Thursday, February 01, 2018

The Kevin Spacey Dilemma

Earlier this week, I mentioned that I have started watching House of Cards.  My friend Lolly has been recommending it to me every time we discuss our favourite Netflix shows, and it's always been on my list to watch, but I was really hesitant to start it.  My main reason for hesitating right now?  Kevin Spacey.

As we all know, we are now living in the "#MeToo" era. After years of abuse, silence, shame, and fear, women - especially in Hollywood - are going public with names and accusations, taking down very powerful men in the industry for sexual harassment.  As a woman, I feel it is a very empowering and long-overdue movement, and yet at the same time, I can feel very torn over it at times.  Names are coming up that I know, actors and comedians that I have loved, and I've struggled with accepting the fact that they aren't all wonderful men with good hearts, as I so naively thought them to be.  I've also honestly thought it must be a very scary time to be a man in any position of power.  Skeletons are being dug up, the wrong looks, the wrong words, the wrong touches, and so much more... no one is safe, it seems.

It all seemed to start with Bill Cosby.  Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the patriarch from The Cosby Show, the host of Kids Say the Darndest Things, the warm and hilarious and respected and esteemed actor/comedian, who, on in his late '70's, suddenly was hit by a barrage of women who came forward to accuse him of drugging them and sexually assaulting them.  I had a hard time with it.  I didn't want to believe it.  And, believe it or not, for a long time, I even tried to defend him.  "It's not fair to the poor lad. These women are bringing up things they say happened YEARS ago.  How can anyone prove it?  They just want his money.  He's too old to be dealing with this crap!  Everyone just leave Bill Cosby alone.  The man is a legend!"

But it went from a couple of women to a couple of dozen women.  The count is now up to over 60 women who have come forward with allegations.  Surely, they can't all be telling tall tales.  It's kind of hard to ignore.  Kind of hard to defend.

Harvey Weinstein really got the ball rolling when he was outed last fall as being one of the worst offenders. Since then, the list has only grown longer, with new names being added almost on a daily basis.  Ben Affleck. Mario Batali.  Matt Lauer. Louis C.K. Dustin Hoffman.  Jeremy Piven.  James Franco.  Aziz Ansari.

And Kevin Spacey.

Kevin Spacey.

To me, Kevin Spacey isn't the kind of actor I got all moony over.  I didn't have his picture pinned up in my locker as a teen, he wasn't on my list of "favourite celebs ever", and I didn't rush out to see movies that he was in.  But I did tend to enjoy him as an actor, and generally liked anything I saw him in.  Se7en and A Time to Kill, especially, rank among my favourite movies of all time.  Anytime Jimmy Fallon has had him on The Tonight Show, I've found him to be funny and really entertaining. I liked Kevin Spacey.  I really did.

Spacey's outing was different than the others.  Because it wasn't women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault. It was men.  This wasn't a huge surprise, being that rumours had swirled for years about Spacey's sexual orientation, but those rumours had never been confirmed previously, and in fact on several occasions, Spacey had denied them.

Only after actor Anthony Rapp came forward with his story of being assaulted by Kevin Spacey years ago, when Rapp was only 14 years old, did Spacey deem it an appropriate time to address his sexual orientation.  And it was in his so-called "apology" to Rapp that he came out as a gay man.  This did not sit well with many.  Instead of an apology, it came off more as an attempt to change the subject, use his own drunkenness as an excuse, and imply a connection between being gay and sexually assaulting a child.

Kevin Spacey has since fallen from grace.  Big time.  A movie he was to star in for Netflix has been shelved.  His scenes in the movie All the Money in the World were cut and his role re-cast to Christopher Plummer in re-shoots after the film was already completed.  And Netflix severed ties with him completely, removing him from the cast of House of Cards for the sixth and final season, a show he has been the star and main character of from the beginning.

