Recently, along with many women from the #MeToo movement, Uma Thurman came out as a survivor of sexual assault and harassment by Harvey Weinstein. Additionally, she claimed that as a result of her work with Quentin Tarantino, she has a permanently damaged neck and knees.
The story of sexual assault, while horrifying, is unfortunately increasingly commonplace as more and more actors and actresses reveal their assault at the hands of more powerful people in Hollywood. What I find particularly interesting, and repulsive, is the other dimension to Thurman’s story: the unsafe car, the crash, and the questions about workplace ethics and workplace culture that they raise.
Hollywood, more than most industries, is incredibly competitive. There are constant stories of actors and filmmakers that push themselves to the physical limit to embody roles perfectly, from Charlize Theron shaving her eyebrows for Monster to Christian Bale losing 63 pounds for The Machinist to Leonardo DiCaprio sleeping in a horse carcass for The Revenant. Is it any surprise, then, that this culture of doing whatever it takes to embody a role would spread to doing whatever it takes to get a role? This culture, combined with the culture of shame and silence that surrounds sexual assault survivors, is incredibly dangerous, and incredibly terrifying. Actors like Uma Thurman will suffer humiliation and physical injury in order to keep a role because if they refuse, some up-and-coming actor will take their hard-won roles from them. There is a constant fear of blackballing among actors that keeps them from speaking up about abuse and unethical workplaces- or at least, there was, until the rise of the #MeToo movement.
The #MeToo movement originally started as a way to simply raise awareness of widespread sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, but it has grown into something so much greater. It has created a culture of safety among survivors, where they can speak out and trust they will be believed. Additionally, it has begun to create a reversal of the do-anything culture in Hollywood, and encourages actors to expect basic human decency and ethical work on set.
The New York Times Tarantino and Thurman article here.