The Curious Case of Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey in a black suit and tie
His behavior was rightfully condemned, but his apology was rejected too. Do you agree with our assessment of the curious case of Kevin Spacey?
Kevin Spacey's fictional character Lester Burnham from the 1999 movie American Beauty

I want to get one thing clear here: sexual assault and abuse, sexual harassment, rape, and all sexual misconduct is deplorable. It has no place in society, let alone the film industry. As we’ve seen, high profile figures have come under fire for the past few years for sexual assault. From Bill Cosby to Kevin Spacey, we are seeing a trend in women and men openly confronting those who abused them.

However, the case of Kevin Spacey is a peculiar one. Society as a whole quickly condemned his actions against Anthony Rapp, but they condemned more than the sexual assault. It was also the way he apologized.

Let’s be clear here, an apology can never be enough to make up for such transgressions. Is there really anything anyone can do that can absolve them of the sin of sexual assault? Probably not. And yet we allow people to get away with it all the time.

Struggling for Understanding

What puzzles most people is how Spacey could have done this? It’s Spacey! Everyone has seen a movie with him in it. Spacey has been active as an actor, writer, and director consistently since 1986! I couldn’t even stick with one career since 2006.

Half the people reading this don’t even remember a time where he wasn’t a big actor. Ok, so his big hits didn’t come until the mid-to-late 90’s, but there is a reason he is so popular. Kevin Spacey IS a great actor!

Kevin Spacey during his 2000 Oscar or Academy Award acceptance speech for American Beauty.
Award-winning jerk

Spacey has voiced animated characters from insects to cats. He’s played cops, super-villains, anti-heroes, presidents, quirky weirdos, and even an alien. His role in American Beauty possibly defined his career, and he has excelled at playing complex and intriguing characters.

I sought out movies with Spacey in them, and I dare say I would still see a movie because he is in it. If it wasn’t for Kevin Spacey, I never would have seen Superman Returns, a film whose only redeeming quality was Spacey as Lex Luthor. Recently, I absolutely loved his role in Baby Driver as the head of an illegal underground ring of thieves with a soft spot for love. I bought that movie on Blu-ray because he was in it! He is such a draw, one film gave him a 15-minute cameo just so they can put his name on the poster.

Kevin Spacey can act. And he’s good at it. Heck, he’s one of the best! And hearing that he has sexually assaulted someone is like hearing your uncle did it. There were few actors I looked up to like I did to Spacey, but that is all over now. Sure he apologized, like so many other powerful men before (and after) him have done when confronted with similar allegations. But his apology was different, and those differences are key. Even if he claimed he didn’t remember the incident, he had to recognize that it was a believable claim, that he had it in him to do that, and it was part of his true character.

An Apology, Not Accepted

It wasn’t just his apology that was different. The gender of his accuser was also different. A man claimed he committed sexual assault against him. Forget the over 60 women who accused Cosby of assault and rape. Forget the 16 women and girls who accuse Donald Trump of assault and rape. Let’s ignore the outcries of women who were abused by Weinstein, Moore, Tobak, Ben Affleck, Skyler Page, Bush Sr., Savino, Price, Besh, Halperin, Oreskes, Uber, etc. The list literally grows every day! For Spacey, all it took was one man for the public to turn on him. Now many of these men lost their jobs or went to rehab, but the courts haven’t prosecuted them. As for the public, most of these accusations fly under their radar.

12 women who have accused Donald Trump of rape or sexual assualt.
Some of the women abused by Trump.

Women accused several of these men of rape, and one of them still became president. And yet Spacey was not accused of rape, but we treat it like he is, and maybe that’s how it should be. Spacey’s apology tweet says he was “horrified” to learn of the accusation and called his alleged behavior “inappropriate”. If he had stopped there, if he apologized profusely for the transgressions he made against a minor 30 years ago that he might not even remember doing, chances are this whole thing would have washed away. Just like all the other men I listed, society would have forgotten his harassment, ignored his actions, made up excuses to defend him, and he’d probably still have control over his career. But it was his follow-up statement that really got everyone angry.

