Hundreds more, however, remained silent while he was allegedly preying on these women, even though Weinstein’s behavior was one of the biggest “open secrets” in the industry. When Weinstein was finally indicted on five felony counts of sexual assault and rape in 2018 in New York, the number of previously silent boldface names who admitted they had “heard stories” of the megaproducer’s “inappropriate” behavior was almost comical. Most in Hollywood expressed relief that he was finally being held to account, but some continued to plead ignorance or even praise the mogul, especially actors whose careers he’d launched or aided.
Award-winning actors Meryl Streep and Matt Damon both insisted they hadn’t known about his casting couch antics, though Damon himself was accused of helping to kill a story exposing Weinstein’s predation. Filmmaker Michael Moore called Weinstein “one of the best people to work with” in Hollywood in 2015; two years later, he wasn’t just acting shocked at Weinstein’s sexual improprieties, but demanding the industry introduce gender quotas on its boards to forestall future Weinsteins.
Widespread awareness that Weinstein was hurting women didn’t stop anyone from working with him during the height of his career, so long as that awareness remained confined to the industry.
But Weinstein could not have operated without the consent of that industry, which still viewed the “casting couch” concept – in which sex is exchanged for roles – as a normal and acceptable part of the business. NBC sitcom 30 Rock was mocking his sexual quid-pro-quos all the way back in 2012, while Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s own joke about the predatory producer at a 2013 Oscars event was met with raucous laughter, suggesting the audience knew full well what he was talking about.