Hollywood has always been a controversial town, with scandals often involving sex, drugs and abuse. Here, we focus on the latter and how there has been an acceptance of abusive culture throughout Hollywood history. Whether this is completely unintentional, we, as spectators of this golden town, will never truly know. However, that is not to say that there has not been a silent (and sometimes abundantly clear) acceptance of many prominent figures in Hollywood abusing those around them.
Perhaps in the most recent news regarding this topic, Johnny Depp (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Alice in Wonderland), critically acclaimed heartthrob since the 1990s, was accused of domestic abuse by his then-wife, fellow actor Amber Heard (The Rum Diary, The Danish Girl). In these claims that surfaced in May 2016, Heard released images of her bruised face along with video evidence of her ex-husband displaying abusive behaviour. Many were quick to dismiss the claims, not even necessarily because there was not enough evidence provided by the victim, but perhaps because it seemed difficult to accept that Johnny Depp, the man that had been idolised by so many for so long could carry out such acts. This seems to be a common response in similar highly publicised cases; society does not want to accept that the people we idolise and hold dear (despite how far removed they really are from our realities) could be capable of doing such things. However, this attitude only empowers abusers and discourages victims from stepping forward. Simultaneously, we tell victims that they should never hold back when it comes to speaking out against those who have abused them, something seen even more in the case to follow. Depp, since the allegations, restraining order, and subsequent divorce settlement, has received little reprimanding within the Hollywood community, which raises questions about the true nature of Hollywood and if those who find themselves to be victims will be safe.
The contradictory concept of telling victims of assault and abuse that they should speak up while also shunning and dismissing them had never been more prominent than in the many accusations made against beloved sitcom father Bill Cosby. In total, more than fifty women have come forward with horrifying details of events dating back to the 1970s where the actor had often drugged and abused them. Many of the women recall either mentioning these moments to others and being silenced or withholding information, with the fear that their lives would be negatively impacted if they spoke out against someone so powerful and loved. Notable faces including figures such as Janice Dickinson were amongst the victims who, despite an ongoing and complicated court case, may never have justice due to the statute of limitations in many of their cases. The disappointing nature of victim-blaming is something that perpetuates rather than stops abuse in the way that people seem to feel emboldened by the lack of repercussions.
Braveheart legend Mel Gibson has also dealt with his fair share of scandals regarding abuse and misdemeanour, something that actually stretched back to the 1990s and became public again in recent years. In a recorded audio conversations with his then-partner Oksana Grigorieva, Gibson could be heard hurling abuse at Grigorieva over the phone as well as using racist slurs, while stating that if she were to get ‘’raped by a pack’’ of men it would be her ‘’fault’’. These words which were undeniably Gibson, along with various occasions where the actor has been caught spouting anti-Semitic and homophobic rhetoric does not seem to have stopped or even slowed down his career. In early 2017, he received vast recognition including a nomination for Best Director during the Academy Awards for Hacksaw Ridge.
This article is not meant to simply criticise Hollywood, but actually to ask if Hollywood wants to (consciously or subconsciously) support victims or those who have abused those very people. When it comes to careers and a world of work that is so based on being public in order to survive, it is easy for the general public to feel involved and justified in expressing opinions. However, in cases like these, ultimately it should come down to the experiences of victims and making sure that they are not vilified while potentially enabling abusive and exploitive people.
What do you think? Share your thoughts by commenting below.
Words: Keisha Schneider
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