. USC’s acceptance of his gift for the Miriam Weinstein Scholarship will start the process of “Nobelling” the Weinstein name and creating an historical opacity that will blur the focus of generations to come from the life he actually lived and hone in on the myths he’s seeking to create.
Editor’s Note: A few hours after the publication of this article, USC announced that it would reject Harvey Weinstein’s donation. The author and the editors of American Greatness laud that decision.