By Joseph Jones
After more than a dozen women accused the critically acclaimed film producer and former film studio executive Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and sexual harassment, the public was presented with the stark revelation that powerful men in Hollywood use their power and notoriety to predatorily pressure their prey into willful submission for their desires.
Although this concept is hardly unheard of, it was the courage and bravery of these women of standing up and telling their stories, which led the actor Anthony Rapp to divulge, in an interview with Buzzfeed News, a secret he had been keeping tucked inside the recesses of his past.
Rapp recalls being invited to a party hosted by the actor Kevin Spacey, then 26, at his apartment in Manhattan. The 14 year old arrived to discover he was the only non-adult attending the party. Bored, he slinked to the bedroom to watch television to pass the time. After the party had come to an end, a drunken Spacey came upon Rapp in the room, advanced towards him, picked him up in a tight embrace and then lay his body on top of the teenager. Rapp describes the incident as, “He was trying to seduce me. I don't know if I would have used that language. But I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually.”
In a statement made via Twitter, Spacey claims he has no recollection of the incident as “it would have been 30 years ago” and “I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.” Spacey seems to be writing off this event as an isolated incident and chalking it up to a drunken mistake but, others have come forward with similar stories which suggest otherwise.
Filmmaker Tony Montana told Radar Online that he was groped by Spacey in 2003 at a bar in Los Angeles saying, “He was telling me to come with him, to leave the bar. He put his hand on my crotch forcefully and grabbed my whole package.” He went on to describe how a persistent and intoxicated Spacey then followed Montana into the bathroom, where Montana pushed him away. Roberto Cavazos, an actor who performed at the London’s Old Vic, where Spacey served as artistic director from 2004 to 2015, attests to several incidents where he and many other actors were inappropriately touched and harassed by Spacey.
Throwing more fuel onto the fire, former Channel 5 news anchor, Heather Unruh tweeted,“I was a Kevin Spacey fan until he assaulted a loved one. Time the dominoes fell.” Her telling of the event chronicles Spacey sitting next to a man at a restaurant with Spacey proceeding to do something beneath the table that was “completely unexpected, completely inappropriate.” While Spacey was in the bathroom, a witness told the victim to “run”.
This sordid behavior of Spacey was somewhat confirmed by Victoria Featherstone, head of the Royal Court Theatre in London, in an interview she gave with BBC Radio 4. "I think that many people in the theater and in the creative industries have been aware of many stories of many people over a lot of years, and Kevin Spacey would be one of the people that people have had concerns about”, she said. All of these separate stories spread out over the course of a few decades paint a picture of a seedy man with an affinity for young men.
But, it is not the apology which is troublesome and now mired in controversy. Rather it is what followed which has sparked criticism of a once beloved actor and “American Beauty” of film, television and theater. Spacey went on, for the first time, to publicly lay to rest inquires and speculation of his sexual orientation by admitting “I now choose to live as a gay man.”
Although the statement may be the heartfelt, regretful remorse of a tortured soul wrought with guilt over the pain and suffering he has inflicted on his fellow man, Spacey’s calculated coming out seems to suggest anything but. It appears the intent was to choose this opportune moment to come out as gay deflect or redirect any discussions of pedophilia and to save his image. After all, it’s far worse to be labelled as gay than to be labelled as a sex offender.
But, we don’t have to look too far back into history to find a time where gay people were characterized as predatory deviants who could not limit their compulsive desires to consenting adults, and would seek out naive children to quench their sexual appetite. Referendums such as Proposition 6 in California, prohibiting gay men and women from working in schools, were campaigned for on a wave of this kind of rhetoric. Even in the last couple of years, legislation preventing a transgender person from using the bathroom which corresponds with their gender identity has been justified out of fear of “threats to public safety”.
By closely associating inappropriate sexual behavior with a minor to homosexuality, Spacey carelessly gives credence to a misconception with as much truth ingrained in it as the flat Earth theory or the Obama Kenyan birth conspiracy. Those who are much more easily swayed by flimsy arguments may see this as evidence all gay people are pedophiles and vice versa. This attribution is dangerous and harmful to a community which has struggled with changing public opinion to adopt a more positive impressions of LGBTQ people.
Spacey has corrupted the most fundamental part of a LGBTQ person’s journey to acceptance. Coming out is supposed to be the beginning of a new life, a rebirth, the butterfly emerging from the cocoon. Coming out is not supposed to be a vindication of or distraction for misdeeds committed. It feels less like tearing down walls, although fairly transparent walls to begin with, but constructing new ones to contain a PR nightmare from unfolding.
Unfortunately for Spacey, his attempt to safeguard his career and public image from the fallout have been unsuccessful. Netflix has decided to cease production of their hit original series House of Cards, in which Spacey plays the lead role. Although, rumor has it, the choice was made long before the accusations against Spacey came to light, the timing is hardly coincidental. The International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences made the decision to no longer present Spacey with an award this year stating, "The International Academy has announced today that in light of recent events it will not honour Kevin Spacey with the 2017 International Emmy Founders Award." It seems Spacey’s professional life is falling apart faster than a House of Cards.
Rapp is receiving support from many different people in their condemnation of Spacey and his actions. But, we must remember there are often many sexual abuse or sexual assault victims, male or female, who are not surrounded with this level of solidarity when they reveal they were a victim of these kinds of acts. The National Sexual Assault Online says a majority of sexual assault victims are between the ages of 12-34 with them composing of 69% of sexual assault victims. According to the Department of Justice, Only 344 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. That means about 2 out of 3 go unreported. And even when they are reported, the perpetrator rarely faces justice for their crimes. According to the Department of Justice, out of 1,000 rapists, 994 of them will be found not guilty. Perhaps a culture which doesn’t take serious rape allegations is one of the reasons why victims do not come forward.
The best course of action we can take to combat sexual harassment and assault and prevent future cases like Anthony Rapp’s is to hold those who are accused accountable for the crimes they commit. We must listen to a victim’s story with empathetic ears and hear what they are saying instead of treating it like a boy who cried wolf scenario. It doesn’t matter whether the person conducting themselves in an unsavory manner is our friend, a family member, community member, the clergy, or a cultural or public figure. There were so many witnesses who could have come forward about Kevin Spacey when they first noticed something. But, they didn’t say anything out of fear they wouldn’t be believed. It is our duty to provide an environment where those allegations will be taken seriously instead of immediately dismissed or criticized harshly. Then, perhaps justice will be finally awarded to those victims.