One by one Hollywood hot-shots are being taken down by women who are done staying silent. A couple of days ago, I came across former One Tree Hill writer Audrey Wauchope‘s Twitter thread accusing an unnamed showrunner of sexual harassment. The details she revealed combined with fan reactions made it clear she was condemning one person: One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn. My heart immediately sunk as I realized the man behind my favorite show is a predator.
Two days later, fearless women from the cast and crew of OTH published an open letter in Variety naming Mark as an abuser. “To use terminology that has become familiar as the systemic reality of sexual harassment and assault has come more and more to light, Mark Schwahn’s behavior over the duration of the filming of One Tree Hill was something of an ‘open secret,'” the women wrote. “Many of us were spoken to in ways that ran the spectrum from deeply upsetting, to traumatizing, to downright illegal. And a few of us were put in positions where we felt physically unsafe. More than one woman on our show had her career trajectory threatened.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that these women are telling the truth. I believe their words and my heart breaks for their experiences. Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton, and Bethany Joy Lenz or as we know them as Brooke Davis, Peyton Sawyer, and Haley James Scott are living proof that the feminist sentiments highlighted in the show weren’t just words in a script. These actresses could have looked the other way when Audrey opened up about her experiences. But, instead, they chose to support her and created rallying cries like “#BurnItDownSis” and “#BelieveWomen.”
And it’s not only the female leads who stepped forward, but also countless other actresses who appeared on the show and the crew who brought the story fans hold close to their hearts to life. Their male co-stars have also professed their public support of women. James Lafferty, who played Nathan Scott, tweeted, “I applaud every woman on OTH, every woman on earth, who stands up to a system that has failed them in the past and in this moment. I stand with them.”
As a disillusioned fan, part of me wants to have nothing to do with the work of a person who used his power to harass, abuse, and tear down others. But, the other part of me remembers the teenage me who used to stay up late watching Haley and Nathan’s love story. The girl who cried when Brooke Davis had her heart broken time and time again. The younger version of myself who saw herself in each of the main characters. So, because of that, I refuse to let Mark’s actions diminish the beautiful light that is One Tree Hill.
Lucas’ words, Peyton’s heart, Haley’s wit, Nathan’s talent, and Brooke’s strength are what make One Tree Hill what it is. It’s because of these characters that I traveled from New York to North Carolina just to visit where the show was shot. I support the stories they told. I support the people they are. Tree Hill is still the place where everything’s better and everything’s safe, and not even Mark Schwahn can take that away.