*Trigger Warning* Mentions of sexual abuse, misconduct, assault and paedophilia.
I saw on my Instagram feed that Kevin Spacey will be making a comeback into the film industry. He is set to play a detective in the Italian film, The Man Who Drew God, directed by Franco Nero. This film is about a man falsely accused of sexually abusing children. This news made me feel repulsed. Despite the progress made by the #MeToo movement, many men who have committed sexual misconduct still go under the radar - those who have been accused have reset their lives as the law prefers “innocent before proven guilty.” Despite the initial reaction from the film industry, being to shun them and to support the survivors, how can the same industry be so in touch with making sure these men are shunned, let them reboot their careers, like nothing happened?
Not four years after twenty people have come forward with claims of historic sexual abuse against him, Kevin Spacey can restart his life. Why?
Franco Nero, the director of The Man Who Drew God, said to ABC News, "I'm very happy Kevin agreed to participate in my film. I consider him a great actor, and I can't wait to start the movie."
Nero will reportedly star as the lead in the film, which follows "the rise and fall of a blind artist who has the extraordinary gift of making true-to-life portraits just by listening to human voices." Why is Nero completely changing the narrative of this misconduct for the sake of artistic integrity? Why has he not addressed the accusations? Why is he completely disregarding his victims’ experiences and giving Spacey a platform?
In 2017, actor Anthony Rapp alleged that Spacey made sexual advances towards him in 1986 when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. When responding to this allegation, Spacey stated that:
"If I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour."
Controversially, on the same day of Rapp's allegations against him, Spacey came out as gay when apologizing to Rapp. He said, "I have had relationships with both men and women. I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man." Spacey deflected these serious allegations by coming forth with his sexuality, trying to take away from the fact that he preyed on an underage target. The backlash was unsurprisingly swift. Spacey's move to 'come out’ was widely criticized and helped feed a damaging myth that amalgamates queer identity and pedophilia.
Since Rapp came forward, many more came forward accusing Spacey of sexual misconduct when they were very young teenagers. Spacey denied the accusations, but at the time, the industry reacted, and there was a lot of fallout. Netflix terminated their contract with the actor and cut him from his role in House of Cards. His scenes in Ridley Scott's All The Money In The World were reshot. Spacey's agent and publicist cut their ties as well, his special Emmys Award was withdrawn, and for a while, it looked like the industry was taking these allegations seriously. Until now.
The #MeToo movement allows survivors of sexual misconduct a place to come forward with their stories. It allows for empowerment through empathy. Many actors and actresses utilized the #MeToo movement as a chance to tell their stories. One benefit is that Hollywood producers have hired more female screenwriters than in previous years! However, looking at Kevin Spacey now, has it really changed the industry, or were any changes the industry happened to make, just in lip service?
Spacey's return to the industry, blatantly being praised by Nero, signals a redemption arc. This is his chance to get back into the industry as if he was a misunderstood villain this whole time and wants to have an arc of redemption to make him a loved favourite again. Spacey is not Loki from the Marvel Franchise; given a chance to become a well rounded character and to become a likeable fan favourite! Spacey has been accused of sexual assault and abuse, and here he is being given the chance to redeem himself and be forgiven. But since he has not had a criminal charge, he is innocent until proven guilty. Spacey has placed a cautious toe in the tepid waters of public opinion. The film narrative itself almost parodies and exploits the survivors' accounts!
It begs the question: Does Spacey's comeback pave the way back for other Hollywood men accused but not convicted of misconduct? Is this a new phenomenon whereby famous men once rendered unemployable by the industry are allowed to slide into the limelight again? Well, let's be honest, this has always happened. The industry has always been gracious to its males.
Look at Roman Polanski. He notoriously uses his French Passport to live in France to avoid extradition to the United States on the still-pending charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. This case from 1978 shows that Polanski's life has been so unaffected by the #MeToo movement. Polanski was never punished and was never shunned by the industry and continues not to be so. UK distributors opted to avoid his latest Film, An Officer and A Spy, but Robert Harris suffered no opprobrium for co-writing the script with Polanski.
What about Mel Gibson? Despite the outbursts of homophobic, racist, and antisemitic language, and after being accused of domestic violence by girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, he still continues to book jobs! In 2010 he was caught on tape admitting that he had hit Grigorieva and that he threatened to "burn the f***ing house down" and saying: "You look like a f***ing bitch in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n****s, it'll be your fault." This wasn't just an example of toxic masculinity, it's abuse, yet he still continues to be praised and given a platform! It is 2021, why are we allowing publicly abusive men to get away with their actions with immunity?
Despite damning testimony from adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen is still in the grey area between damned and not, and there has not been a criminal conviction, but he continues to work in the industry with little criticism!
Aziz Ansari was accused of sexual misconduct in 2018, but after a private apology, he has resumed his career with no harm done. I remember discussing this case with someone I used to live with. They went out of their way to research how Ansari did no such sexual misconduct. Why? Because he was a favourite from their show Parks and Recreation. At the time, I didn't even blink. But now, I question why I allowed this person to write off someone's experience just to suit their narrative. Isn't this what the industry is doing?
All of these accusations, and yet no consequences. Is this the reality of how influential the #MeToo movemener actually is, where alleged perpetrators face an immediate backlash online in the face of #MeToo, but once the initial shock has gone away they happily return to the position they were in before?
We were supposed to see a full cultural shift in how we react to cases of sexual assault, but instead, all we see is that it works for a few years, and then it dies down - as is evidenced by Spacey - and things can return to problematic normality. The industry's response to these accounts of misconduct by rehiring these stars has just become part of an elaborate ruse. It seems as though the initial ‘distancing’ from the said star is almost tokenistic because it is playing face. It devalues the experiences of these survivors and the #MeToo movement.
We need to discuss the industry and the people complicit in protecting this narrative. Even if someone speaks out about their experience, their voice seems to be in a vacuum, a cacophony of glitz and glamour and money, and it doesn't matter. It may matter for a few years, but the accused will still have their arc of transformation and return to their spot in the limelight. The industry is fraught with hypocrisy and the law offers no protection for survivors of sexual misconduct. This should not be the case, and we need to reassess the treatment of Hollywood men and the fact that they are committing hideous crimes and getting away with it.