Thus, my dilemma.  Would I enjoy the show, starting it now, knowing all of this about the man behind Frank Underwood?  Would I be able to set aside the Kevin Spacey "ick factor" that now exists and appreciate his acting?  Would what I know about him now taint the way I watch his show?

As it turns out, no, it isn't bothering me in the least.  Granted, it probably helps that Frank Underwood is kind of a slimy, sly, dark type to begin with.  In fact, Spacey suits the role quite well, and it's almost a shame he won't be able to finish it out, because he really is good at it.  Good at being slimy and creepy and evil.

I guess if the shoe fits...

It's difficult sometimes to realize these characters we so enjoy on TV and in film aren't real people; that the actors behind them aren't all charm and grace and good hearts.  I really do struggle with it.  Another example this week came with the news of Mark Salling's suicide.  If you dig around in the archives of this blog, somewhere you will find a post dedicated to his character Puck, from the hit show Glee.  I wasn't a huge Gleek, but I did go through a phase of watching it, and mainly because I adored Puck.  I lost track of him after the show ended, but I had heard rumblings recently that he had been charged with possession of child pornography. Just about the ickiest of the icky right there...  Unfathomable, grotesque, despicable.  I'd like to have felt a twinge of sadness over his death, that he felt such despair, and forgiven him for his sins... But that's a lot to forgive and forget.  Mark Salling's death was greeted with little fanfare, little coverage, and absolutely none of the usual tributes and accolades that an actor's death would normally draw.

It's a tough one.  Rationalizing the enjoyment of an actor's performance against their real-life character flaws.  It almost feels wrong to be watching House of Cards right now, feeling eager to get home and watch more, anticipating what Frank might do next.  When the world has decided to completely cut him from the program going forward, maybe I shouldn't be watching (and enjoying) what he did in the past?

What's your position on the matter?  Is it icky to watch The Cosby Show now?  Have you lost respect for the likes of Ben Affleck, James Franco, and Louis C.K.?  Would you look back on episodes of Glee and still think Puck was adorable?  And is it wrong to find enjoyment in watching Kevin Spacey in his vast catalogue of work?

I'm still not sure how I'm supposed to think or feel about it all.  It really is a dilemma.  But for now, I'm going to keep watching House of Cards, and leave the judgments up to someone else.


Kathleen Brimacombe said...

Lmao, I had pics of Kevin Spacey on my wall in high school, I absolutely adored him and followed his career up until now. Now I can't even look at him. It's probably because he tried to equate being gay with being a pervert, which was just so wrong and a bigoted stereotype that gay men are only shaking off now. I couldn't even bring myself to watch the latest season of House of Cards.

Nicole said...

I believe there are women out there who have been mistreated. Hello, date rape drug... but I sometimes think there is a fine line between sexual assault and consent. They may not have wanted to consent, but some of them did no matter what and that's their fault for consenting at all. If they consented at all, then I have a hard time believing sexual assault.

Heck... just recently a woman made claims against Patrick Swayse. Seriously? The man has been dead since 2009. He can't confirm nor deny. I have a hard time believing her simply because there is no proof. Maybe I'm making exceptions for him... but come on, the man has been dead for going on 9 years this year... And I hate to say it... but if he did kiss her like she claims... she probably went home and scribbled in her notebook, Mrs. Patrick Swayse because the heartthrob kissed her.

And then again... But the other thing is people put these actors and actresses up on such a pedestal... the girl who played Stephanie on Full House, Jody Sweetin. She had a drug addiction after the show went off the air because she said being a child star she didn't know what to do with herself afterward. She was a teenager. All the stars have hidden skeletons, just like average people. Theirs just get blurted out because of who they are...

Sorry, this is getting ridiculously long... No, I don't think it is right. Sexual Harassment and assault need to stop, but sometimes there is a fine line and if people are consenting... it isn't that. They just screwed up and want to blame someone for their mistake... I have things I regret... but it was my own doing.

And you may not like me after this and that other email we had once upon a time :).