Out With the Weinstein, In With the Woke Scenes

A collection of Weinstein films. Photo via Charleigh Chomko.

Do you know what’s a fun way to pass the time when you’re home for the holidays, your parent’s house doesn’t have internet access, and everyone’s gone back to work? Well, if you have a secret dream of being a librarian, the answer is making a catalogue of the family’s film collection. And that’s exactly what I did over the break.

We own over 100 DVDs, which fill a full shelf and overflow into a nearby cabinet (The VHS collection remains as-of-yet uncatalogued. The VHS collection is a behemoth, a lurking dark beast of the deeps). The oldest copyright is 1952 Guys and Dolls, and the newest is some Steven Universe that I got for the niblings (FYI, niblings is the niece/nephew version of siblings). The longest movie is Lord of the Rings: Return of the King at 200 minutes, and the shortest is a truly awful off-brand Robin Hood cartoon with early 2000s “stunning CGI animation!” that’s an excruciating 47 minutes.

Once I finished my Excel spreadsheet of films by title, year, director, rating, etc., I looked at the stacks of DVDs spread across the floor and realized that I had to put them all back. But maybe, not all of them. I cast a critical eye over the collection, searching out some titles to cull from the herd. Here are some contenders that I put forward for my family’s consideration:

The secret connection between all these titles is that Harvey Weinstein was a producer.

It’s a contentious topic: what are the ethics of consuming media associated with skeevy dudes? (Not pictured: I also weeded out a Woody Allen movie that I think my mom only got because it has Hugh Jackman in it, and he’s her favourite eye candy. But we’ve got at least five other movies with the Huge Jacked-man, and nobody cared about or liked the Woody Allen movie anyways).

Is removing Weinstein’s taint from our library accomplishing anything other than some virtue signalling that allows me to feel like a righteous social justice paladin? As a capitalist consumer society, we’re so often told that the only way we can make our voice heard is with our dollars. Since most of our movies came second-hand, it’s not as though my dollars were heard in the first place. Does one bad apple spoil the bunch? Where do we draw the line? Harvey Weinstein’s power doesn’t negate the fact that Chicago is a fantastic musical about female murderers, nor Martin Scorsese’s commentary on gang violence and machoism. Does the fact that Scorsese clashed with Weinstein over the artistic direction of Gangs of New York influence how we should value it? The Lord of the Rings has become a huge cultural touchstone, but can we address how few female characters there are, or Tolkien’s subtle racism and imperialism?

There’s a huge and ongoing debate that we can have about the issues of enjoying problematic media. It’s a conversation that’s long overdue, and I can only hope that as people begin to question why they’re “not allowed” to like their old problematic faves, they look deeper into how the power and control of Hollywood is consolidated in the crusty hands of old white men, and how that perpetuates inequality. I hope that the dialogue about who makes our stories makes room to include the voices of women, racialized folks, and all other marginalized identities whose stories have been overlooked or drowned out in the past. If you’re going to remove something, you should replace it with something else. It’s like taking candy away from a baby and replacing it with a carrot. I challenge you to review your movies and television shows. How many (how few!) have a female director? How many even pass the Bechdel test? Make a positive change and start seeking out works by women. You can still enjoy your sexist movies, just be prepared to defend that, and be prepared to acknowledge that we can and should do better.