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Zoe Kazan Says Rape Culture Endures Since #MeToo: We Live in an ‘Oppressive Patriarchy’

"There is so much change left to be done," the "She Said" actress said at the film's New York Film Festival premiere.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13: (L-R) Jodi Kantor, Zoe Kazan, Megan Twohey and Carey Mulligan attend the red carpet event for "She Said" during the 60th New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on October 13, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for FLC)

Jodi Kantor, Zoe Kazan, Megan Twohey, and Carey Mulligan attend the “She Said” premiere during the 60th New York Film Festival

Getty Images for FLC

Five years since Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor broke the Harvey Weinstein abuse allegations, the #MeToo movement has incited sweeping changes in Hollywood. Or has it?

She Said,” the “origin story” film charting Twohey and Kantor’s reporting at The New York Times from 2016 to 2017, stars Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as the two respective journalists. Maria Schrader directs the film, in theaters November 18.

“It was a daunting prospect to play someone real, and then to play such real heroes of our society, I was terrified the whole time,” Mulligan said following the film’s world premiere at the New York Film Festival. “But we were so lucky because we immediately got to know these women. We sort of had a friendship as well. I just felt privileged from start to finish.”

Co-star Kazan added, “I think more than the feeling of needing to do justice by Jodi and Megan, it was a feeling of needing to do justice to this story and to all of the brave women who spoke to them in order to bring this piece of journalism into the world.”

Yet the headlines in the wake of the #MeToo movement have proven that the effort to expose harassment, assault, and rape has still faltered on a national scale. When a president is accused of rape and elected in the same year, or when the Supreme Court overturns a law for female bodily autonomy almost a half-century after its implementation, it proves that it’s not just a singular Hollywood producer behind rape culture as a whole.

“Anybody reading the newspaper headlines, let’s just say since the beginning of May, would know that we are still living in an oppressive patriarchy. That’s not special to our industry,” Kazan said. “There is so much change left to be done.”

She continued, “One of the things that has happened as a result of this reporting and the wave of the #MeToo movement that rose from the movement started from Tarana Burke after this reporting and the reporting that came out, is that there is now a conversation that is open and not just behind closed doors. I think that makes an enormous difference.”

Burke, who founded the #MeToo social media movement, was in the audience at the film premiere, as well as multiple survivors of Harvey Weinstein’s abuse. Ashley Judd, one of the few sources who went on the record for Kantor and Twohey’s initial piece, appears as herself in the film and addressed the catharsis she felt telling her story onscreen.

“First of all, I just want to acknowledge my sisters and their courage as well,” Judd said, citing her fellow Weinstein survivors. “I just want to remember when I was speaking with my mother about this, she said, ‘Oh, go get ‘em, honey.’ She was just enthralled by my audacity, as I later heard from my friends.”

Weinstein assaulted Judd in 1996 at the Peninsula Hotel.

“It was very easy for me to tell the story, because as I say in the film, my dad was with me that day in 1996. And when I came down from the hotel room, he knew something devastating had happened to me just by the look on my face,” Judd said. “It was very validating that someone wanted to listen and do something about it. The film was the next step in that.”

Judd praised the “beautifully done” script by screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz, adding, “I just kept telling the story in the movie. My lines got longer and longer. I kept telling it in more detail, the most the lawyers would allow me. It’s so important to be in our truth. It was a very simple thing for me to do, and I was very grateful to get the opportunity.”

Judd pointed to new practices that have come in the wake of the #MeToo movement in the SAG-AFTRA union, like including a sexual harassment hotline and audition protocols in the membership.

“I’ve reframed experiences that I have had to understand that they were in fact harassment and assault when I have previously minimized them,” Judd said. “So I think the individual transformation a lot of us has had has been from what Tarana started in 2011 and as a result of this reporting, has allowed women’s consciousness to transform and to set boundaries and claim autonomy and say this is the hill on which I am willing to die. That affects finding voice, being able to stand up for oneself. These choices then become more evident, and we establish our norms around who we want to be, as I understand that was in fact abuse and it’s not normative anymore.”

Kazan similarly shared, “There are certain safeguards and industry standards that have now changed. And for me, the thing that Jodi touched on, that an individual can make change with the right institutions, is the most important thing. And for a long time, I think the institutions of Hollywood were all organized to support one kind of person. And my hope is that not just the change effected by the #MeToo movement but all kinds of changes happening to support many kinds of people in our industry, and then hopefully other industries.”

Screenwriter Lenkiewicz, who adapted the screenplay from Twohey and Kantor’s book “She Said,” explained that she “felt compelled as a woman” to share this story onscreen.

“I felt compelled because I can count not on one hand but on two hands how many women in my close circle have horrific experiences. And I don’t think it’s talked about enough,” Lenkiewicz said. “I think shame is something that women carry, and they shouldn’t have to. I think that things have to change. That’s why I felt passionate. I think if this film helps anyone, in any way, then we have done our job.”

“She Said” premieres in theaters November 18. 

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