Hollywood is undergoing a reckoning and will need to change.
According to the latest report from the Anita Hill-led Hollywood Commission for Eliminating Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, “Hollywood has an entrenched and endemic issue with bullying that is exacerbated by the industry’s power imbalances."
You can see the full report here, but I want to spend today highlighting a few of the most important findings.
“In Hollywood, bullying is condoned as part of ‘paying your dues’ on the way up and has been openly displayed in films like 1994’s Swimming with Sharks and 2019’s The Assistant,” said Hill, who chairs the Commission, which was founded a few years ago in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. “Bullying may once have been an accepted norm, but in 2020 workers understand the harm an environment rife with humiliating insults and sarcasm, swearing and throwing objects in anger, causes. And belittling, vulgar, and demeaning language and behavior is a gateway to sexual harassment and other abusive conduct. It’s time for Hollywood to commit to treating all workers with basic humanity and dignity.”
The main points of the commission are very damning.
As seen on Deadline, the report states:
- Women are twice as likely as men to report experiencing abusive workplace conduct often or very often;
- Non-union workers were twice as likely to report all bullying behaviors;
- Disabled workers were roughly twice as likely as those without disabilities to report all forms of workplace bullying;
- Female assistants under the age of 40 reported “stunning” rates of abuse that were two to three times higher than the overall sample;
- Workers under 40 years old were far more likely to report every form of bullying often or very often, with the reported rates decreasing steadily with age.
People thought #MeToo was going to change things, but the industry has not moved as fast as many wanted.
In fact, the report found that the view of progress varied based on age and gender identity.
There was a positive view of progress increasing with age. Females under the age of 39 had the least positive view of progress (55%), while nearly 80% of males aged 65 and older believed moderate to a lot of progress has been made in promoting respect (79%). Those working in talent representation saw the least amount of progress (53%), while those working in live theater saw the most (72%).
“The entertainment industry is replete with stories of abusive and toxic work environments—created by powerful bullies barking, swearing and calling people ‘idiots’ without regard for the humiliation or embarrassment of it happening in front of peers,” the report found. “The entertainment industry is, unfortunately, a breeding ground for bullies who are typically highly ambitious, opportunistic, combative, powerful, and competitive. Long excused as ‘just the way things are,’ bullies often occupy leadership positions and set the tone for everyone else."
Here's the big problem within the report.
This abuse is so prevalent that the report found bystanders were present 69% of the time these crimes happened.
So what can we do to fight back?
People are afraid of losing their jobs and of being attacked themselves. How do we get past this?
The Commission is conducting bystander training with 450 entertainment workers. The training will include virtual reality training, web-based training, and six workshops—two for television supervisors (directors, producers, and showrunners); two for film (directors, producers, UPMs); one for casting directors; and one for production workers.
Hopefully, this makes a dent on these numbers at every level.
“Bystander intervention training teaches employees how to identify bullying or aggressive behaviors,” the report says. “Employees learn both direct and indirect intervention strategies to support a victim of bullying and are empowered to intervene when appropriate. Equipping employees with the tools to intervene creates a sense of shared responsibility to keep negative conduct in the workplace from being normalized.”
Here's another wrinkle. Being a jerk is not illegal.
The report states, “Because abusive conduct is not illegal, many companies and productions do not prohibit it in their codes of conduct or policies—making it more difficult to hold bullies accountable for their conduct—even though California now requires certain employers to deliver training on the prevention of abusive conduct.”
If you work in Hollywood, sooner or later someone is gonna yell at you. I mean, look at these responses the report got!
- “I was told that ‘it’s not illegal to be an asshole.’”
- “Bullying and hazing are rampant in Hollywood and destructive to dignity, diversity, and innovation.”
- “I feel that everyday bullying, undermining, power play, scapegoating has not yet been addressed in Hollywood.”
Where do we go from here?
The report ends with suggestions on how to change things. They want studios and companies to strengthen statements on bullying in codes of conduct by defining bullying in clear terms that do not require the employer to demonstrate the intent of the abuser but is instead based on objectively observable behaviors.
They also want to establish policies and processes to address bullying complaints. If bullying occurs, recognize the behavior and act on it early, and don’t wait to address problematic conduct until it has been repeated or has occurred over a prolonged period of time. Ensure the grievance process is fair and timely.
Lastly, they want places to adopt the Commission’s bystander training or establish their own.
These are all just steps. Hollywood has always been brutish and okay with "the struggle." But if they want to change for the better, there is no better time than now. Hopefully, they heed the warnings within the commission.
Let us know what you think in the comments.