Twilight of the Idols and the Idolaters

Most of us spend our lives navigating an uneven path between the altar and the mall, neither irreproachable saints nor irredeemable sinners, neither Mother Teresa nor Adolf Hitler. We spend the greater part of our lives in the marketplace, hustling, making compromises with our better selves to close a deal. But we also light the occasional candle, say the occasional prayer, and find delight in our beloved’s smile.

In his poems, Leonard Cohen referred to the marketplace as “Boogie Street,” a scene not of prostitution necessarily, but of mutual sexual availability certainly. He identified Singapore as one such place, but he also might have tagged Hollywood, where young men and women parade their wares in hopes of being “discovered” by a big-shot producer.

If one is a young woman trying to make it in Hollywood, a meeting with Harvey Weinstein is a consummation devoutly to be wished. It’s not yet the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it’s the express train she needs to catch to get there. She is not unique, has no special talent. In fact, she’s interchangeable with the hundreds of other pretty young things prowling Hollywood. But Harvey can make her a star.

By the time a young woman lands a meeting with Harvey, she’s likely to have acquired a shocking degree of sophistication for someone her age. Zoë Brock, who was a 23-year-old-model when she met Harvey in 1998, is a good example. She describes a particularly wild time she’d had eight years earlier in the south of France. “I had watched helplessly as [Danish supermodel] Helena Christensen vomited all over the bathroom at Jimmy’s after doing too much blow with [dead rock superstar] Michael Hutchence and Jacques Chirac, who was in between his various Presidencies of France.” She was 15 at the time.

Zoë admits to having led Harvey on, telling him about her sexual exploits with famous people and how it was that she acquired a nickname associated with a popular sex toy. And that’s how she came to get what appears to be the standard Harvey Weinstein treatment. Harvey took her to his hotel room, got naked and asked for a massage. She refused. He started to cry. “You don’t like me because I’m fat.” The following day, he sent her his apologies and flowers. This is the routine. Other women have described it in similar terms.

Zoë felt “betrayed and used” and then “amused” though her amusement apparently disappeared once the other women Harvey had hit on in this way came out of the Hollywood mire and started to feed on his corpulent, carbuncled carcass with stories of their victimization. Then she signed on as well. “Me too” is the current Facebook meme.

Zoë’s story tells us something important about Hollywood’s Harvey Weinsteins. They are Robert B. Millman’s “acquired situational narcissists,” men whose latent tendencies might have worked themselves out as they matured, formed lasting relationships, focused on their families. But for the trigger and support of a celebrity worshipping culture, Harvey Weinstein might have turned out to be a fairly decent human being. His former company, Miramax, is a compound of his parents’ names.

Harvey’s “victims” come from a variety of backgrounds. Some, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, are the offspring of Hollywood royalty or, like Katherine Kendall, the children of Washington socialites. Others were anonymous and unpedigreed, like Zoë. What all of them wanted from Harvey—with a want that bordered on obsession–was celebrity.

Harvey didn’t want actual intercourse with these women. No relationships, either. He just needed to get off and he’d do it to himself as they watched. So great was this need for release that he’d humiliate and debase himself, throwing tantrums, begging and weeping, anything at all just so they’d let him.

In the marketplace called Hollywood, there is no respite from Boogie Street. Every minute, of every hour, of everyday, predator and prey feed upon each other in a painful, pathological dialectic that must end in tragedy for all. The Eagles describe it best in their 1979 hit, “The King of Hollywood”:

After ‘while nothin’ was pretty.
After ‘while everything got lost.
Still, his Jacuzzi runneth over.
Still he just couldn’t get off.
He’s just another power junky.
Just another silk scarf monkey.
You’d know it if you saw his stuff.
The man just isn’t big enough

To make it in Hollywood, one needs to be objectified as a sex symbol because sex is the summum bonum of our popular culture. We go to the movies so we can escape who we are for a while by identifying with the characters on the screen, and we want them to have, not great human relationships, not great families, but great sex. For 90 minutes, we are voyeurs, vicariously experiencing what’s happening to them on the screen. Hollywood didn’t create this culture. We did. But Hollywood does feed our narcissism, just as Harvey Weinstein’s “victims” fed his.

All the while that Hollywood was expressing horror at Donald Trump’s private “locker room talk,” it was witnessing Harvey Weinstein’s abusive behavior and keeping quiet about it. They all knew, even the ones that donned pussy hats and made orations on behalf of women’s rights in Washington. Even Barack and Michelle Obama who, along with Hillary Clinton, had to know. (Surely James Comey would have told them.) Yet the Obamas sent their daughter Malia to intern at the Weinstein Company. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

My prediction is that Hollywood will continue to support the Democrats, including those who abuse and even kill women. Democrats support abortion and for the folks in Hollywood, that’s all that matters. Democrat politicians will continue to value the support of celebrities, while the celebrities, for their part, pretend to introspect. And so, Hollywood will continue to be the cesspool that it is, though perhaps with a few more women in executive positions to put a band-aid on the wound.


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