If you follow mainstream online news or just social media, you’ll know the common-thread that puts all these celebrities in the same box – allegations of sexual assault. The latest addition to this group, Kevin Spacey, was a particularly close one for me. As a great admirer of Spacey’s work I quickly sifted through the plethora of condemnations from colleagues and former co-stars to get the full story by his accuser Anthony Rapp.
What upset me further was the number of people who said “we all knew about you”, claiming that they knew about his perversion for younger men (where it was clearly illegal). Why do we not speak up – name and shame? Do we need a victim before we can speak out about abusive behaviour?
Given that this is not the first situation in which celebrities have found themselves in this situation, I feel there are just a few conversations I am not so tired of having because 1) they’re old and have nothing to do with this and 2) the question about whether or not he will “get away with it. But I guess they’re still coming up so I’ll share why I feel the way I do about them.
The first kind of old and worn-out conversations we do not need to be having are about the surprise that his sexuality is. We’re discussing a paedophilic case and the shock about his “gayness” is truly not one that we need to be having because that’s no one’s business and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Where I am willing to feature his sexuality into the discussion is in the fact that he used the platform on which he was apologising to simultaneously “come out” and reveal his sexual orientation. What is this meant to achieve? What harms does it perpetuate – one big red flag I see here is a perpetuation of stereotypes of gay people as “predators” or reckless individuals and secondly, he diverts this attention to himself and what he is/was going through which is not only insensitive but selfish and manipulative.
The second discussion around whether he will “get away” with it because of his celebrity status or because to happened so long ago is another that I find incredibly upsetting but no matter how tedious, we need to discuss. If I were to ask people what their idea of justice in this situation would be I’m sure the answers would range from “he should be tried and shunned”, “withdrawal of sponsors from brand association”, to “his career needs to be virtually ended” and many others.
But often people do not realise their own role in this justice. When college boys are found guilty of assault everyone wants their careers ended but when it comes to musicians and actors there’s an exception. We continue to consume their music and films and literature etc.
Not me. As much as I loved and enjoyed Spacey and appreciated his talent… dog box – right along with Chris Brown, R Kelly, Victor Salva and co. (yes, it means I will deny myself the much-awaited Jeepers Creepers 3 and anything else that they will create). It also doesn’t help that Kevin’s apology was half-arsed and self-absorbed. This is not because I expect them to be perfect – in fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of leeway between the expectation of perfection and expecting people to not assault or molest others.
Remember how outraged and disgusted we were at Donald Trump’s recorded, “When you’re a star, they let you do it”? What if I told you we were the “they” who let these perpetrators get away with this. We all need to start taking responsibility for the collective role we play in punishing perpetrators, otherwise we send the message that it’s okay if you’re famous, or influential and to victims that nothing will change if they come out.