By Melanie Reid in THE TIMES, 18 January 2020
Harvey Weinstein on his Zimmer, shuffling from car to rape-trial courtroom, has been the lasting image of Hollywood’s 2020 awards season. I try to avoid it, but occasionally the TV news has ambushed me with his whey-faced “suffering”. (Oops. Apologies for the inverted commas. My finger slipped.)
At first, it made me really mad. Which helped my chronically low blood pressure, but little else. On reflection, I realise this performance is the gift that keeps on giving, darkly amusing in its Oscar-winning naivety.
Lordy, he’s had such an unbelievable accumulation of bad luck, hasn’t he? First that mystery car accident, which damaged his spine and caused difficulty walking. Then, to try to relieve the pinched nerves, he needed risky decompression surgery just before Christmas. I mean, what kind of timing was that? Poor man. No wonder in court he pressed his hand against his anguished face and drooped in his chair. All this at the age of 67, with type 2 diabetes to boot.
His lawyers were dismayed by claims he’s been trying to garner sympathy and win over the jury. The callousness of suggesting that he’s seeking shelter in the world of disability for his own convenience. Exploiting the vulnerable – he’d never do that.
But Harvey – you don’t mind if I address you directly, spinal victim to spinal victim, do you? – if it turns out you are faking it, hiding under the cloak of proper suffering, then there’s stuff you need to know. A special corner of hell is reserved for people who use disability as a ticket to a pity party.
1. You’re obviously very sore (or pretending to be) and you’ll need help washing and dressing. And you know how you’ve always, er, favoured a certain type of woman? Well, your carers won’t look like that. Instead of film stars, they’ll be ordinary, strong women, of all ages and sizes, who will really enjoy the opportunity to “care” for you. (Sorry, finger slipped again). Power, Harvey? You’ll find out who’s got it now: the ladies with sardonic smiles, long sharp nails, gloves and aprons. Oh, they’ll freshen you up all right, scouring your genitals with a disparaging flannel. Then they’ll roll you and do the same behind. A warning – say nothing suggestive, Harvey. Nothing cocky. Ever.
2. If you end up in prison – just floating the possibility – you’ll probably meet some exceptionally robust carers. Ones who chew spanners for breakfast. If you’re lucky, they’ll be female. Did you ever watch Prisoner: Cell Block H, Harvey? Better take your own flannel. And pray.
3. Getting dressed with a damaged spine requires help. Prison or not, you’ll be wearing T-shirts and jogging bottoms for ever, the baggier the better. Get used to the homeless wino look, because it’s for ever. Your carers will make sure of that. Besides, you love wandering around naked, don’t you? So it’ll be easier for you to get your kit off.
4. Full-body massages. Hahahaha. Just kidding, right?
5. Dignity. I’m sorry – remind me what that is? Feel like a lump of meat, Harvey? Lots of memories in that for you.
6. And apologies for breaking news like this so casually, but incontinence often follows spinal damage. Hopefully just number ones, but we almost all end up with number twos as well. You can train your bladder a bit, of course. And wear big pads when you go out. (Hence the baggy joggers.) But accidents are unavoidable. Let’s pray yours happen in the company of people you really want to impress. Only kidding.
7. Neuropathic pain is constant, grinding, buzzing, unpredictable. Worst thing is, Big Pharma’s never bothered its backside to find any treatment for it that doesn’t also zombify you. Market too small to cater for – like the movie industry. Take the drugs, Harvey. Just try not to dribble too much.
8. Sex appeal. Forget it, mate. Joggers, incontinence, pressure sores – the look’s just not great. Plus you’ll have swollen legs – ankles and feet purple, toes like sausages – which demand you wear elasticated stockings and Velcro slippers. Final straw on dates, I’m afraid.
My honest opinion? I recommend a miraculous recovery sooner rather than later.
Melanie Reid is tetraplegic after breaking her neck and back in a riding accident in April 2010