Now that Harvey Weinstein has been kicked out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the obvious question presents itself: What now?
While Weinstein is an unusually high-profile figure whose identity was closely tied with the Oscars, he certainly wasn’t the only person accused of predatory behavior within the Academy’s ranks. Bill Cosby remains a member of the Academy, for example, as does Roman Polanski.
Does it follow, then, that they’ll be kicked out too? Or will the “ethical standards of conduct” only apply going forward? For that matter, will there actually be a new code of conduct, or will the organization quietly carry on as it always has?
In a statement announcing the decision over the weekend, the AMPAS board of governors wrote that it hoped to “send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.”
The board additionally hinted at a possible policy change, writing that it was “work[ing] to establish ethical standards of conduct that all Academy members will be expected to exemplify.”
As for what that actually means? Here are three possible outcomes, and the pros and cons of both.
Option 1: The Academy purges its ranks of other problematic members
Why it should happen: According to the board, the vote to oust Weinstein was “well in excess of the required two-thirds majority.” In other words, feelings were strong. It’s easy to see why: Who wouldn’t want to boot an accused serial sexual predator and known bully from their organization? (Well – aside from everyone who already knew what Weinstein was and did nothing about it until the public found out. But we’ll get to them.)
And why stop at removing just one person? A widespread purge would shine a light on other monsters hiding within the industry, and send a strong message that Hollywood is changing for real. It’d demonstrate the professional consequences of such heinous misconduct, and double as a show of support for those who were victimized and terrorized.
Why it probably won’t: This is going to be really tricky to implement. The board would have to figure out which alleged crimes are over the line, then privately go through its secretive list of more than 6,000 people to determine who gets the boot. Even if it used an outside organization for this process, people are bound to take issue.
The bigger issue for the Academy, though, may be that its members are hiding a whole lot of other skeletons in their closets. The Weinstein allegations have already led to accusations against Ben Affleck, Oliver Stone, Lars von Trier, and Amazon Studios head Roy Price; it’s hard to imagine Hollywood agreeing to a process that might expose still more misdeeds.
Option 2: The Academy institutes new rules, but they only apply going forward
Why it could happen: Let’s say the Academy introduces “ethical standards” that only apply from this point on. In theory, this would send the message that behavior like Weinstein’s will not be tolerated, while relieving existing members of the worry that their own ugly histories could be exposed. It should, therefore, be less messy and more palatable than trying to apply the rules retroactively.
Moreover, this should gradually weed out predators and bullies. Either they’ll stay on their best behavior or violate the rules and be kicked out as a result (assuming they are enforced). Meanwhile, up-and-coming artists with a checkered history could be barred from ever joining to begin with.
Why it’s a disappointing idea: The Academy will still face the problem of determining who’s guilty of what, which it is ill-equipped to do — but will also face accusations of inconsistency from both sides, since Weinstein will be an exception to the Academy’s own rules.
It also sends a much, much weaker message than a more thorough house-cleaning would. Sure, these new rules could make a big impact, eventually, in theory, maybe. But they won’t necessarily do much to alleviate the situation now — or ever. If the membership stays exactly the same minus one Harvey Weinstein, who’s to say the Academy won’t slip back into its old ways of turning blind eyes?
Option 3: The Academy does nothing
Why it might happen: Obviously, the easiest course of action for the Academy to take would be to quietly do nothing at all. It has already made a public show of concern by expelling Weinstein. Maybe if its leadership wrings their hands and looks anguished for a while, public attention will move on before they have to make any tough decisions.
Why it shouldn’t: Just as obviously, this would do very little to fix the real problem, which extends far beyond Weinstein. Kicking him out was a good start, but that’s all it was – a start. If the Academy stops now, it’s doing nothing to change the culture that allowed someone like Weinstein to fester within it for so long to begin with.
In the past few weeks, celebrity after celebrity has spoken up to say they support the victims, that they want to stop this epidemic of abuse, that they’re determined to make sure that their industry does better. If they meant even half of what they said, they must know that doing nothing is unacceptable — and that the rest of us will be watching and waiting for them to do anything at all.
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