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After A Year Of Reckoning, Can Hollywood Change?


Now to Hollywood, where the first major awards ceremony of the season, the Golden Globes, is being held tonight. For weeks now, it's been obvious that the evening will reckon some way or another with one of the major stories of the past year.


SETH MEYERS: Hi. I'm Seth Meyers, and I'm hosting this year's Golden Globes. And I'm very excited because everyone is going to be there. What's that? Oh, he's not going to be there. Well, that's good. Nobody wants him there.

MARTIN: That, of course, is a commercial for tonight's show. And Seth Meyers was making a reference to the scandal that started with allegations of sexually abusive behavior by producer Harvey Weinstein that has since implicated many other top names. And with Meyers' reputation for politically charged comedy, it seems obvious that the scandal will be addressed somehow. Also, a number of stars have promised other moves to draw attention to the issue, such as wearing black.

But beyond the symbolism and the hashtags and the statements of solidarity, the bigger question is whether a powerful industry that's been run by rich white men acting with impunity can actually change. Dana Goodyear is a writer for The New Yorker magazine, and she examined that question in her latest article for the magazine. And she's with us now from NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Dana, thanks so much for joining us.

DANA GOODYEAR: I'm so happy to be here. Thank you.

MARTIN: I'm going to go back to this one anecdote from your piece that just haunted me. And it was a conversation that you had with an actress that you described as being quite elderly at this point - you know, in her 90s, a former contract player who had been a child star. She told you the sickening story about how when she just turned 16, she was expected to start sexually servicing one of MGM's top writers. And she reported this to one of the top executives at MGM who told her, quote, "you'll get used to it" and threatened to destroy her career if she didn't go along with the writer's proposition. It was an explicit quid pro quo. And what she said was very clear. She said, this has been going on forever.

GOODYEAR: Yeah, she said it's not a bit different than today. And I think it is something that has been so internalized by everybody working in the industry that many, many things have either been repressed or been brushed off because it is systemic and it's so built-in. And what has been going on in the last several months is an upwelling of kind of we have to reconsider what that interaction was, what that - quote, unquote - "affair" was. What was the nature of that relationship? So there's this reframing, and I think that pretty much everyone is going through that.

MARTIN: Well, can I just ask you, though - I mean, a lot of the men you spoke with became - seemed to be really concerned that they were going to somehow be tainted or falsely accused. I have to wonder about the women. I mean, do the women then wonder whether people - women who are successful - do they worry that then people will assume that the origin of their success is that they were sexually coerced and sexually servicing somebody?

GOODYEAR: There are women with real stories to tell who still feel quite reluctant to come forward because of what the career repercussions might be. And one of the things that's really tricky about the issue is the repercussions don't have to be overt. I mean, in the case of the actress in her - now in her 90s - who told me the story of having turned down the quid pro quo offer when she was 16, it was quite clear. Do this, and you get the part. Don't do this, and your career is over. And another really dangerous and insidious form of retaliation is the one that you don't know is happening - when you just don't get that job or you can't sell that pitch or you are somehow isolated professionally. And I think that people have a very legitimate reason for being worried about speaking out - that those kinds of things will still happen.

MARTIN: So what are some of the things that are happening that people are trying to do to bring about a change in this culture that, as you've established and as other people have testified, has gone on for a very long time?

GOODYEAR: Well, this is what I think is exciting about the moment - is that there is an opportunity. And in spite of all of the obstacles that women have faced in Hollywood, there are a lot of women who have amassed a lot of power - financial power and star power, the ability to get things done. And a lot of those women are getting together.

I don't know if you saw on New Year's Day there was a full-page ad in The New York Times taken out by a group calling themselves Time's Up, which is a group of women in Hollywood who have been meeting since October. I referred to it a little bit in my piece. But they're saying to the studios and - well, actually starting with the agencies - you need to make structural changes in the corporate makeup. And the catchphrase is 50/50 by 2020. That means 50/50 representation - gender representation - on the corporate level by 2020, which is two years from now, so that's a pretty rapid pace of change that they are mandating. And my guess is that it's - you know, if you want me as a client, you will put this in place.

MARTIN: That was Dana Goodyear. Her latest article "Exposure: In The Wake Of Scandal, Can Hollywood Change Its Ways?" is in the new issue of The New Yorker. She was kind of to join us from NPR West in Culver City. Dana Goodyear, thanks so much for speaking with us.

GOODYEAR: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.