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When Saying ‘Me Too’ Isn’t Enough (Column)

How much has the past year of #MeToo revelations actually changed the entertainment industry?

In the year since the Harvey Weinstein allegations first broke, the most prominent narrative has been that Hollywood is undergoing a domino effect of downfalls, with one powerful man after another toppling into oblivion as their abusive pasts come back to haunt them. To a certain extent, that’s been true. Weinstein, once an untouchable giant in film producing, is now a toxic outcast at the center of multiple criminal investigations. Kevin Spacey went from hosting the Tony Awards in January to getting scrubbed off his own show in November. Most recently, and perhaps most significantly, Leslie Moonves stepped down as CEO of CBS after more than a dozen women came forward, throwing his decades of industry dominance into stark, horrific relief.

These falls from grace are an overdue redress for those who have come forward about experiencing or witnessing abuse. But not all of them are satisfied with the outcome of telling their stories — nor do they have faith that they will ever see true justice served.

“My optimism that I had at the beginning is certainly not there anymore,” says Sarah Tither-Kaplan, who alleged in January alongside several other women that she witnessed James Franco sexually harassing women on set. Since then, she says, she’s gotten waves of online backlash and lost friends, job opportunities and faith in the industry. Meanwhile, Franco has continued to work unabated. (HBO programming chief Casey Bloys insisted at the summer TCA press tour that the cast and producers of “The Deuce” “all felt comfortable” with Franco continuing to star in the series, now in its second season.)

And he’s far from the only one. Despite the increasingly frequent pearl clutching from some about the #MeToo movement going too far, plenty of accused men are inching back into their careers after brief hiatuses away from the public eye. Louis C.K. is doing surprise comedy sets mere months after he admitted to sexually harassing women throughout his career. Matt Lauer is reportedly promising he’ll be “back on TV” after getting fired following allegations of serial workplace abuse. Jeffrey Tambor went on an “Arrested Development” press tour with the vocal support of his (male) cast mates after getting fired off “Transparent” for allegedly harassing trans women. Ryan Seacrest was back on the Oscars red carpet barely a week after his longtime stylist accused him of serial harassment. Broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi got a cover story in The New York Review of Books about his experience that managed to gloss over the fact that more than 20 women had accused him of assault.

Watching these burgeoning comebacks and experiencing the renewed scrutiny has become a recurring nightmare for people who screwed up the courage to speak out — especially for those who aren’t as well known in the industry. For as much ink has been spilled wondering how accused men can ever recover and what should come of their careers, little attention has been paid to what’s come of the less established people who put their more tenuous positions on the line in order to say, “Me too.”

Though Moonves was brought down by testimonies from former assistants and junior executives, that level of consideration for people with less name recognition and more to lose is the exception rather than the rule. There are countless crew members, interns and aspiring creatives who are too afraid to speak out against abuse lest it torpedo their careers. For those who spoke up anyway, grappling with the new reality of being a public voice against vastly more powerful men has proved incredibly difficult. “For the most part, the women who aren’t [famous] are sort of in the same position they were when they started, if not worse off, by coming forward,” says Tither-Kaplan. “Speaking out against abuse is still worse for a career in Hollywood than being an abuser.”

#MeToo: The Year That Rocked Hollywood
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In May, months before C.K. reemerged to stretch his stand-up muscles, comedian Rebecca Corry wrote for Vulture about the “lose-lose” situation he put her in once he masturbated at her without her consent. “It’s hell making the decision to speak out, and it’s hell after the decision has been made,” she wrote. Fellow C.K. accusers Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov concurred on Twitter in August, emphasizing how they had become “poison to everyone who knows him, his famous friends, their managers, everyone. … And just by posting this it will all start again.”

And in a recurring pattern for women who speak up against beloved figures, all three revealed that they were exhausted after months of skepticism and harassment — not to mention constant reminders that most people care more about the men they spoke up against than those they allegedly stomped on on their way to success. If nothing else, their experiences underline exactly how little reward there is for going on the record about abuse. Even if it’s true, as C.K. himself admitted, there will always be people rushing to poke holes in the story.

Despite the personal and professional heartbreak they suffered after adding their voices to the #MeToo pile, however, all insist they would do it again if given the chance. “I knew that if nobody said anything, he was going to continue to do it, and there’d be more and more victims,” Tither-Kaplan says. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I hadn’t said anything.”

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