Weinstein and the (cultural) value of abuse

The Liverpool Film Seminar is a collaboration between the Departments of Film Studies at LJMU and Communication and Media at the University of Liverpool that has been running eight years after launching in 2010.

Professor Karen Boyle (Strathclyde University) will present a talk entitled Weinstein and the (cultural) value of abuse.

This paper is part of a larger project on #MeToo, Weinstein and Feminist Theory, and presents my initial thinking on the institutional character of the Weinstein allegations, raising questions around complicity, responsibility and organisational culture. Starting from the repeated claim that allegations against Weinstein (and others) had been an 'open secret' for many years, it uses Liz Kelly’s work (1988, 2005), to explore the continuum of women’s experiences of men’s violence within the film industry and the extent to which the industry provides/provided a 'conducive context' for men’s abusive behaviour. I argue that this is linked not only to production practices but - crucially - to how those practices are popularly and critically understood relative to ideas about the cultural value of perpetrators and their work. More than providing a 'conducive context', then, I want to explore how notions of relative cultural value have both insulated perpetrators against critique and damaged victim/survivors' credibility. Sexual double standards are part of this narrative. However, this leads into a broader argument about the cultural value not simply of the victim/survivors and perpetrators themselves, but of abuse narratives to the stories the film industry tells about itself. This builds on my prior work on how the pornography industry 'produces abuse' (Boyle, 2011), and makes the case for an analysis of how both popular and more scholarly writing about the film industry had -prior to October 2017 - presented the abusive behaviour of Weinstein and other Hollywood figures as an essential part of the (successful) business of making movies.

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