Life & Culture

Retribution for the men who abused their power

We look back at the big showbiz stories of 2017 in our end-of-year round-up


Normally a showbiz review might include highlights of the year and the fictitious details of some A-list couple’s split. But this year’s biggest story cannot be described as a highlight.

The story that dominated the latter part of the year, overshadowing all else, has been the unravelling of disturbing revelations about sexual harassment in the film and entertainment industry.

Sadly, for the Jewish community, the predator at the heart of the accusations was Harvey Weinstein. The Jewish film producer was the first to fall in a long line of men, accused of exploiting their power, not just from the world of film, but in politics and education, too.

The Jewish community recoiled as the stars we admired, from actor Dustin Hoffman, to film maker Brett Ratner, all stood accused of sexual harassment.

In an essay for The Hollywood Reporter, writer Anna Graham Hunter accused Hoffman of abusing her when she was 17. She told of how Hoffman, according to Graham, asked for a foot massage on her first day as an intern on the set of the TV film version of Death of a Salesman.

“He was openly flirtatious, he grabbed my ass, he talked about sex to me and in front of me,” she claimed.

Weinstein, one of Hollywood’s most powerful executives, was sacked by the board of his own company after being accused of sexually harassing a series of women over several decades.

The allegations, which were published by the New York Times, revealed that Weinstein had reached at least eight previously undisclosed settlements with women who had accused him of sexual harassment.

Movie mogul Brett Ratner, who has been involved in dozens of box-office hits, was accused of sexual misconduct by six women. Ratner denied the accusations through his lawyer.

Perhaps though, the most important thing to come out of the sexual harassment scandal in Hollywood was the voice of the victims.

The #metoo social media campaign — a hashtag which aims to illustrate anyone can be the victim or sexual harassment — launched in the wake of the Weinstein story.

We heard from many Jewish women in showbiz brave enough to speak out about their experiences.

Sarah Solemani, the actress and writer, whose credits include Bridget Jones’s Baby, Him & Her, and Bad Education, said the problem was “toxic and starts in the audition room”.

In an article for the Guardian, she described her first experience of sexism in showbiz at the age of 19. She said that, after being invited to a director’s house for dinner, she was asked by him to take her clothes off

Hollywood star Natalie Portman also spoke candidly about her own experience. “When I heard everything coming out, I was like, wow, I’m so lucky that I haven’t had this,” she said. But on further reflection she revealed she had countless stories where men in her industry have exploited their power.

“I went from thinking, ‘I don’t have a story’, to thinking, ‘Oh wait, I have a hundred stories’,” she said.

“We just took it for granted as, like, this is part of the process.”

Not everyone got it right when talking about the problem. The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik had to apologise after her own response to the #metoo campaign was described as “victim blaming”.

In an opinion piece, Bialik suggested women were harassed on a hierarchical tier according to how attractive they were perceived, and how they dress.

We all cheered for one woman who did what she could to live up to her screen name. The Israeli Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot refused to be in the film’s sequel unless disgraced director Brett Ratner’s production company was removed from the deal.

And we can only imagine how Drake’s mum kvelled when he halted one of his shows in Sydney, Australia to support women who were being harassed in his audience. The Canadian rapper stopped in the middle of a song to tell the offender: “If you don’t stop touching girls, I’m going to come out there and f*** you up.”

In the UK, away from the scandal of sexual harassment, we enjoyed watching a Jewish mother from Hertfordshire battle it out as one of 12 contestants in this year’s Great British Bake-Off. Stacey Hart made it to the semi-final, although the judges weren’t convinced by her “chouxnicorns”, an attempt to craft a unicorn from choux pastry.

Her obsession with glitter provided the light relief we needed. And her recipes now feature on the JC food pages.

We also saw an ex-speechwriter for David Cameron and the heir to a 120-year-old Manchester jewellery shop, battle it out as contestants in this year’s The Apprentice. Elliot Van Emden and Charles Burns tried but failed to win a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar.

We had a better chance with X Factor duo Jack and Joel, but they, too, failed to win. The pair, who were wild-card entrants, received the fewest votes after performing The Edge of Heaven as part of George Michael week.

All in all, 2017 was the year the glitz and glamour of Hollywood cracked and masks slipped. We hope that in 2018 the lights will be turned back on — step forward Gal Gadot?


Rosa Doherty is the JC’s Social Affairs Correspondent

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