Some of the women who have accused Weinstein of sexual assualt.
Some of the women abused by Weinstein.

Being a private man, Spacey never talked about his sexuality. But now, amid accusations of sexual assault against another man, he had to admit to the world he was gay. Had he come out of the closet at ANY other time, no one would have cared. They might even have celebrated it. But by coming out now, he did two things. He related pedophilia with homosexuality, and he turned the conversation from “I’m sorry I abused you” to “Hey, I’m gay!” In fact, it was his changing the conversation that really condemned him.

(For the record, homosexuality has nothing to do with pedophilia. One is the attraction to someone of your own gender, the other is the inappropriate sexual attraction to children, regardless of gender. The two have nothing to do with each other, except that in this case, Spacey is both.)

The Downward Spiral

Since then, 15 others have come forward accusing Spacey of similar actions against both men and boys. However, these accusers did not have the impact on Spacey as Rapp’s did. Amid the sudden influx of intolerance toward sexual abusers in society, we jumped on Spacey like ravenous wolves.

Spacey’s condemnation wasn’t just a trip to a resort disguised as a rehab center. It wasn’t just his name smeared across the internet. His career took a major hit too. Not only did Netflix cancel the show he stars in, House of Cards, before even finishing the last season, but they canceled his upcoming Gore Vidal biopic, Gore (reportedly already in post-production). All the Money in the World was due to come out December 22nd of this year with a heavily made up Spacey filling a short but pivotal role. As of today, the studio will STILL release the film December 22nd, but without Spacey. Instead of just cutting out his scenes, they are reshooting every single shot he is in with a different actor.

People talking behind the scenes on the set of House of Cards
Lots of people worked on House of Cards, now they’re looking for work.

This means a HUGE amount of work. Not only do they have to hire a crew, pay for makeup and costumes, and actually shoot all these scenes, but they have to rush it while bringing in all the same actors for the other roles. Not to mention all the post work. The post-production team will have to the color grade, editing, and sound design. It will have to have visual effects (if any) applied, and promotional material redesigned and produced… It is a massive amount of work, with a price tag of over $10 million. On the flip side, the people who were relying on a paycheck from House of Cards and Gore will be going home early with no pay.

And yet, it’s like that Spacey’s contracts will make it difficult not to pay him for his contributions. He will probably still get paid for his work. Details of contracts like these are very hard to come by, however, so there is no way of knowing if he will still receive royalties for a movie from which he was removed.

The Cops - A Louis C.K. Animated Comedy Series
Animators are people too… unemployed people now.

Looking For Justice

Legally, all of these men, including Spacey, are facing accusers. Maybe the accusations will lead to criminal charges, but usually, they don’t. What these men are accused of doing IS a crime, but convincing the powers-that-be to prosecute them isn’t always easy. In any “he said/she said” (or in this case “he said/he said”) case, evidence is hard to come by.

But if the law can’t prosecute these men, we have to do it ourselves, right? It is up to the public to deal justice to these perverts and creeps. Destroy their careers, insult them and their families, CASTRATE THEM!

A courtroom gavel and block beside the word "Guilty."

Let’s not get out of hand here… We can’t deal justice like Batman, and castration (or any bodily harm) is a serious and slippery slope from which you can’t return. Imagine doing that to someone only to find out they actually were innocent. Good job mob. No, we can’t go around hurting them or their families or friends. But there is something we can do. We can hurt their wallets, we can hurt their career, and we can send a message to anyone else who does these things.

The justice system rarely prosecutes for crimes like these. Its’s horrible, it the difficulty is understandable. These are only allegations, and it is certainly possible that many of these are not real. People will jump on the bandwagon for 15 minutes of fame by claiming someone famous abused them, especially if they already have allegations against them. In this country, all it takes to find someone ‘not guilty’ of a crime is reasonable doubt. The justice system can’t retry them for the same crime because of Double Jeopardy.

Facing Reality

I want to claim this accusation against Kevin Spacey is false. That this is not the man we all know and love. That Rapp and all his other accusers made it all up. Surely, he’s not capable of such an indecent despicable act. Spacey is innocent!

