For decades, Hollywood has been celebrated for its glamorous celebrities and the movies those celebrities star in. But, not everything is as it seems. There is something dark and unpleasant happening in Hollywood, something that’s been going on for decades but hardly anything has been done about: sexual abuse allegations.
In this paper, I will discuss these allegations, how Hollywood has responded to them, and what lengths Hollywood may be going to prevent further cases from occurring.
On January 24, 2023, The Twitter account Rick and Morty, an Adult Swim account made to advertise the show of the same name, tweeted the following:
Adult Swim has ended its association with Justin Roiland
Rick and Morty will continue
The dedicated and talented crew are hard at work on Season 7
This tweet was made in response to the arrest of Justin Roiland, co-creator and writer of the hit Adult Swim TV show, Rick and Morty, who, according to the article, As Rick And Morty's Justin Roiland Backlash Dies Down, Co-Creator Dan Harmon's Other Show Got Fantastic News (msn.com) published March 2, 2023, “[...] was fired and arrested for a domestic violence complaint filed by his ex-girlfriend in 2020.”
Other charges against Roiland include felony domestic violence and, as the article, Justin Roiland’s felony domestic violence charges, summarized - Polygon states, “Roiland has been charged with two felonies: one count of [‘] domestic battery with corporal injury[‘] and one count of [‘] false imprisonment by menace, violence, fraud, and/or deceit, [‘]” according to court records.”
On top of this, on January 15, alleged private messages dating back to September 2015 between Roiland and Allie Goertz, a then-16-year-old fan of Rick and Morty, were posted onto Twitter. According to Goertz, who posted the messages before privating her account–by which time the messages were reposted again from a different user named Marty America.
The messages contained sexually explicit content, including Roiland’s advances towards the teen and multiple references to Roiland being intoxicated when sending the texts. He appeared in court on January 12 for a pre-trial hearing and is scheduled for another hearing on April 27.
Roiland is the latest in a string of long-time celebrities to have been charged for a violent and/or sexual crime. Other notable celebrities include (but, unfortunately, are not at all limited to) Harvey Weinstien, a former film producer and convicted sex offender.
Weinstien faced rape and sexual harassment allegations from multiple women, and was arrested May 2018; Danny Masterson, an actor best known for his role in That 70s Show, has been charged with three counts of rape which took place from 2001-2003. He was arrested on June 17, 2020.
How long have these types of crimes in Hollywood been going on for? To answer that, we need to go back to the starting point: Hollywood's first case of sexual assault.
But, the starting point for sexual abuse in Hollywood is not clear. The article titled A Timeline of Hollywood Abuse | Complex published May 25, 2016, places the starting date as 1976-1977 when “Actor Todd Bridges of Diff'rent Strokes says he was abused by his publicist [Ronald Rayton] starting around age eleven or twelve.”
But, another article Judy Garland, the first abused child superstar (nationalheraldindia.com) published June 28, 2020, states that Judy Garland (originally born as Frances Ethel Garland), the star of the critically-acclaimed 1939 film Wizard of Oz, was the first abused child star.
While the two previous articles specifically documented cases of child abuse, neither state when the first ever case of sexual assault in Hollywood happened. According to Buster Keaton’s Cut to the Chase (1997), the first case of Hollywood sexual assault to receive widespread media attention was in 1921 “when comedian Roscoe [‘] Fatty [‘] Arbuckle was accused of sexually assaulting [the] actress, Virginia Rappe.”
The article, Rape: a burning injustice | Women | The Guardian, states that, “By the 1920s, attitudes shifted from the patronising and paternalistic to blame and culpability of the victims. Men in positions of authority expressed concerns about false accusations of rape by children and adult women and judges began to behave punitively to those making complaints. Women and girls were sexualised and deemed responsible for rape. The American Journal of Urology and Sexology in 1918 and 1919 ran articles warning lawyers to [‘]the great danger that men are often in from false accusations by female children and women[‘].”
What was Hollywood’s attitude towards Arbuckle’s case? Honestly, not that much different than how people react to sexual assault cases today. Newspapers reacted by trying to make it into as scandalous an affair as possible. According to the article, Virginia Rappe And Fatty Arbuckle: The Facts Behind The Scandal (allthatsinteresting.com published June 25, 2018, “[‘]Both Fatty Arbuckle and Virginia Rappe’s names were dragged through the mud in the competition to print the most salacious rumors. Publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst gleefully noted that the scandal had “sold more papers than the sinking of the Lusitania.[‘] By the time Arbuckle went to trial for manslaughter, his public reputation was already ruined.”
After a lengthy trial, “[Arbuckle’s] movies were pulled from cinemas and he never worked on  screen again.”
Arbuckle’s friends, such as silent film actor Charlie Chaplin, stood by Arbuckle and claimed he would not have committed such a horrible act.
So far, the cases that the article has addressed were all allegedly committed by men, but this isn’t to say men can't be abused. For example, on October 30, 2017, actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of sexually assaulting him when he was 14 in 1986.
This also isn’t to say that women can’t be abusers. For example, in 2017 the Voice star Melanie Martinez was accused of sexually assaulting her alleged best friend.
But, this doesn’t change the fact that, according to Supporting Survivors (humboldt.edu) “An estimated 91% of victims of rape & sexual assault are female and 9% male. Nearly 99% of perpetrators are male. 1 This US Dept. of Justice statistic does not report those who do not identify in these gender boxes.”
The percentage of female victims in Hollywood is only slightly lower. The article, 94% of women in Hollywood experience sexual harassment or assault, says survey | Movies | The Guardian, a survey conducted by USA Today revealed that “[...] the vast majority [of respondents] reported some form of sexual misconduct.”
What was Hollywood’s reaction? There wasn’t much of one. Of the complaints only four of the victims made, “[...] only 28% said their situation improved as a result.”
There is some hope, however. The MeToo movement, created by American activist Tarana Burke in 2006 but only started going viral as a hashtag in 2017, was made to support survivors of sexual violence. The movement supports all victims of sexual assault. Men, women, and others who may identify as another gender not listed here, are included in this fight.
The movement has sparked positive change. According to the article, #MeToo movement: These 7 facts show its impact - Vox published October 4, 2019, these changes include states banning non-disclosure agreements that cover sexual harassment; in 2018, New York expanded its sexual harassment law to cover independent contractors and improved protections for domestic workers.
It’s clear to see that, although there have been great strides to prevent further cases of sexual assault from happening—such as the #MeToo movement and firing the perpetrators—it seems like there is still a long way to go before victims of sexual assault feel protected.
Edited By: Mary_May
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