Updated: Dec 4, 2022
She Said (2022)
Director: Maria Schrader
A Maria Schrader film about a game-changer in our lifetime, ‘She Said’ is a film about the outing of Harvey Weinstein and his repeated acts of sexual abuse, committed over decades. Like ‘Spotlight’ (Tom McCarthy’s film about the Boston Globe’s landmark 2002 exposure of widespread child sexual abuse by Catholic priests – my essay republished below), both films present the fact that these crimes were not just perpetrated by individuals but by entire sophisticated and powerful institutions, determined to hide the crimes and protect the perpetrators.
In ‘She Said’, this complicit network involved lawyers who negotiated out-of-court settlements and who wrote non-disclosure agreements for traumatised young women, board members, well-paid executives whose lives were too comfortable to rock the boat, and not so well paid staff members and colleagues who were terrified of losing their jobs or their future prospects.
Unsurprisingly, the young victims across both cultural institutions were so ashamed, traumatised and frightened by the abuse they received that their lives were irrevocably damaged.
‘She Said’ chronicles the forensic research of investigative journalists and the hesitancy of victims to speak out, even though the majority of these young women’s lives were irreversibly changed due to their ordeal and/or the inability to find re-employment in a town their abuser virtually owned.
Some spoke of telling others; their managers, HR, colleagues, and of the blanket of silence (or complete disregard) with which their cries for help were met. Others spoke of their varied breakdowns; voicelessness for they felt they had shamed their families, shame as they felt they had submitted when the other girls must have said 'no', or that they had said 'no' when it was 'just what girls do' (as Weinstein apparently told them all)
When I first saw ‘Spotlight’ in 2016, a quote stood out to me ‘It takes a village to bring up a child and it takes a village to abuse one’. Same, same with ‘She Said’.
‘She Said’ stars Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan as New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who broke the story of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual assault.
Even if you aren’t into films, ‘She Said’ and the below essay on ‘Spotlight’ are insightful records of moments when ‘the way things are’ change irrevocably.
Director: Tom McCarthy
Hesitant to see this movie because I knew it would be disturbing, but encouraged to see it by a school friend, I was surprised and disturbed in ways that were completely unanticipated.
I believe everyone knows that ‘Spotlight’ centres on the Boston Globe’s landmark 2002 exposure of widespread child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Boston area. The Globe won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for the story.
Surprising elements first. Knowing that Hollywood is not renowned for its light touch in matters potentially inflammatory I was surprised by the film’s sensitivity to the victims of paedophilia, and the film’s sensitivity to those Catholic clergy and lay people who were and are horrified by the revelation of the Catholic Church’s crimes of paedophilia.
Secondly, I was intrigued by the illumination of how a newspaper goes about its investigative projects. Painstaking, almost forensic, the film portrayed the journalists’ days, weeks, months spent delving into church and parish records, and likewise their efforts to excavate and make public material from past court records. The film also exposed how the journalists had to withstand the pressures exerted by community, friends, school alumni, influential parishioners and the clergy themselves, who all presented a persuasive case as to how the investigation was an attack on their faith and a church that did more good than harm, rather than acknowledging that the investigation was into a crime that involved an extreme misuse of power and privilege resulting in a string of broken, destroyed lives.
The third surprising element of ‘Spotlight’ was the following extraordinary result it presented from social research done at the time. It proposed, based on research over a 50 year period – that six in every hundred priests were paedophiles! Just in Boston? Nationally? Globally? It begs the question whether this predatorial instinct was contained to just men of the cloth, or if any unregulated environment where one party had the weight of privilege to shield its activities while the other party contained the weakest and most vulnerable members of society, would also produce this appalling statistic?
A few lines from the film have played in my head because they are so true regarding the psychology of our strange species. ‘It takes a village to bring up a child and it takes a village to abuse one’. An analogy could be made to cases of incest within a family and also domestic abuse against woman and children. It would appear that our society conforms to a strange form of cultural denial until a tipping point is reached – whether it be an exposition like that conducted by the Boston Globe or a highly reported case of domestic violence like the death of Luke Batty at the hands of his father, when that blanket of amnesia is lifted to starkly reveal the victims of these political crimes of betrayal.
‘Spotlight’ comes highly recommended but I won't spoil the movie for you except to say the strong cast, including Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Brian d'Arcy James and Mark Ruffalo are impressive.
Interesting to note that two Oscar contenders for Best Film this year are about how two of what were, our respected institutions – our banks in Adam McKay’s 'The Big Short' and the Catholic Church in 'Spotlight' – had both seemingly been allowed to run riot and destroy many lives until their excesses could not be denied a moment longer by a relatively privileged minority with the political clout to bring them to task.