But I’m a humble animator, a simple digital artist, I can’t judge if these accusations are false or not. None of us can. All we can do is listen to the facts and make our own opinions on which ones make more sense and which ones don’t. And Spacey’s amazing acting career does not reveal the true quality of his character. If anything, his ability to act so well and his insistence on keeping his private life so private only adds fuel to the fire and legitimizes these claims against him. Spacey is sadly not innocent, and in the eyes of society, he is already guilty. Kevin, you’ve let us all down and have shamed all men for your actions.

These accusations and his quick condemnation make being a man in an ever-changing world more confusing. If someone like Spacey is capable of such a horrific act, clearly any man is. Maybe even me?! Did I do something I don’t remember doing or wasn’t aware of how hurtful it was? Will my life and career in 10, 20, even 30 years down the road come crashing down if I say something stupid after too many drinks? Or make the wrong gesture or remark to the wrong person? Or inappropriately hit on someone? Did I touch someone inappropriately and not remember it? So many men in the news today are accused of such heinous crimes. Surely all men are disgusting pigs, even me.

Toronto Slutwalk
Protesters against female abuse

But that isn’t true. Most men have more control than that. Women can’t fight against sexual abuse alone. And women, clearly, aren’t the only ones that suffer from it. Heck, men aren’t the only ones doing it, although it is obviously the most common scenario. And besides, we’re hearing about the handful of men that have done these things. Maybe they represent a much bigger pool of men that secretly get away with it, for now, but they are all still in the minority. We can’t think all men are as bad as these few. A few bad apples, as they say.

The Changing Social Scene

So why are we being so harsh on Spacey? Is this fair? Are we taking this too far? Well, I don’t have answers, only opinions. Those opinions are biased because I am a straight white male. But after thinking about this all week, my opinion is that society is changing. We are becoming more intolerant of sex crimes, especially against minors. Specifically, in the film industry, we should be treating Spacey’s condemnation as a template, not an exception. But we have to be wary about this, false accusations can destroy a career that was undeserving of it. However, it is up to the society and all parts in it, especially the film and television industry, to discourage such behavior. Behavior that has run rampant and unchecked in the film industry for generations.

Back in the day, Hollywood embodied the “men are men and women are women” ideal, which helped form the gender norms we still have today. But that isn’t a good thing. Studios and producers often chose women for roles based on their breast size, or their weight, or how willing they were to sleep with those in charge. They forced women to have abortions, forbade them to marry, required them to fit the virginal mold they wanted to portray. Stars like Judy Garland were assaulted, body-shamed, and raped. Even Alfred Hitchcock, HITCHCOCK, was accused of assaulting Tippi Hedren.

Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock

And even if these accusers came forward, nothing would happen. Errol Flynn went to trial for raping 2 girls. The girls were dragged through the mud and Flynn won the people’s opinion and the court’s. And these behaviors clearly are still happening in the film industry today. Hollywood blacklisted Megan Fox because of sexual harassment claims against a famous director. The accused suffered no repercussions.

Drawing a Line in the Sand

It is time for a change, and since criminal charges are virtually impossible, it is up to us to draw the line. There is no statute of limitation on public opinion. If you abuse or hurt someone, man or woman, adult or child, your career and your name should suffer for it. As much as I respect Spacey for his amazing acting talent, his actions have forever stained my view of him. We need to discourage this behavior on all levels, no longer letting “boys be boys”, or accepting excuses like “locker room talk”.

It is sad that so many will suffer for the actions of one, even 30 years after the fact. It is unfortunate that his thoughtless actions will force others to pick up the pieces and redo his work. But that’s life. And if others have to suffer to get the message across that we will not tolerate such behavior, then it will be worth it for the industry to confront this head-on at every level. We need to stop sexual misconduct, and it starts with us.

