As A List Hollywood stars come out to tell their Harvey Weinstein couch harassment stories, I have to wonder about those who didn’t make it through after saying no — actresses who saw their roles evaporate and left acting. The New York Times headlines profiling Weinstein accusers touts Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie but also introduces us a woman who is now a psychology professor in Colorado. How many better actresses and strong-minded women would there be in Hollywood if so many hadn’t been forced out?
I thought of this after reading by a tweet from the actress Rose Marie. She’s best known as one of the jovial sidekicks from the 1960s’ Dick Van Dyke Show. Not to diminish the rest of the cast, but Rose Marie is one of the best reasons to watch the show, especially during those rare moments she’s allowed to step out from her character’s wisecracking spinster persona and sing or act. On Twitter, she shared that she lost a music contract in the 1950s because she wouldn’t sleep with a producer.
What if a talented actress like Rose Marie had been given more opportunities and wasn’t just known for a supporting part in a old sitcom? What if the psychology professor had gotten the Shakespeare in Love lead? (Imagine a world where Paltrow was only known to 800 or so Facebook friends for too-perfect family pics and memes from dubious health sites.)
Disclaimer: This is a minor point compared with any actresses who weren’t able to deal with the harassment and the industry silencing machinery. I’m sure there are tragedies that are more than just career pivots.
The tragedies were reflections not on the power of nature but on the power of our human disregard for one another.
When the ramparts of New Orleans burst and flooded its streets and homes, I was at a hospital preparing to welcome a child. As my partner and I celebrated new life we saw images of people trapped in attics, heard tales of loved ones swept away as they sought to protect their children. We watched other new parents and their vulnerable children caught without food, water or services in a city suddenly unable to operate.
The tragedies show our human disregard. The trapped were almost all African American. They were almost all poor. Stories on the news – shot-at helicopters, mass violence in the Convention center – reflected America’s racist imagination more than reality. The levees failed because our political leaders ignored the recommendations of government engineers and scientists and slashed spending on storm protection. Even the hurricane itself was supercharged by a century of burning fossil fuels, our disregard for nature and our stonewalling over the reality of global warming.
A favorite image of pacifists comes from a line in the Book of Isaiah, that part in that talks about beating the swords into plowshares. But surrounding passages have been echoing in my ears lately. Like this one:
bq. Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hatest; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.… Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings before mine eyes; cease to do evil. Learn to do well; seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, please for the widow. Isaiah 1:13 – 17.
The righteous indigation that followed the images from New Orleans is fading. Life is returning to normal in Washington DC and the high costs of recovery (and the continuing costs of Bush’s wars) will be shifted to the poor. We cannot stay silent to the vain oblations of our government. It is time to do well and protect the poor. It is time to relieve the oppressed and demand justice for the human decisions that led to broken levees.
This isn’t all finger-pointing: we each need to seek a self-judgement about our American lifestyles that have fuelled global warming with its consumeristic disregard for consequences. We need to depend upon each other more, seek a community deeper and more interlaced than that offered by Walmart and McDonalds. We are all part of one another, part of the earth and brethren to our human family. We need to gather together as a people who know that government and consumerism alone can never address our society’s deepest needs and that vain oblations alone will do nothing to put away the evil of our doings. We need to get angry and sing a song of change. We need more Isaiahs.
*By Johann Christoph Arnold*
bq. “I often wonder how many more tragedies it will take before we learn to truly love each other, and before we grasp how happy we could be if we cared for those around us as well as we care for ourselves.”