It took a week for the memorializing and eulogizing of infamous Playboy mag founder Hugh Heffner to be interrupted by another Entertainment mogul scandal.
On a personal note, I cannot write about Heffner unreferential to the gruesome monster lurking in my bedroom closet: The stack of decades old Playboy magazines perched out of the reach of my childish arms. As a 17 year old, trying to have some peace of mind, I demanded my dad remove his firehazard collection of Playboys from the closet in my bedroom. My childhood bedroom was the replacement to my dad’s mancave, one that was never properly transformed. When my dad agreed to let me dump every last one of them, my mom tearfully thanked me. Playboy caused me anguish, and likely caused my mom unimaginable pain as my dad listlessly kept them hidden away at home.
You could probably do a bit of your own research into the creepy dilapidated facade behind the glitz and glamour of the playboy mansion. Proceed to links with caution
Our culture likes to celebrate the openness that Heffner ushered, but is still shocked when another Entertainment Industry giant gets caught cashing in on Hefner’s revolution. According to Weinstein, the 60s & 70s helped him feel entitled toward this sort of behavior. It goes without saying that I am disgusted with Weinstein. I wouldn’t want to stop with him. Roman Polanski had his defenders, although I am happy to say Weinstein couldn’t get away so easy. Perhaps the entertainment industry need not moralize and wag fingers at Heffner’s moral legacy, but instead hang its head in disappointment.
Playboy, the sexual revolution, and the male entitlement are often referred to as separate things. Male Entitlement and Sexual Exploitation at the filthy hands of conservatives is often reveled, perhaps because of our self-righteous need to catch others in hypocrisy. But what about the Entitled Male that practices what they preach, is not a hypocrite, and damages many victims and sexually exploits the vulnerable? Putting aside the sort of loser that becomes desperate and puts aside their moral principals to take advantage of others, instead of seeking help in their dire need… What about the person that lacks any moral integrity or personal sympathy of others? We can simply classify them as a sociopath, without the freedom to make moral decisions.
This sort of rationalizing emboldened Weinstein, likely Polanski and Cosby as well. Apparently, Weinstein became in inside joke in the entertainment industry. Some of this could be attributed to the massive amount of influence that he had, much of it could also be attributed to sexual exploitation and predatory practices being a long standing problem. The problem may have been insurmountable or unsolvable if you are in the vulnerable position. Just watch this clip of 1988 Gwyneth Paltrow with David Letterman. If you know anything of what it is to be victimized or vulnerable, you can clearly see someone desperate to speak up, but unable to. Read her body language and awkward laughter. She isn’t afraid to talk about it now.
Now that Weinstein is crashing and burning, now that Bill Cosby (once endeared as America’s beloved sitcom dad Dr. Huxtable) has crashed and burned, who’s next? the 2014 Amy Berg documentary An Open Secret exposes a few stories of pedophilia in the entertainment industry. Backed by Elijah Wood, former child star Corey Feldman alleges that rampant Pedophilia. Here’s one clip of him arguing with Corey Haim about abuse they survived. Clips of Corey Feldman are not hard to find, and I spare you clips posted by conspiracy theory pages..
Respected High Profile celebrities have received honors, awards, and nominations for the past several decades, have now been found credible. Perhaps more accusations will be taken seriously. Perhaps more young entertainers will want to come forward. Perhaps more power movers in the Industry will disappear or go overseas.
But that is just my predictions. I think that the eulogizing of Hefner and fans of the male entitlement culture that he ushered in blind us to the moral cowardice of today’s moral vacuums.
I do want to avoid a few an overgeneralization here. I think a mistake to say that Hollywood is in on it. ‘Hollywood’ is finally comfortable renouncing a predator, and will much more likely renounce more predators. I don’t want to assign a moral value of evil to some abstract concept of ‘Hollywood,’ that would be too simplistic. There has been some degree of courage to speak up about this. Besides, it is the same mistake to assume that ‘The Vatican’ is a monolithic group think institution, and this scandal shows that Hollywood isn’t so monolithic.
However, I do find it a real problem when the ilk of playboy can be shrugged or even admired, while Weinstein can be subsequently be denounced. It is a shame, that in our society, hypocrisy is somehow the worst crime. Could be having a moral vacuum be worse?
Hefner is eulogized for having created an openness, where sexuality is not stigmatized nor shamed. Hefner, and others who helped tear down stigmas are valorized, principally for not being hypocrites. Somehow Hefner is better, because he was consistent. But can I really say that a pedophile who brags about pedophilia is better than the pedophile who condemns it? Let me be more specific, likewise, is the active sexual predator somehow morally superior because he brags about his escapades? What about the inactive pedophile who denounces such practices? The reformed have little space in our cultural narrative. Somehow, Hefner can be valorized for not being a hypocrite, while the person who distrusts or outright disagrees with their own evil behavior cannot even be partially correct for condemning themselves?
I think that the sexual exploitation of others is always wrong. I don’t think that sexual exploitation can become better or worse. Specifically, I don’t think that someone who actively exploits others can make a moral case for their behavior, is not dismissed because they dislike it, nor is an active sexual predator morally superior to the one who cannot practice what they preach. Our aversion to hypocrisy is so tantamount, some would rather take the route of moral cowardice, like Harvey Weinstein, blame their culture. Some would rather avoid the risk of hypocrisy, the risk of having any moral standard whatsoever, and go the Hefner route: blatant exceptionalism.
Having a moral standard, failing to live up to that standard, being a hypocrite is too risky a venture for some. Removing personal responsibility for any moral compass is an easy way out. It would be easier for a young man to reduce himself to a bunch of sexual urges, instead of understanding when a vulnerable young women isn’t interested. The modern young person smugly dismisses the need for a moral identity. They get to do what they want when they want. But then there are no stakes or genuine personal investment. But even the ambition to be morally consistent is somehow too much of a risk for some modern men.
Not taking any risks, by being morally exceptional, appears like invincibility to the inexperienced. Hugh Hefner didn’t have the courage to live within this tension of moral responsibility, so he abandoned it all and felt better. He buttressed himself inside a withering creepy estate where his many wives provided him no genuine emotional intimacy. Weinstein believed he was above accountability, and used his status to prey upon young women making a name for themselves in the industry. Having no sense of personal moral responsibility, he is only now being held accountable. Despite his freedom at the expense of other’s dignity, he is now, likely, for the rest of his life to be held in shame.
And sure, the ‘safe’ moral ground that people today stand on is avoiding offense and being agreeable. Weinstein was behaving in a way that was agreeable, and accepted, and now the times disagree with him and reject him. Perhaps a more significant moral ground is called for then agree-ability or inoffensiveness.