This morning, The Daily Beast published one of the more cogent articles I’ve ever read on their site, Penn State Values: The System That Discourages Making Waves by Paul Campos. An overview of the Sandusky trial, the essence of the piece is best summed up by the abbreviated headline on the site’s main page: “We Are All Penn State.”
The biggest flaw about the article is it’s too short. I wanted a far more in-depth discussion about this phenomenon, this fear that people have of exposing deeds that are so manifestly evil rather than rock the boat. Being the righteous bullhorn that I can be, I find this hard to understand, but perhaps that’s because I have rocked the boat often enough in my life that I know it ultimately doesn’t capsize, and that remorse for not having done the right thing has to be more painful than “suffering” the consequences of snitching.
Specifically, I could have read a whole book dedicated to this premise from the Campos article:
The human capacity for conscious and unconscious rationalization in the pursuit of craven self-interest is nearly unlimited, especially when those rationalizations are put forth in an institutional context, with all the pressure such contexts put on people to be “team players” and “constructive contributors” to the ongoing mission of those institutions.
For all of its risible, tawdry glitz and cardboard glamor, Hollywood is an institution that takes itself very seriously; the code of omertà runs deeply in this town. I admit that I have been somewhat affected by it in the past, but never as much as most others; despite my devotion to the craft of filmmaking, I am not impressed by the culture or the institutions surrounding it and don’t take it seriously. None of that is likely to affect those of us in the trenches. Fuck the divas, to hell with the egos: unless it’s going to affect the film getting made or, more importantly, if it will be any good, then who cares?
Writing about my experiences in the pages of this website has liberated me considerably from any reservations I might have had before. Now it’s basic: if you’re a douche, I’m gonna talk about it, and I’ll probably use your name. It’s unlikely you’re ever going to pay my rent, anyway, because I’d never stick it out through the job to make it to pay day, anyway.
Having said that, a related issue popped up this week for which I will not name names. A young actor friend of mine had been working with a new manager, and was excited by all the attention and personal coaching he was getting from this man. Times have never been tougher for actors trying to break into the business; even the biggest stars have dropped their salaries to absurd rates just to work. Getting a reputable manager who will spend the time and the considerable effort to get you out there is a huge coup these days.
After several weeks of working together, the manager presented my friend with the bill: either he took off his clothes and had sex with him on a regular basis, or no management contract. Needless to say, my buddy turned the manager down.
When I heard this story, I was outraged. My first reaction was to grab my righteous bullhorn and say, “How do you spell this guy’s name again? I’m going to blog the fuck out of this. Any time someone Googles his name, it comes up in the search.” Both my friend and another producer standing nearby instantly said, “No! Don’t do that!” Their justification? “It will seem vindictive.”
The reason I’m not blogging the fuck out of this and using this manager’s real name is it isn’t my anecdote, not my life story. Otherwise, I would have no problem exposing him. Again, this douchebag is never going to pay my rent, and even if he could it’s more important to me to avert a future incident with another young actor, who is more impressionable and has a weaker moral compass than my friend, than it is for me to be perceived as a vindictive snitch.
Fortunately, the internet is eroding this pernicious Hollywood code of silence. If you fuck up, you’re more likely than ever to be exposed, instantly. Dominic Monaghan’s recent tweeting about Matthew Fox’s drunken wife/girlfriend bashing was met with some amazement, including my Twitter friend Tricia Romano, who wrote an article a few weeks ago about Monaghan breaking omertà for The Daily Beast:
The first rule of Hollywood Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Hollywood Fight Club. That’s why when former Lost star Dominic Monaghan took to his Twitter and lambasted his former co-star Matthew Fox, everyone was agog.
But what Monaghan was doing was The Right Thing, and he knows his tweeting isn’t going to affect his ability to work in this town one jot. Whatever rather comical ranting and threatening goes on, Hollywood is hardly Corsica, where the punishment for snitching is death. While there are no doubt plenty of masochists out there who would take up with Fox even at the risk of a fist in the face every now and then, now that Monaghan has raised awareness on search engines perhaps one or two women will think twice before getting involved.
In the end, rather than using the sleazebag manager’s real name in these pages, I took advantage of another point Tricia made in her article, quoting someone else, “‘People think that Hollywood is this huge, huge place, and it’s not. It’s very small.’” I’ve let a few key people the manager works with know what happened, and their reactions have been appropriately appalled; the casting couch is such a revolting, tired cliché.
I imagine there’s something irresistibly kinky men like the manager find in inflicting this sort of domination over fearful, desperate young actors. It’s the same predatory instinct that drove Sandusky to prey on underprivileged kids. (He’s guilty of forty-five counts of abuse, that we know of. That is no longer just a kinky perversion, it’s a full-time job.)
Indeed, we are all Penn State. I am certainly no righteous saint of outspokenness, as I’m sure Monaghan isn’t. For instance, if I’m deep in conversation about certain industry people in a restaurant, I will definitely look around to see who might overhear, and drop my voice as a precaution. But I would never do that if it came to serious ethical or legal issues.
This whole “Don’t Snitch” campaign promoted by gangsta rappers, or the similarly threatening “Snitches Are a Dying Breed” by the Hell’s Angels—two real class acts of institutionalized violent criminality right there—is only allowing men like Sandusky and the manager to get away with it. No, beating them to death in prison isn’t justice. That is true vindictiveness. Better to snitch and have them caught early on, and to blog the fuck out of it so it doesn’t happen to someone else.
Here’s a better campaign: If you see it and it’s wrong, then say it loud and say it strong. Forget what people might think or what they might fear on your behalf, especially from the likes of screeching gangstas or fat bearded slobs on loud motorcycles. As for the consequences to your career, in the long run it’s better to wait tables the rest of your life than to spend even one day working with sleazebags. It’s just not worth it.
Note: We are suspending the Week From My View for now. The new format somewhat obviates it. We’ll still post things like “Schizo of the Week,” but as its own item on the main page.