5 Responses

  1. I have to agree that the majority of this has become a witchhunt. I have had many,many enjoyable hours of entertainment watching, by choice, Kevin Spacey films, due to his acting abilities, not his personal life. I have gone & still will go to see his films. That is my personal choice. If his conduct in the past was not of my liking, but not illegal, that is my choice. Even the film industry, that made millions of dollars from his acting abilities should have a statute of limitations. Victims, solve your personal problems without effecting others as most of us choose to do.

  2. Norma, you really should finish reading the article before commenting. What he did was illegal if not easy to prosecute, a statute of limitations doesn’t exist on public opinion nor should it, and blaming victims of sexual assault and abuse is deplorable; you are clearly missing the entire point of the article. It is disturbing that you think we victims of abuse/assault should be silenced as our problems apparently pale in comparison to your inconvenience of enjoying his acting without feeling conflicted.

  3. Think somebody just so eloquently put the smack down on Norma. Talk about living in a bubble! WTF? Norma, is your last name really Weinstein? Smh…

  4. If you want a just society you have to build it upon justice. The only way to do that is to start with the basic principle that any defendant who stands accused of any crime must be assumed innocent until proven guilty. That includes unfortunately also those standing accused of crimes which would be hard to impossible to prove in a court of justice. The alternative is anarchy and rule of the strongest. Tribalism and gangster society. There is a real danger that popular movements like metoo degenerate into witchhunting and we must not let that happen, even though it can mean guilty people getting off free. The case of Asia Argento illustrates exactly how unreal and bizarre things might get if we slip this safety feature. One of the founders of metoo now seems to be tangled in her own net, accused of inappropriate sexual conduct. And she denies it even though she has paid a large sum of money to buy the plaintiffs silence. But if she can deny it then so too can all the men who have been accused under the metoo banner. We must accept that Kevin Spacey and all the others are innocent until tried and convicted in a court of law, and we must not allow our judgement to be swayed prematurely, however long the queue of accusers might be. Nor should we necessarily blindly accept public confessions as proof of guilt – these too can be manipulated. It’s a confounded dilemma but it’s the price for a free and just society.

    1. I am no expert on these matters. I am not a legal expert. Everything in my post and my replies are opinions, but I at least try to educate myself on these matters to some degree. That being said…

      I do not agree that we are “a free or just society”. Sure, that is our goal, but we are far from it right now. With about 2.2 million people in prison, we are not “free”. With what could be only a quarter of violent crimes solved, an estimated 2%-5% innocent inmates, and as high as 39% of people wrongfully imprisoned, we are not “just”.

      I do agree with you that we must not assume people are guilty instead of innocent in order to prevent people who are wrongfully accused from being treated unfairly. As I stated in the article this is a very sticky situation where evidence is hard, if not impossible, to come by, and it comes down to not much more than “he said she said”. Yes, that means some guilty people will get away, and yet the system we have doesn’t actually prevent the innocent from being found guilty. There are many cases where someone is found guilty of a crime and put away for years only to later discover they actually were innocent thanks to DNA or another confession or new evidence. Right now there are organizations dedicated to freeing innocent people who are in jail, and one of them, The Innocence Project (more here), estimates that based on their studies 2%-5% of people in prison right now are actually innocent. With 2.2 million people in this country in prison, a 2% innocent rate is 44,000 people, many of whom are on death row! That is unacceptable. Some legal experts estimate that 39% of prisoners pose no threat to public safety and should not be imprisoned! (more here) The system failed them. It has failed us.

      On the flip side, 1 in 3 murderers every year get away… well… with murder (more here). When you consider that those cases in which an innocent person was wrongfully imprisoned, leaving the real criminal free, those crimes they commit after the fact that could have been prevented add up as well (more here). It is estimated that fewer than half of violent crimes are reported, and few than half of those are solved (more here). Our legal system is not doing its job on either front, and it might not be able to. And yet somehow our prisons are filled to the brim. What works in theory doesn’t always work in practice. Perhaps locking people away and not actually actively rehabilitating them doesn’t help them or us.

