March 12, 2020 / 9:33 AM / 19 days ago

After Weinstein, #MeToo themes in film, TV reflect wider cultural reckoning

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In “The Assistant,” a young woman’s concerns about her movie mogul boss are brushed aside; “The Morning” explores the fallout when a popular anchorman is accused of sexual harassment; and in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” comedian Larry David gets into a pickle navigating office politics and dating in the #MeToo era.

FILE PHOTO: Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at the New York Criminal Court during his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

As film producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault this week, the cultural revolution that his downfall fueled in Hollywood’s casting couch culture, workplace ethics and dating is being explored on television and in movies.

“Hollywood is now becoming its own loudest voice in helping to call out what a bad thing this is,” said Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University.

More than two years into #MeToo, shows are exploring the nuances of sexual misconduct, where men are not always portrayed as monsters and women are more than traumatized victims.

Both fictional and fact-based, they are creating a cultural record that will likely endure long after the Weinstein case fades.

“The #MeToo movement was at the front lines in getting people to pay attention to this. Then it becomes institutionalized by these films and TV shows which people will continue to be able to watch years and years later in a way they won’t be watching news coverage of #MeToo,” said Thompson.

Writer and director Kitty Green described “The Assistant,” now playing in U.S. movie theaters, as about predatory bosses. She based the film on interviews with more than 100 women working in industries ranging from show business to technology and engineering.

“A lot of men come out (of watching the film) feeling very uncomfortable,” Green said. “I think a little bit of discomfort is what we need right now if we want things to change.”

REVENGE, SATIRE AND GENDER DYNAMICS

“Promising Young Woman,” arriving in U.S. movie theaters in April, takes a different tack. It’s a black revenge comedy starring Carey Mulligan as a woman who ruthlessly turns the tables on the bad behavior of both men and women.

Director Emerald Fennell, who also wrote the script, said the film goes beyond #MeToo to take a wider look at decades old sexist culture.

“There’s nothing in it that isn’t extremely commonplace,” said Fennell. “I’m much more interested in our culture and thinking, how are we all part of this awful knot that we need to unpick?”

“The Morning Show,” produced and directed by women, is set around the personal and professional earthquake following the firing of a likeable anchor, played by Steve Carell, on a national television show. One of his victims commits suicide after reporting his behavior but being silenced by network executives.

“It’s about gender dynamics, power dynamics, abuse of power and not just sexual abuse of power,” said Jennifer Aniston, who plays Carell’s loyal professional partner and friend.

Aniston described Carell’s character as a “sort of gentle, charismatic narcissist.”

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” takes a satirical approach.

Larry David, playing a cantankerous version of his rich, white male TV producer self, repeatedly stumbles into sexually inappropriate situations with women, while his manager, played by Jeff Garlin, is repeatedly mistaken for Weinstein.

“‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ is supposed to make us uncomfortable, but some of the ways it is treating this is really kind of dicey,” said Thompson. The comedy series has won some of its best reviews in 10 years.

FILE PHOTO: Jennifer Aniston arrives at the global premiere for "The Morning Show" at the Lincoln Center in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., October 28, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Other #MeToo content includes “Bombshell, starring Charlize Theron, and television series “The Loudest Voice,” starring Russell Crowe, about multiple sexual harassment allegations at Fox News that led to the ouster in 2016 of founder Roger Ailes. Ailes denied the accusations and died a year later.

Thompson believes it’s all just the start of a wider trend.

“There is still a lot, lot more to tell about this story and these events,” he said.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Richard Pullin

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