Today we just relax and talk about an interesting and controversial English topic, Harvey Weinstein, and explore the English vocabulary and the style of a typical everyday English conversation.
People learn new languages for many reasons. It might be for work, for pleasure, for school, or maybe just for the challenge.
Regardless of our motivation, at some point we all need something for everyday conversation filler that we can talk about, which is a topical current event. So today is a good example of what that might be, and the tone and vocabulary used is informal English.
It’s good English listening practice, but it’s also something you might use yourself in a practice conversation.
#Metoo Thankyou Oscars
Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast. We are here to help you learn English through listening – and we aim to provide you with lots of listening material on different subjects. So let’s talk today about something else that has been in the news lately – something other than coronavirus. We’ve done a lot of grammar work lately too – so let’s do something that’s more for interest, and a matter of opinion.
One of the major news stories in the last couple of weeks has been the conviction of Harvey Weinstein. The word ‘conviction’, C-O-N-V-I-C-T-I-O-N means when someone is found guilty in a court of a crime. And this happened to Harvey Weinstein on 11th March. He was given a sentence of 23 years. The word sentence, S-E-N-T-E-N-C-E in this context means the length of time in prison. And prison is where criminals go, once they’re convicted. Famous prisons include Alcatraz in San Francisco bay – or in the UK Wormwood Scrubs or Manchester’s Strangeways. In US English, you’ll hear the word used for a prison - it’s usually ‘penitentiary’, at least for serious crimes, that is.
So we all know the Harvey Weinstein story – a super successful movie producer, whose films we’ve all watched. They include such titles as ‘My Left Foot’, ‘The Crying Game’, ‘The Piano’, ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Good Will Hunting’, ‘The English Patient’, ‘Shakespeare in Love’, ‘The King’s Speech’, ‘Inglorious Basterds’ – they’re all great films and there are many more. And Harvey Weinstein was hugely well-known, powerful in the industry for many years. A full 81 of his films have won Oscars and he seemed unstoppable And we all know the story of how he’s been disgraced by allegations of misuse of his power, intimidation, sexual assault and rape - crimes against women, many of them actresses, whom we know.
It’s a remarkable enough story anyway – and there will be many people who’re pleased by the conviction last week. A 23 year prison sentence sends a very strong message, even it’s likely that he will serve less time than that. What I find fascinating however – ‘fascinating’ means ‘very interesting’ – is that Harvey Weinstein still doesn’t seem to see himself as guilty. So far he hasn’t shown any of what we call ‘remorse’, R-E-M-O-R-S-E. If you feel ‘remorse’, it means that you regret what you’ve done, you’re sorry, you see the error in your actions and you feel bad for the people that you’ve hurt. But throughout this whole process, Harvey Weinstein has not expressed ‘remorse’ and claims instead to be ‘confused’ or ‘hurt’ by the allegations, many of them made by women he knows well and claimed to be friends with.
In the courtroom, Harvey Weinstein pleaded for leniency. ‘To plead’ means to ask for something, with a lot of feeling. And ‘leniency’ has a similar meaning to ‘mercy’ – if someone shows leniency or mercy, then they give you a lesser punishment, because they’re aware of more positive parts of your character. So although Harvey Weinstein said that he ‘felt remorse’ for the six women whose evidence had convicted him, it wasn’t an apology, he didn’t say he was sorry.
Instead he went on to talk about his charity work, his philanthropy and how many people’s careers he’d helped. ‘Philanthropy’, P-H-I-L-A-N-T-H-R-O-P-Y, philanthropy is a noun and it means when you do good things to help human beings in general. There’s also an adjective ‘philanthropic’ and a noun for a person who does philanthropy – they’re called a ‘philanthropist’. It’s rather hard to think of Harvey Weinstein as a philanthropist, but that’s the impression of himself that he wanted to give to us. What’s interesting – it seems that he thinks that these philanthropic actions perhaps somehow make up for, or compensate for, balance out the wrong things that he’s done.
It’s bizarre, also that Harvey Weinstein appears genuinely baffled, confused by his conviction. And worse still, he talked of himself as a victim. A victim, V-I-C-T-I-M – is the person to whom the wrong thing is done. So he thinks he’s the victim! He said “The #metoo movement started basically because of me,” adding, “I was the first example and now there are thousands of men who are being accused.” So ‘to accuse’ means ‘to say that someone has done something wrong’ – so what he’s saying here ‘there are thousands of men, who are similarly having bad things said about them, which aren’t true.’ Harvey Weinstein went on to say “I’m worried about this country,” and that there are “thousands of men and women who are losing due process” after being accused. When he says ‘they’re losing due process’ what he means is the process by which they are judged is not fair. He ended “I’m totally confused. I think men are confused about these issues.”
A picture of a woman setting a paper message, with the words sexism on it, on fire.
Quite what is confusing about being found guilty of rape, I’m not sure. I think there is a valid concern that sometimes men can be falsely accused – or that interest in a woman, which is genuine, romantically intentioned could be misunderstood or misinterpreted. We still live in a world where, on the whole men are expected to make the first move. So I think it’s a genuine concern that more men, or women perhaps could be wrongly accused as a result of the Weinstein case and the MeToo movement. But it seems outrageous that Harvey Weinstein actually talks about this in his own defence. He’s trying to ‘put himself in the same camp’, to ally himself with wrongly accused people. He’s trying to say that he’s the same as them.
And the idea that he is ‘totally confused’ and that ‘men are confused about these issues’. Taking this position attempts to side step, to avoid the idea that he abused his power, he forced himself sexually onto women, whom he must have known didn’t want it. He’s clearly an intelligent man – and yet he’s ‘confused’ by something which seems very simple to other people. Clearly the level of denial, the level of defence is what we call ‘pathological’. ‘Pathological’ means ‘related to illness’ and down to an extreme problem, something wrong in his character. We talk in English about ‘being in denial’ – and this means when someone refuses to see that something is true, even when it clearly is true. Harvey Weinstein is so attached to the idea of himself as powerful, talented and popular, that he can’t begin to face the fact of what he’s done, his crimes. So he completely denies his guilt and says he’s ‘confused’.
I’m reminded of a quotation we learned in History classes – a quotation by John Dalberg-Acton. He said “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” What this quote means is that people….if people hold power, it tends to affect their personality, it makes them less good people. And if someone holds absolute power, absolute control over other people, this completely destroys the good in their character. It’s rather like the plot of one of Weinstein’s best known films – The Two Towers in the Lord of the Ring series. Whoever holds the ring becomes corrupted by it. Seemingly it’s a bit like that with power, at the level that Harvey Weinstein enjoyed anyway.
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Anyway, thankyou for listening. Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.