      In cases of rape and sexual assault, the justice system has a dismally poor reputation, with only 1 in 6 rapists ever seeing jail time. (more here). It is hard to convict someone of a crime when the statute of limitations prevents you from prosecuting them for something they did 20 years ago. It is difficult to even bring these cases to court when many of the victims refuse to press charges out of fear for their lives. In the case of Spacey, the statute of limitations takes effect because the events took place 30 years ago, and many feared their jobs were in jeopardy thanks to his high-profile status. However, he IS under investigation by Scotland Yard right now.

      Many limitations of the laws, like the statute of limitations in rape cases, hurt the law and fail to protect victims, and these need to be addressed and changed. The law is unprepared for how to deal with these kinds of crimes, and while it tries to figure out better ways of dealing with these issues society has to step up. It was once legal to own slaves, to discriminate against minorities, and to block women from voting, at least it was until society decided it needed to stop. Sometimes that is in the form of wars, other times it is in protests and demonstrations. What I am proposing is we, as a society, say ENOUGH, and that we must take the first steps to fix the law and the justice system. Demonstrations and protests are already happening. We need to show Hollywood and all those who desire to be a part of the industry that this behavior is NOT accepted here anymore.

      Does that mean I think the law doesn’t work and that I abdicate against the legal system? Of course not. It is the best we have, although it could be much much better. The fact is people don’t trust the police. The police in recent years have done a poor job of enforcing the laws, unfairly targeting minorities, and lawmakers are more obsessed with filling jails and prisons with minor drug offenders than with violent criminals. It is a deeply flawed system, but it can be fixed. There really is way too much to go into on this topic, from systemic racism in the American police forces, to the “war on drugs,” to corrupt politics. If you are really interested in all the problems with the justice system today, look around. We have more people in prison in this country than any other country in the world, per capita. About 12% of the population is black, but in prison, it is almost 38% (more here)! Private prisons exist to make a profit off of free labor by inmates, and lobby politicians to keep their populations filled. These and so many more issues need to be changed. Right now the justice system has failed in its ideals and continues to decline.

      The law requires that the police and prosecutors assume all defendants are innocent until proven guilty. However, public opinion doesn’t work that way, and it never has and never will. We “know”, as a society, that OJ Simpson killed his wife and her friend, however, legally he was found not guilty (although in civil court he was found liable for their deaths). While this may be a failing of justice and an example of the few guilty people who get away with their crimes, it doesn’t end there. No longer does he appear in major blockbuster films like he once did in the 80’s. The public has disowned the man. It is the same here with Spacey. No one wants to see him in films anymore, and his presence will literally destroy a movie. This last month his latest film, Billionaire Boys Club, which incidentally was filmed before these allegations came to light, was released with a budget of $15 million but which on opening weekend only made $618 (that’s six hundred dollars, not six hundred thousand or million). That’s about six people who showed up at each theater, on average. His reputation undoubtedly had an effect on the failure of this film. The studio has decided to take the loss, but there may be other factors to this, such as the VOD (video on demand) aspect of the film and it’s poor critical reception.

      The reality is that Spacey has not been charged with a crime and probably never will, despite the dozens of allegations brought against him, because it is near impossible to prosecute, and he isn’t the first or only high-profile Hollywood figure to gain such a reputation. Historically, these men have gotten away with it time and time again, especially in the film industry. Many lived out their lives with hugely successful careers, while their victims lost their reputation and careers. And that points to the problem: we weren’t doing anything to stop them or to prevent more men from preying on others in the industry. Hollywood has gained a reputation for harboring sex fiends, and the courts have done almost nothing about it for over a hundred years. What we need to do is deter this behavior. We need to step up to those who get touchy or are too forward, and we need to believe the victims when they make a claim against someone famous instead of bowing down to the star-power of a big name celebrity and ignoring those they hurt. Legally we cannot discriminate against them, but that doesn’t stop us from standing up to them, nor does it prevent us from boycotting their films. The justice system is ill-equipped to deal with these matters, but at least the public can send a clear message to Spacey and his ilk, (as well as to politicians, police, lawmakers, and the justice system), that we aren’t content with the way things are. We don’t want these people preying on us, and it is time they figured out how to deal with it legally. Until then, society will do what it always does and drive public opinion against them.

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