The film seems to condemn powerful men who allow abuse to go unchallenged – but it’s hard to take this message seriously when it was produced by an old associate of Weinstein
The message Hollywood sent out after #MeToo and #TimesUp was that it no longer stood for abuse and violence within the industry. Actors wore pins at award shows, spoke up against a now-incarcerated Harvey Weinstein, and made grand gestures of how they would speak up for women. However, when you look at Hollywood – supposedly in its ‘post #MeToo’ era – it doesn’t seem as though much change has been made.
Following its release, Bryan Singer’s film Bohemian Rhapsody won multiple awards, including Best Motion Picture at the Golden Globes in 2018, despite the numerous allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against the director. In 2020, David O’Russell began filming Amsterdam with a star-studded cast, including Margot Robbie, who seemingly ignored his admitted abuse of his niece. In 2022, both Kevin Spacey and Johnny Depp won their legal battles against their accusers, and in the case of Depp v Heard specifically, we witnessed what was essentially an online smear campaign against Heard, as well as a very open backlash against #MeToo from the public.
This sets the scene for She Said, a 2022 docudrama that examines the history of Weinstein’s abuse and the subsequent exposé published by New York Times journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor. There are cameos from notable actors who were victims of Weinstein’s abuse, such as Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as stories from women who worked as Miramax staff. Their stories are visually retold through reenactments that opt not to show any actual examples of violence – a clear choice by filmmaker Maria Schrader to not re-victimise the women or create ‘trauma porn’.
She Said makes its feminist stance abundantly clear in the opening scene of the film, where we see Megan working on a piece about the victims of Donald Trump’s harassment and how his election created an open environment for abuse to fester in the political realm. Throughout the film, She Said reiterates this central point – a system of silence and complicity has aided in the abuse of women at the hands of powerful men.
Many have upheld this toxic system, such as directors, writers, producers, actors, financiers, and lawyers. She Said makes it clear that there is little separation between a film and its production, and that if someone is abused, we cannot ignore it simply because a film was successful. But She Said is a snake that eats its own tail. It wants to be a film that champions victims of interpersonal and sexual violence, but at the same time, it is produced by a Weinstein collaborator. Someone who sat back and did nothing when women voiced their concerns about the predatory producer all those years ago. Someone who is now facing abuse allegations themselves.
In 1995, after his then-girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow told him about Weinstein’s advances on her, Brad Pitt allegedly told the producer: “If you ever make her feel uncomfortable again, I’ll kill you.” It was a commendable thing to do, but actions speak louder than words, and Pitt went on to star in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds – a Weinstein production. Furthermore, it was revealed by Pitt’s ex-wife Angelia Jolie that Pitt had actively asked Weinstein to produce one of his films in 2012, even after Jolie told Pitt of an alleged assault that occurred in 1998. As the actress said in a 2021 interview with the Guardian, “I never associated or worked with him [Weinstein] again. It was hard for me when Brad did.”
How can we sit and watch stories about how women were forcibly ousted from the film industry due to abuse, while a man who has a fruitful career largely because of Weinstein can take credit for producing a feminist film?
Additionally, according to an FBI report in 2016, Pitt allegedly physically assaulted both Jolie and his children on a flight. During the incident, Pitt was accused of shaking Jolie’s head, forcibly pushing her into a wall, choking one of his children and striking another in the face, as well as pouring beer on Jolie and the family. Since these harrowing details of the alleged abuse came out in October, Pitt has denied everything. He has also embarked on a new masculinity rebrand: he talks about getting sober, going to therapy, and starting a skincare line – all very Bojack Horseman redemption arc. What’s most telling about this newfound trajectory is that Pitt hired Matthew Hiltzik to lead his PR crisis management: the same spin doctor who worked under Weinstein at Miramax, and most recently, handled Johnny Depp’s press strategy during his defamation trial.
She Said asks the audience to not only examine the harm caused by silence, but also reminds us of the impact Weinstein has had on the culture at his company. But given Pitt’s history of abuse and lack of accountability, why can we not say the same thing about him? How can we sit and watch stories about how women were forcibly ousted from the film industry due to abuse, while a man who has a fruitful career largely because of Weinstein can take credit for producing a feminist film?
When asked about his involvement with She Said as a producer, a source told Buzzfeed, “as one of the only people in Hollywood to stand up to Weinstein, he certainly has great respect for the journalists who were also the first ones to stand up to Weinstein.” But taking into account Pitt’s past connection to Weinstein and the abuse allegations that have recently been levelled at him, this choice seems less of a sincere effort to praise those who helped put Weinstein behind bars, and more of a tactful move to show that he is ‘with the times’ and ‘here for women’.
As a result, She Said is a film that feels misplaced. It’s a very earnest attempt to be reflective of what went on in Hollywood in years gone by, and believes that we have now created an open, progressive dialogue about sexual abuse. But when the industry continues to reward abusers, She Said feels less hopeful, and more like a bad joke.