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The Dirty Little Secret in Hollywood

By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood March 1, 2011 at 5:30AM

There is a power disparity in Hollywood. A big one. The men have got it. It is never more evident when one of the most high profile people exhibits behavior that makes the whole country and society take note. The man on display for the last several weeks has been Charlie Sheen - the highest paid actor on TV.
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There is a power disparity in Hollywood. A big one. The men have got it. It is never more evident when one of the most high profile people exhibits behavior that makes the whole country and society take note. The man on display for the last several weeks has been Charlie Sheen - the highest paid actor on TV.

The thing is that Charlie Sheen has been acting like an ass, abusing women and abusing drugs for some time. But clearly, he crossed a line last week when he went after CBS' cash cow - Chuck Lorre, the Executive Producer of Two and Half Men and several other CBS shows. And now that it's gotten him fired, people are wondering, especially the ever eloquent David Carr at the NY Times, what took so long and why can a person get away with being a serial abuser against women but when he talks about his boss, a dude with money, that's when he gets the boot.

I'm not trying to excuse what he said to Mr. Lorre. It was unacceptable and anti-Semitic. But people this is not news. Sheen he has been acting like this for some time. He abused his ex-wife Denise Richards. He abused his ex-wife Brooke Mueller. He beat up an escort in the Plaza Hotel in NYC on a bender last fall.

But none of those things got him into trouble at work -- even though his bosses knew that he was abusing drugs and women -- until he insulted Chuck Lorre who CBS is in business with on multiple shows and wants to stay in business with a long time.

As David Carr says:

So the message from CBS and Warner Brothers seems clear: abuse yourself and the women around you to your heart’s content, but do not attack the golden goose.

We can all nod and wink and say “it’s Hollywood, what do you expect?” CBS and Time Warner may be in the entertainment business, but they are both publicly traded companies with shareholders, corporate ethics policies and, one presumes, many female employees who don’t particularly care to see a highly paid employee (Mr. Sheen, between his share of syndication and a salary of $1.2 million per episode, makes enough to put him at the top of the food chain in most of corporate America) continually threaten to use women as punching bags.

Men in Hollywood get away with treating women like crap because that's part of the business. I've heard stories from friends who have been yelled and taunted for being a woman in a writer's room just because there is no recourse against these guys. Sheen revealed in one of his 100 (or so it seemed) interviews yesterday that he got a phone call of support from Mel Gibson. Gibson supposedly said "I thought you might like to hear a friendly voice." With friends like Gibson who needs enemies. Gibson himself is readying his next redemption scene with the premiere of The Beaver at SXSW in the next two weeks. It seems that those two are part of a club of men who get away with treating women like crap. I'm betting this club has lots of members.

And let's not forget Roman Polanski who was just lauded with 4 Cesar Awards in France this past weekend for The Ghost RiderWriter a film that he was able to finish when he was under house arrest. Tough life. Now he's a free man and is making a movie in Paris with two of the biggest female stars Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster.

It's great that the public is waking up to seeing the cycle of abuse. It's sad that this man refuses to get help and this has become another Hollywood trainwreck that we can't look away from. But let's not forget that though Charlie Sheen might be the most public and visible face of abuse -- substance and otherwise -- right now in this country, this is an ongoing epidemic. Women are abused by men -- powerful and not -- each and every day. There is no excuse for the behavior to be dismissed for any reason.

This article is related to: Sexism


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