Quid Pro Quo (n): Something given or received for something else; also a deal arranging, a quid pro quo.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
I approach this column with fear and trepidation. Within the confines of these 770 words, I know there will be comments taken out of context and misunderstandings birthed. Here we go anyway.
The revelations coming out of Hollywood regarding a pervasive culture of sexual harassment are stunning not only for their grotesqueness but also for their hypocrisy.
While Harvey Weinstein remains the center of attention, other producers and directors are now being outed for their abusive and warped treatment of others.
Hollywood has reveled in calling President Trump a sexual harasser. These latest charges against numerous members of the entertainment elite prove that Trump was at most a minor-leaguer in comparison.
Apparently, the legendary “casting couch” was never retired and seems to be the way forward for most Hollywood talent even today. And so many knew. So many. Even while pointing fingers at others, the core of the entertainment industry was shown to be rotten and corrupt.
But here is the difficult thing. Recently, big-name actresses such as Reese Witherspoon have come forward to detail numerous incidents of sexual harassment to which she occasionally succumbed for fear of losing her job.
We are also hearing of lower-level staff subjected to equally vile and repulsive behavior. Assistants, coordinators, writers, prop people, and administrators are also targets of harassment.
This is horrible and completely unacceptable. The men (and women) responsible for this behavior should be outed and never allowed to work in entertainment again. Where applicable, criminal charges should be pursued.
But then I catch myself. “Quid pro quo” means this for that, literally. We seem to be looking intently at the “this” portion while ignoring the “that” portion.
Something was received in exchange. And that something is most likely fame, fortune, and the perks of Hollywood stardom.
Like football players who realize that the final step into the NFL requires extra muscle mass and ability that only a performance-enhancing drug can provide, actors may realize that the final step to that coveted role is a roll in the sack, as it were.
It smacks of a Faustian deal with the devil where any dream can come true with a small price to pay: your soul. A Faustian system.
But a system as broken as Hollywood is broken on two sides: the people of power (like Weinstein) who throw the levers of action and the people of ambition who want to be involved with the industry at any cost. If either side buckles, the culture collapses.
Maybe we are starting to see the beginning of this. If actors (and other staff) refuse to accept the quid pro quo, it’s possible that the harassment can be ended.
But what of those actors who refused the quid pro quo system? Those are the ones who are most aggrieved. While possibly having more talent and ability than the actor ultimately selected, they are left out in the cold to decide whether or not to keep waiting tables at Denny’s for another five years or give up and go home to Iowa where a simple yet stable and unremarkable life awaits.
True, the actresses who enjoy fame and fortune now must look back at the acts it required to get to where they are. This is a tough thing to do and ultimately heart-breaking. Given the choice, would these big names give up fame and fortune to erase the indignity of sexual harassment and quid pro quo?
There is an interesting question indeed.
And what of the entertainment industry people who knew and said nothing? In some ways, they have played Switzerland to Hollywood’s Hitler, knowingly complicit in the crimes and atrocities of the regime yet blissfully benefitting by stocking their own bank accounts with ill-gotten gains.
Also, what of the major studios and distribution companies who, I am sure, have human resource departments whose job it is to identify such behavior and root it out?
It seems like the entertainment industry needs to find a way to police itself. If companies like Warner Brothers, Disney, and Universal Studios got together and created standards with avenues for reporting and discipline, the public’s faith might be restored.
As for now, Hollywood, I’d suggest you stop worrying about Washington and clean up your own backyard.
Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and has no affiliation with the entertainment industry. Other than being a bad amateur theater critic. He can be reached at [email protected].