Kevin Spacey & the Hollywood disease
“That grotesque power dynamic—and the ‘you’ll never work in this town again’ culture of fear it creates… It is the shadowy undercurrent beneath Hollywood’s glitzy veneer, and if this town is going to champion itself as some liberal bastion for equality, progressivism, and noble ideals, it must first reckon with all the creeps who not so secretly run it,” wrote Sean O’Neal last Friday for the A.V. Club in response to what he refers to as “Hollywood’s long-overdue moral reckoning.”
The floodgates opened when Harvey Weinstein was accused by dozens of women of sexual harassment and rape. One of Hollywood’s most powerful figures was one of its most deplorable, using grossly gendered power dynamics to take advantage of actresses for his own benefit, forcing victims to keep silently lest they be ostracized from their industry. But as more victims come forward with their stories of abuse, naming more names, it seems as though Weinstein’s “moral compass” is not an exception but the norm—Hollywood’s worst kept secret.
It’s not surprising, given the rampant misogyny in the film industry and inequity between male and female and straight and queer roles, but nonetheless it’s more than disappointing how far back we are despite the advances we thought we were making.
Of the most dispiriting revelations is that of Kevin Spacey. On October 29, BuzzFeed published an article in which actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of making a sexual advance toward him in 1986 in New York City while they were both performing on Broadway. Spacey was 26. Rapp was 14.
Spacey has long withheld his sexuality from public knowledge, which is an entirely respectable choice, one that shouldn’t even have to be choice nor up for such rapturous public speculation. Your sexuality is your own and no one else’s, and our warped discourse on sexuality that places such emphasis on “coming out” and the reinforcement of heteronormativity is a culture we needed to change yesterday, but that’s another article for another day.
Rapp deserves to be heard and believed. Several more men have come forward with their own stories of Spacey’s sexual abuse. And Rapp’s story essentially confirmed the speculation that Spacey was gay, but it was an altogether more disturbing revelation that Spacey would make sexual advances toward a minor.
It was Spacey’s acknowledgement of the allegations, however, that disrupts beyond Hollywood’s problem of abuse. In Spacey’s first statement following the BuzzFeed article, Spacey wrote, “I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behavior.” Beyond a terrible choice of words, Spacey’s statement is a deeply problematic equivocation of “choosing” sexuality and “examining” that behavior.
First, sexuality is not a choice. Spacey may have meant he now chooses to live openly as a gay man, but this is not what he wrote. Second, the jarring juxtaposition of coming one in one sentence and “examining my own behavior” in the next is concerning in that it associates his homosexuality with his pattern of sexual abuse. Putting aside unfortunate sentence structure, the simple fact that he chose his coming out to coincide with his apology for sexual abuse of a teenager is troubling and implicitly creates a nonexistent relationship between LGTBQ+ people, sexual abuse and pedophilia.
Spacey’s coming out as a deflection of his pattern of abuse is more than PR control; it’s an insidious reinforcement of homophobia and the idea that queer people are inherently immoral. His subsequent statement that he will be “seeking evaluation and treatment,” in an effort to appease and begin the process of reconciling himself, only further underscores this narrative by suggesting his homosexuality is a part of his predation.
The narrative Spacey has put forth is extremely damaging to the LGBTQ+ community. His “apology” is a selfish deflection that conceded minimum guilt for a situation that is simply inexcusable.
Luke Maguire, a junior, studies English. He is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of Le Provocateur.