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The scandal surrounding disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein will prove to be “a watershed moment” for the film industry, says Howard Stringer, the former head of Sony Corp., and will bring about much-needed change and equality for women in show business.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the international TV market MIPCOM in Cannes on Monday, Stringer addressed the ever-growing Weinstein scandal, which includes dozens of allegations against the Oscar-winning producer, including sexual harassment, assault and even rape.
Weinstein has since been fired from his own company, expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is under investigation by U.S. and British police over some of the allegations.
Since the allegations surfaced many prominent actresses have taken to social media to highlight the problem of sexual assault, including Alyssa Milano, whose hashtag #MeToo, requesting people to share their own stories of abuse, has been used hundreds of thousands of times since she started it Sunday night.
The problem of abuse and discrimination against women in nothing new in Hollywood but Stringer, a 50-year-veteran of the TV and film business, said this time things can change.
“It’s not 40 years ago when studio executives behaved very badly and the casting couch was quite evident,” said Stringer, who was president CBS from 1988 to 1995 and CEO of Sony from 2005 to 2013. “Even though there were strong women in Hollywood then, there was a sense that they couldn’t beat the system. Now the women are organized and united and together will beat the system, whether the men want it or not.”
Stringer said the scale of the outrage triggered by the Weinstein allegations has made it clear to everyone, “particularly the male members of the Hollywood community who didn’t already know it, that there is much more anger, justifiable anger, out there then they ever knew. I think people have come out in the open and are now free to be brave and why they weren’t before is because they were afraid, afraid of the male bastion that was at the center at the community. That structure is going to have cracks in it, and women are smart enough and talented enough, and everyone knows who they are, who will seize this moment and split the edifice open.”
Stringer said Hollywood had to realize that the culture of discrimination and abuse is also hurting the bottom line. “This is really about the whole range of the business, of working with the studios, of getting movies made and TV shows on air. It’s compromising everybody, including the quality of the movie, which is what we are trying to do,” he said. “Look at Wonder Woman. We all sort of saluted that movie but there has to be a lot of Wonder Women. I think we have to change. And I think this is a signal moment. I don’t think it will vanish because I don’t think the actresses will let it vanish. It will reverberate for a long time and women will stand up to the men who don’t know what they are doing.”
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