A little while back, I analyzed Kevin Spacey through the lens of one of an indie Hollywood navel-gazer, Swimming With Sharks. It was, I decided a window on Spacey’s soul, the self-justification of all immorality “It was like this when I got here.” But beyond that, the story had a mark of truth to it, in that it was describing a very real kind of office tyranny.
On a larger level, this piece of art from 1994 underlines the reality that Hollywood has always been this way, that Weinstein and Spacey and everyone else are just the current manifestations of an industry in which youth and beauty and popularity and every expression of the human soul is a commodity sold by the theater seat. Entertainment is high-reward, high-risk: and the wisdom of William Goldman: “Nobody knows anything”, means that you will lose money just as often as you gain it (even a piece of a sure-thing like Solo: a Star Wars Story, is looking like a big fat pile of disappointment for Disney). Consequently, someone who pays his dues and has a track record of bringing home the bacon gets a pass for whatever swinery happens behind closed doors.“The Darkness of Kevin Spacey: Swimming With Sharks and How Hollywood Breeds Monsters“
Most of it is what you would expect from “terrible boss”: screaming tirades, insults, throwing things, absurdly specific commandments, classic abuser behavior. But here’s the kicker:
Chellie Campbell worked as an assistant to Rudin and his boss at the time, television and film producer Edgar Scherick, from 1982 to 1984 in Los Angeles. Having worked with Rudin when he was in his early 20s, Campbell saw a different side of the producer than assistants in later decades. While Rudin was demanding and would yell at Campbell, Scherick’s constant angry outbursts were much worse, she said. She felt that Scherick’s actions signaled to Rudin that this type of behavior was acceptable. Campbell, who is currently 71 and a “financial stress reduction” coach, left the entertainment industry after working for Rudin and Scherick. She recalled the first job interview she had after leaving: “They said, ‘Well, the main thing we want to know is if you can work with difficult people.’ I burst out laughing. I said, ‘Let me tell you some stories.’”
“He would have been 23, 24, and had just come from New York, where he had gotten a very early start at age 16. He was very charming during the job interview. Very nice to me. I was about ten years older than him. I remember him asking if it bothered me that I was older than him. I said, “No, you’re a producer. I’m not. I’m happy to learn what you know.” I worked for him for about nine months and then I moved up to working for Edgar. I found much more anger and eruption from Edgar. He was so volatile. One time he jumped up on my desk, screaming at the office runner who did errands all the time. I had never seen people behave like that. And that was happening all the time. Scott, it seems to me, kind of got permission. These people are not alone in the motion-picture industry of being screamers.”Vulture.com, “Scott Rudin, As Told By His Assistants”
Well, of course. He didn’t just decide to act that way; he learned that it would be acceptable, permissible within the entertainment industry. The hungry need the powerful, the powerful feed off the hungry. It’s a servile relationship by its very definition. The Law of Averages dictates that some will ride this to the extreme. It was always thus; it will always be thus.
Which is why that no sane person can read the ritualized outpourings of corporatized sentiment seriously:
“I want to say how much I respect and applaud the people that have spoken up about their experience working with Scott Rudin. It takes an enormous amount of courage and strength to stand up and state your truth. This has started a conversation that is long overdue, not just on Broadway, and the entertainment industry, but across all workforce. The most important voice we needed to hear from was Scott Rudin, he has now spoken up and stepped away from The Music Man. I hope and pray this is a journey of healing for all the victims and the community. We are currently rebuilding the Music Man team and are aspiring to create an environment that is not only safe, but ensures that everyone is seen, heard and valued. This is something that is and has always been very important to me.”Hugh Jackman, in a statment that was totally not written for him, on Twitter.
Honestly, who believes any of that is genuine? It’s all the same language that everyone is expected to say in these situations, as formulaic as a Marvel origin story. You could play Bingo with it: “respect and applaud”, “courage and strength”, “state your truth”, “started a conversation,” “journey of healing” “aspiring to create,” “everyone is seen, heard and valued”, YATZEE!. A bot could write this. Meanwhile someone Scott Rudin trained is already turning his own office into a tiny post-modern gulag. The “conversation” won’t happen. No one will be seen, heard, or valued. The Beat Goes On.
Therefore, what is the purpose of these outings? Is it just that it’s this one’s turn, like Harvey Weinstein before him? Or is it that, some reptilitian portion of the brain really likes these kinds of stories? Who doesn’t enjoy tales of monsters, get off on the vicarious thrill of power? And Hollywood has always loved the dark image in the mirror. Fear Us, For We Are Beasts, say the deracinated nerds who abuse each other for points before the gross. So, let this pig take the fall. He’s got it coming, and there will always be another one, and if there isn’t, we’ll make one.
Vulture – “Devouring Culture”. Indeed.