As we enter year three of the pandemic, it’s clear what COVID has ended forever: the in-office work week; the Hollywood blockbuster and cineplex; and celebrity itself, with all the privileges it used to afford.
Think of all the heads that rolled at the end of 2021. Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, Jeff Garlin, Andrew Cuomo, Chris Cuomo, Chris Noth.
In the few short years since Harvey Weinstein was sent to prison, it turns out that #MeToo really does mean something. The culture, the C-suite, the courtroom — there’s been a permanent shift.
It says a lot that the imperious Andrew Cuomo was brought down not by his nursing-home scandal or corruption but by multiple accusations of sexual harassment.
Sure, CNN dithered over whether to punish host Chris Cuomo for secretly helping his brother smear said accusers — but when one unnamed woman said Chris was sexually inappropriate with her years ago, at another network, CNN fired him immediately.
That allegation must have been pretty bad and pretty credible.
What’s happened to Noth is even more indicative of how fast the culture is moving. Within hours of a blockbuster article in The Hollywood Reporter alleging rape, Peloton dropped his buzzy ad, and long-forgotten assault claims by supermodel ex-girlfriend Beverly Johnson rapidly resurfaced.
Noth tried old-school damage control circa 2010: Blame the accusers, paint yourself as the victim.
“It’s difficult not to question the timing of these stories coming out,” Noth said in a statement Thursday. “I don’t know for certain why they are surfacing now, but I do know this: I did not assault these women.”
This isn’t even subtle. Noth is accusing two women — one who says the actor raped her in Los Angeles in 2004, the other that he raped her in New York City in 2015, their accounts of their rapes almost exactly the same, with contemporaneous disclosures to friends and family — of looking for a money grab.
Yes, because so many women risk their entire sexual histories becoming public fodder, their names and reputations shredded in the national media (again, look to Chris Cuomo and Harvey Weinstein for that playbook) for a quick payday.
It’s remarkable, really. You can draw a line through the 20th century of famous men who got away with rape, manslaughter and murder, from Fatty Arbuckle to Kirk Douglas to Ted Kennedy to O.J. Simpson. Men who not only got away with it but, in some cases — Kennedy most notably — burnishing their images while eliciting sympathy.
Had Ted Kennedy left a young woman to drown today, he would be facing pitchforks, expulsion from Congress, a criminal trial and prison time.
Things have changed for good. But these guys refuse to accept it.
Here’s Alec Baldwin on national TV, crying crocodile tears over a woman he shot and killed, asking us all to believe “the gun just went off.”
He went even further, asking us to feel sorry for him — moviemaking, you see, is ruined for him now — a tactic that backfired spectacularly.
Same with Ben Affleck, who can’t understand why people are outraged that he said he’d “probably still be drinking” had he stayed married to his ex-wife, Jennifer Garner.
All the backlash, Affleck said, made him seem like “the worst, most insensitive, stupid awful guy.”
It did. He is. And the halo effect of fame that Affleck and his ilk banked on — taking for granted that women could be easily, publicly scapegoated — is gone.