Brenda Cossman


#MeToo’s initial virtual explosion in the fall of 2017 was very much about Hollywood, with famous actresses speaking out against famous producers, media moguls and celebrities, exposing the ubiquity of sexual harassment and sexual violence in and around the entertainment industry. Since then, #MeToo has made its way into Hollywood representations without much irony. Films and television shows have explicitly taken up the #MeToo themes, exploring issues of sexual harassment and violence and its afterlives. Many television shows, from the relaunched version of Murphy Brown to Brooklyn Nine-Nine to The Good Fight have incorporated #MeToo themes into episodes exploring the prevalence of sexual violence in women’s lives, and the enduring trauma of survivors. Other shows have taken #MeToo and sexual violence as their central theme, from the impact of sexual violence on survivors like I May Destroy You; with others like Unbelievable on the criminal justice system or like Promising Young Woman on revenge.

The first section briefly considers the negative representation of corporations in film. The second section turns to a detailed analysis of the #MeToo films and television shows, highlighting the way in which corporate actors are represented. The third section considers the real-life events which inspired the films and television shows. I do so not to point out factual inaccuracies, but rather as a way to think further about how the corporation is represented: What was and wasn’t deemed to be storyworthy can further highlight the narratives of corporate responsibility for sexual harassment and sexual violence. The story that emerges is a more complex one of corporate boards negotiating demands of multiple stakeholders, shareholder lawsuits, and reputational damage. Indeed, the more complex legal structure of the corporation is largely glossed over in the films and television shows. While they do narrate individual power struggles between corporate executives, and between those executives and the board, the multiple stakeholders of the corporate structure remains largely invisible. Shareholder actions and the fiduciary duties of directors of corporations are, not surprisingly, not the stuff of Hollywood dramas.

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