mon 14/10/2019

Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey: She Said review – better than the movies | reviews, news & interviews

Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey: She Said review – better than the movies

Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey: She Said review – better than the movies

Reporters’ gripping account of the investigation into Harvey Weinstein and its explosive aftermath

Kantor and Twohey, 'steely with the facts and short on sentimentality'© Martin Schoeller

October 5th in the United States is a day for righteous rage. In 2016 it marked the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape in which Donald Trump made his now-infamous “grab them by the pussy” comment. In 2017, it was the date the New York Times published their first story on Hollywood king-pin producer Harvey Weinstein. In 2018 it was the date on which the Senate saw fit to advance Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s work concerns Weinstein, but is bookended by Trump and Kavanaugh. She Said tells the story of their investigation for the New York Times into Weinstein’s decades-long history of sexual assault and power abuse. Both reporters had made headlines before – Twohey on investigations into Trump’s tax history and treatment of women, Kantor on the structural inequalities embedded within the work cultures of behemoths such as Amazon, Starbucks and Harvard Business School. In Kantor’s experience, “gender was not just a topic, but a kind of investigative entry point.” Sexual harassment wasn’t merely a litany of disgusting details. It ran deeper than that: it had to do with corporate structure, culture and governance, how people lived and worked with one another. Then there were the secret pay-offs silencing victims, the collusion of board members to protect their own. Victims were “often hidden and isolated from one another.” It was these systems that Kantor and Twohey set out to investigate.

She Said book jacketThe book spans their pursuit of the story, through the seismic #MeToo movement which followed, and into its long aftershock. Kantor and Twohey are emphatic in acknowledging the precedent set by their colleagues Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt, who broke the story of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s history of sexual harassment. “[New York] Times editors quickly took the measure of the moment,” they write. “Women seemed increasingly fed up.” Indeed, the mood of that first Trump summer was palpable. Fury seemed to simmer near the surface of everything like heat over a sun-baked road, waiting for the opportunity to combust. With the Weinstein story (broken by the New York Times and The New Yorker), it did.

Lovers of the film Spotlight will enjoy the nitty-gritty of how over the course of many months the two reporters, assisted by colleagues and editors, put their story together. There is the same mastery of tension, the same transparency about journalistic processes, the same focus on the structures that enable abuse. “Some advocates for women profit from a settlement system that covers up misdeeds,” Kantor and Twohey observe early on. They provide a less emotive, but no less damning, echo of the film, where the lead reporter of the Boston Globe special investigations team confronts a lawyer about his firm “turning child abuse into a cottage industry”.

Many of their sources, Hollywood actresses, “chronicled the past not according to date but instead to which movie of theirs was filming or being released at the time”. Gwyneth Paltrow’s contribution was seminal, but she didn’t go on the record because she was still “dealing with the furore over the jade egg” (the most infamous product of her lifestyle brand, Goop). The book doesn’t bat an eyelid. It’s steely with the facts and short on sentimentality. It has the morally satisfying arc of a thriller, including a clear sense of right and wrong, all the expected suspense, and partial justice at its conclusion. In the words of Weinstein himself, attempting to laugh off the New York Times’s forthcoming allegations in a comment for Variety, “The story sounds so good I want to buy the movie rights”.

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