Do You Have a “Harvey Weinstein Oscar” Or Did You Earn Yours?
Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lawrence, Colin Firth, Matt Damon.
What do these Oscars winners have in common? Their trophies will forever be tarnished and branded as Harvey Weinstein Oscars. Are they dirty awards or does the Weinstein affiliation not matter?
The horrific details of Weinstein’s assaults have been widely publicized and suffice it to say that many of those who have worked with him over the last three decades have been called to answer for these ignominious connections. What has largely been left unsaid is just how essential Mr. Weinstein’s relationships were for his chosen cadre of actors and directors.
In the wake of the allegations, the cultural discussion has dealt primarily with the ways that Weinstein wielded his enormous power for ill. However, it’s worth considering for a moment those who benefitted from Weinstein’s omnipotence in Hollywood. It reminds me of the kids on the playground who would buddy up with the class bully in order to be considered cool and escape the big man’s wrath Weinstein is notorious for his vicious Oscars campaigns<http://www.vulture.com/2014/01/miramax-oscar-campaigns-harvey-weinstein-timeline.html>—once even pointing journalists to questionable reporting about John Nash, on whose life A Beautiful Mind is based. It is well documented that the man fought and taunted his way into the awards more than once. What does this say about the merit of those he represented?
These Oscars feel a bit cheap, if you ask me—kind of like the equivalent of getting your M.A. from the University of Phoenix or a star college athlete who received straight A’s without ever opening a book. These Weinstein Oscars should be doubly tainted, and I’m not the only one questioning them!
As a frequent workplace specialist and career coach on programs like NBC Universal’s "Steve Harvey" and the author of the Harper Collins bestseller Bulletproof Your Job, I get tons of calls and emailed questions from people all around the globe about employment issues. ABC’s Charlie Gibson even dubbed me America’s Workplace Guru. Now, I am getting calls from some friends in Hollywood asking if their career value has gone down because of their affiliation with Weinstein. Some of these people even have Oscars, but are worried that these awards have lost their luster. Technically, of course, it is still an Oscar, but now people are a bit more dubious. These trophies are just as real as the fur coats Tony Soprano would give his Carmela. It’s a real coat to be sure, just served with an added side of brutality.
So what happens to these actors, directors and writers with a Weinstein Oscar? The truth is we’re not quite sure. As a headhunter, I’d assume that studios might think they can get talent at a discount. After all, the people making big bucks with Weinstein are all going to out searching for new jobs pretty soon. To be clear, this is not about questioning the legitimacy of these people’s talents but rather the prestige of their accolades. In the workplace, I would analogize the Oscar to an MBA or specific sales award. It may not make or break the legitimacy of your career but it will certainly add an extra 100k to your paycheck and look real nice on a resume. As disgusting as it is, beyond his actual attacks, Weinstein has now made people ask whether actors were really the best people for the job or if they just made the producer the horniest; if the writing merited an award or won only because the big boss bribed and extorted his way into all of the votes.
My career recommendation for those in the entertainment industry is to start scrapping again. It will take a lot for the stench of these connections to wear off so do whatever you can to prove your worth both as an artist and as an individual with the tremendous social capital you possess. Even for you, Matt Damon! No one is escaping this story! The next time you walk down the preverbal Red Carpet, think to yourself: Are you at the top of your game or taking (Harvey’s) Walk of Shame?