My bouts of revenge in Hollywood, and the inherently abusive nature of power structures.
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On one of my return trips to Belgium after I had moved away, I met an actor. He was at the top of his fame, a relative term considering the size of the country. Fifteen years older than me, I nevertheless felt comfortable with him:  we saw humor in things no one else did. At one party, one of his professional acquaintances came to say hello, and, as I was introduced, the man stared. Feeling objectified, I refused to answer, and stared back at him. The actor observed as the man kept up an objectifying discourse about me, to conclude I was beautiful as "a statue." This particular statue, however, was looking back at him contemptuously, and, perhaps thanks to the presence of a man he obviously admired, he became nervous, and slunk away. 

The actor told me that we were alike. I should become an actress. I told him I couldn't do that - prodded by survival instructions I had received years earlier, upon my rescue from a pedophile network by a gangster, which included never saying a word to anyone about the network.  If I ever revealed this secret "they would find and kill me." My eleven-year-old mind had interpreted this instruction as that I should live anonymously, like a gangster, always hiding from the public. 

The actor shrugged: "Why not?"

I couldn't well answer that question. This became the start of a strange and contradictory journey in my life. When I got to Paris, I started taking acting classes, without any plan to ever act. The actor visited and brought me to a dinner with film professionals. He lamented his own limited talent with languages - his French was heavily accented - but I was gifted, fluent in French, English and German. We were at a private room in this Parisian restaurant, and all present gazed at me with the excitement and expectation at the beginning of something big. I was going to be the next star. A producer there told me that he was a good friend of Jean-Luc Godard - the legendary French filmmaker - and that he was going to meet with the director the following day. I should join him for the meeting, because, he claimed, I simply belonged in the next Godard movie. Everyone agreed I completely looked like a Godard actress.

I think what they meant was that I was young and heavily sexualized, creating a sensuality that attracted men and women to me in their unconscious reverence of sexual idols. Sex is about power, and the excitement in the room was the unhealthy agitation of being near it, almost able to touch it. It's almost like being close to God, except that power-addicts play God in hell. 

Sensuality, caused by sexualization in child abuse, does often create charisma, which is the child's impotent, voiceless cry for true love projected out of every pore of that person. The response to that sensuality often re-creates the situation of abuse, with wheeler dealers exploiting sex appeal and its power to serve their own needs and fill their own pockets. The former child victim rises to the top, surrounded by vultures who all want something from them, with no one to love them unconditionally, and empower them from within. The realms of power are so devious, that those caught in it often can't discriminate true from false, and are drawn to the most exploitative (representing childhood abusers), while unable to recognize humility and its absence of ulterior motive (representing the innocence of the child). 

In Paris, I did not call the producer from the dinner as promised, and never met Jean-Luc Godard. I had to remain anonymous. But also, I had seen his latest movie, littered with naked women as set props, about a film director who can't figure out the storyline on his own shoot. Two women who each take off their clothes at some point in the film vie for the ugly leading man. I had already survived the pedophile network, I was not willing to objectify myself for the entire world. Perhaps my internal "no" to being famous because of the survival instructions was feeding my integrity. I was helping my soul to survive.

When I arrived in New York, I continued taking acting classes. Again, in acting school, there was often an aura around me as if I was going to be the next big star. I was one of the rare women whom Stella Adler liked. She directed me in a scene from Shakespeare's Henry VI, in which queen Margaret delivers her revenge speech to the Duke of York after a twenty year chase, before he is beheaded. I got so into the revenge that "Clifford and Northumberland" had to hold me back from lunging at the poor actor kneeling on the stage molehill in front of me. I was told by a filmmaker who came to shoot at the acting studio that I was the only student there with real talent, and he was looking forward to see me again. I had a lot of repressed feelings from my previous abuse, that could have all found some expression through acting, without my ever needing to link those feelings to my trauma. The pain would be further covered over by whatever status and privilege I could achieve in this movie network of power-addicted elites and their cronies. 

I traveled to Los Angeles in the early eighties for a three week trip that ended up lasting eight years. In Hollywood, I was surrounded by movie men. I was approached by a producer of a classic movie walking on Melrose Avenue, who came to visit my acting class to show his support, bringing along his actor son, who was my age. In his follow-up phone call, I received a lavish description of his property and his pool. He proceeded to share that he saw me in his house, clearly without any idea how objectifying that sentence was. While still on the call, I had a good laugh at his expense, and that was that.

I worked as a temp at one movie studio, and one of the top executives tricked me into visiting his home, by inviting a friend of mine along. She was swooped up by another man as soon as we arrived, and I found myself cornered. At work, we had spent quite a bit of time talking. He was twenty years my senior, and I liked him, but I wasn't the least bit attracted. He got to the point of his ruse, and told me that I was exactly the kind of woman he'd been looking for.

"My search is finally over," he declared. "I found my wife."

Without a real plan to become an actor, I was able to express many feelings that I had always needed to hide as a child sex slave in he network. I rejected this studio exec's moves with shock, derision, and disgust, reveling in the momentary freedom to finally release the charge.

Needless to say, I never did become a star, but I did attend several parties, and extreme misogyny and objectification of women were prevalent everywhere, with women adjusting and accommodating in infinite degrees. Many studio bosses, producers and others were acting every bit as privileged and out-of-control as the VIP's in the pedophile network. With an industry this predatory, with the money, power, arrogance and self-aggrandizing narcissism of the business, of course there are many perpetrators drawn to the field, and of course pedophilia, just like in any top-power environment, is the big secret of the industry.

Just before moving back to New York, I ran into a well-known director who had once shown a passing interest in me, but I believe he had waited for me to make a move, and of course nothing happened. We acknowledged that it had been close to a decade since we had last seen each other. He looked me up and down with his lazy eyes behind glasses, with his pasty face and pudgy body, and, as if he was thinking deeply about this, commented:

"You're well-preserved."

While that statement is incredibly insulting for a woman to hear at any age, it was perplexing to hear it at thirty.

Not only did I not want to get into an industry that would replicate my former humiliations and abuse, I also didn't care to act in films that were all reflective of the misogyny and objectification culture. After completing the American Film Institute's Master Program for Screenwriting, I went back to Hollywood as a reader, privy to the incredible sickness of the overwhelmingly male writer body of this industry. The dehumanizing descriptions of female characters were always centered around their breasts or body shape, including the lead role for the (white) woman, which was never the lead part. Hollywood differs from the VIP pedophile network of my childhood in that there are plenty of very kind and well-meaning people working in various aspects and levels of film. It is also a self-serving and self-perpetuating business spreading messages of infantile male power, hypocritically justifying stupendous levels of gun violence and death to rescue people, or, ever boundlessly humble, the universe. 

Of course every person of power in Hollywood knows exactly what happens and what has been happening to women and female actors forever. It is just that things are beginning to shift slightly now, that some find themselves a little late to the table, and are looking bad for what was always common practice and widely accepted. As in any power structure, the higher you climb, the more you are exposed to sex scandals, and the more you are required to stay quiet and do nothing, or you lose the status and power, or your life. Many in Hollywood have built their careers on abuse, or silence about abuse. The Weinstein scandal has stirred the embers of the Woody Allen case and the Corey Feldman revelations of pedophilia. There is a great amount more to be revealed before real change will happen. 

 

M Becker