On the cover of this week’s issue of The Hollywood Reporter you’ll see a glamorous photo of Ronan Farrow, lit like the lead detective in a forgotten noir film, above the headline “The Prince Who Torched the Castle.” The profile inside walks readers through Farrow’s life story, his reporting that helped take down Harvey Weinstein et al., and suggests a future in journalism and the media that is brighter than bright.
Farrow, like all reporters who helped lift the curtain obscuring one of Hollywood’s darkest open secrets, deserves praise for his work over the past several months. His New Yorker pieces were shocking and essential, and undoubtedly helped create an atmosphere where victims of abuse felt more comfortable sharing their stories. But they were by no means the “torch” that burned down Hollywood’s proverbial castle of sexual misconduct. They didn’t even light the match.
If the fall of Harvey Weinstein in the Fall of 2017 began anywhere, it began with the victims—the women who decided to speak. If it began with any piece of reporting, it began with this piece by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in The New York Times, which predates Farrow’s report by five days. But that hasn’t stopped outlets like The Times of London—and now The Hollywood Reporter—from minimizing the efforts of those two women and characterizing Farrow as the sole firestarter.
In December, Times of London published a profile titled “Ronan Farrow, the Man Who Took Down Weinstein.” (The web version’s headline was revised to “the Man Who Helped Bring Down Weinstein.”) In it, writer Josh Glancey mentions Kantor and Twohey’s reporting only in passing before moving on to the more pressing subject: Farrow, the former “boy wonder” suddenly becoming a “man of substance.”
“With his angelic good looks, celebrity DNA and uncommon intelligence, Farrow was always tipped for greatness,” Glancey writes before sharing the impressive and peculiar story of his childhood (he graduated from college at 15), as well as quotes from Farrow’s friends and colleagues about his astonishing intelligence, work ethic, and relentlessness.
In their cover story on Farrow published Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter doesn’t even mention Kantor and Twohey by name, and dismissively (and shamefully) characterizes their reporting as not having gone far enough. “Though The Times published first, on Oct. 5,” they write, “Farrow’s New Yorker piece went deeper, with explicit and painful on-the-record accounts of alleged assault and rape.” Farrow’s was the singular piece that, according to their version of events, “upended the town’s historic casting-couch culture and spurred a wave of disclosures that have toppled powerful men in Hollywood, the media and politics.”
I suppose the story of a man defying the odds and using his wealth, familial fame, and bountiful privilege for good is more interesting than two women who merely worked their asses off for the better part of their adult lives in an industry where women are often treated like dirt, but a good story should not get in the way of the full one: which is that Farrow was one piece of a machine that predates him. In a statement given to Recode, he acknowledges this.
“The ghosts of the journalistic past rose up to help push this forward,” Farrow said. “There were a lot of reporters from the past who had tried to do this and then generously helped as I was banging my head against the wall.”
If Farrow openly accepts his role as one of many, why on earth must it be so hard for outlets like The Hollywood Reporter to follow suit? In a Variety cover story from early December, Kantor and Twohey are rightfully given credit as the reporters who published first, but both they and writer Bret Lang recognize Farrow’s work as both “impressive and important.” It’s a we’re-all-in-this-together mentality that is lacking from both previously mentioned breathless profiles of Farrow, the wunderkind who acted alone.
This shouldn’t be a pissing match. In a perfect world, the culture-shifting work of Farrow, Kantor, and Twohey—not to mention Tarana Burke and Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd and every other silence breaker who’s made it a little easier for women to speak out—would be regarded with equal respect and admiration by everyone who tells the story of the #MeToo movement.
But some things haven’t changed since the tables started turning, and women continue being shoved into the margins of their own story by people who’d prefer having a white knight in shining armor as the savior, when the truth is that he was merely one hero in a deafening, exhausted crowd of many—each of them with a hand on the torch.