Samuel Brace on whether the scandals currently rocking Hollywood should keep us away from content…
Hollywood is in crisis. There are no two ways about it.
First there was the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the alleged sexual assaults, harassment, and even rape of myriad women during his time as one of the industry’s most powerful producers. And then there’s director Brett Ratner, accused of preying on individuals and forcing himself on a former employee of Endeavor Talent Agency. And, perhaps most shockingly of all, there’s Kevin Spacey, accused of molesting a 14 year old actor when he himself was 26 years old, and sexually harassing and assaulting copious other young men throughout his career, including on the set of his hit Netflix show, House of Cards.
Now, accusations aren’t convictions, allegations aren’t proof, but where there is smoke, there is nearly always fire, and right now, the smoke has engulfed the town of Hollywood. There have been rumours for years regarding these men, especially Weinstein and Spacey, with various jokes made about their purported unsavoury habits on shows like 30 Rock and Family Guy. To some, and to many in the industry, none of this is much of a surprise, no matter how shocked many claim to be.
The case of Kevin Spacey, to some, is particularly hard to accept. A beloved actor who has brought so much joy to audiences all across the world with performances in such films as Se7en, The Usual Suspects, and L.A Confidential, to name just a few. And, unfortunately, it’s becoming to feel like this is only the beginning, the start of the deluge, the breaking of the dam.
Hollywood has always had sinister rumours surrounding it, a number of former child stars, Corey Feldman included, have referred to the existence of paedophile rings, where agents and producers essentially pass around young boys and child actors at parties, ruining untold lives in the process. And while the discussion of Hollywood, and if it has an innate problem, is an interesting one, what I want to talk about today is how this should affect our viewing habits, what we watch, consume, and how we think about the movies and shows we once loved.
Take House of Cards for instance. Let’s say Kevin Spacey is guilty of his alleged crimes – it seems likely considering he is already receiving treatment and issued a virtual non-denial when the molestation accusation from Anthony Rapp first broke. So let’s say he did what he is purported to have done. Can we watch House of Cards going forward? Even with the show now being cancelled (with one last season on the way) and even with Spacey being fired from Netflix? How should we feel about consuming that content? How should we feel about re-watching past seasons of the show? No matter that the series has certainly suffered a dip in quality in recent years, there was indeed much to enjoy there.
Is it okay to watch future works where Spacey is involved? That is if his career survives, which is looking to be more and more unlikely. How should you feel about re-watching classic films that the actor once appeared in? Can you watch his work in good conscience, knowing what the man has gotten up to behind closed doors, knowing what he has seemingly done to children and young men? What’s the correct call here? It’s a question that’s certainly worth pondering.
On the one hand, Spacey, Weinstein, Ratner, and all the various other individuals embroiled in such affairs (Polanski of course comes to mind) aren’t the only people involved in the projects that they have worked on. Is it fair to those good men and women who worked so hard on films and TV shows to disregard their work because of the horrendous actions of one person?
But then again, the trend always seems to be that most folk knew what was going on at these movie sets and at these TV studios. If you know about a crime, and fail to report it, do you not bear some responsibility? Are you not complicit in some small way if you carry on as normal for the sake of your career? It’s a difficult topic, all be it an easier one from our prospective, and not one that’s fun to think about it. But with the systemic issues that Hollywood seems to have, and with the curtain now being pulled back for the world to see, the magic of cinema does all seem a little harder to swallow.
I suppose it comes down to our own individual lines and where we want to draw them, and how bad we think or want to believe the problems in Hollywood are. The actions of Netflix have been the correct ones with regards to Spacey, even though, with the amount of people coming forward with stories about the actor, it’s hard to believe that they didn’t know what was going on – Spacey’s proclivity towards young boys and men was obviously not a secret kept by just him and his victims.
This, unfortunately, does indeed stain a part of our culture which so many of us find great pleasure in. I, for one, can’t see myself watching any new season of House of Cards. I don’t think I am alone in this regard. But I am also not sure I will be leaping at the chance of watching any past content infected with the sins of the industry’s debauched and depraved. For example, there’s zero chance my next movie night will feature American Beauty. Perhaps here, I am more in the minority.
I, of course, don’t have the answers; this is obviously a personal decision. And perhaps it’s fair to wait until admissions and verdicts of guilt are passed and declared before we expel certain titles from our libraries and blacklist actors, producers, and directors from our future movie-going schedules.
Whatever your response is to be to the current state of affairs, this is certainly a difficult time for the industry, and one wonders just how bad things will come to be in the weeks and months ahead.