Kevin Spacey, Supervillain
When the best bad guy in TV and movies turns out to be a bad guy in real life
Part of the fun of watching gifted actors undergo standard villain parts is knowing that they have to extend themselves to appear so vicious. As said by actors in late night talk show interviews aplenty, playing bad is so enjoyable because it’s so unlike them.
On Oct. 29, though, Spacey announced something that makes him just as vile as many of the villains he has portrayed over the years. Hours before, a Buzzfeed article alleged that Spacey had sexually harassed actor Anthony Rapp — and that Rapp was just 14 years old at the time of the incident.
In the article, Rapp acknowledged that this encounter, which involved the then-26-year-old Spacey forcefully carrying the teenager into his bed and climbing on top of him, was something he had tried to move past. But in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the reality that Spacey’s career has continued to be so widely celebrated, Rapp was compelled to come forward with his story.
Spacey could have acknowledged his wrongdoing and expressed sincere remorse. But in the apology he offered on Twitter, Spacey not only attempted to invalidate Rapp’s trauma by stating that he had no memory of the incident: within the very same acknowledgment of his involvement, he also came out of the closet, announcing that he now chooses to “live as a gay man.”
As an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, I’m aware that there is never a wrong time to step out of the closet. It takes momentous courage to announce your sexual identity in a world that isn’t always accepting, but it’s even more vital as a step in doing away with self-inflicted repression.
In this case, Spacey used coming out as a way to deflect attention from the fact that he committed a sexual offense against a minor. This move isn’t just gross in that it uses an important decision in the lives of so many LGBTQIA+ individuals as a calculated power move, it’s also deplorable because it shows that Spacey is someone who has no problem minimizing the traumatic experience of another to benefit himself.
To add insult to injury, Spacey’s drawing attention away from the fact that his actions were pedophilic in nature, as well as his coming out declaration add to the misinformed rhetoric that homosexuality can be equated with pedophilia, and that being gay is a choice.
The reality that Spacey probably isn’t very different from Frank Underwood, the fiend he so believably plays on House of Cards, is disheartening. In no way do we ever expect the actors we admire the most to be capable of the acts their characters commit in real life.
But no one should ever be excused for a sexual assault just because they’re talented, and the heated criticism toward Spacey’s statement has fortunately proven that our culture’s tolerance for letting sexual predations go unnoticed is plummeting downward. Netflix’s decision to cancel House of Cards is just the icing on the cake. Though even that can’t stop the nausea one feels when even more men come forward.
I can’t stop being inflamed by these sorts of things myself, either. When I pitched this column a few months ago, I thought I’d mostly be writing about frivolous pop culture topics that entertained me from week to week. I never anticipated that so much of what would be happening in the entertainment industry in the following weeks would revolve around sexual assault and harassment. I considered writing about the new season of Netflix hit Stranger Things (2016-present) this week.
But then I figured that if I’m not addressing the wrongs of events like this Spacey scandal, I’m contributing to the problem.
- NOVEMBER 3, 2017
This piece also appeared in The Daily.
or decades, Kevin Spacey has been a Hollywood go-to for villain roles. He played a nasty serial killer in Se7en (1995), an arch nemesis in Superman Returns (2006), a scheming politician in TV’s House of Cards (2013-present), and, more recently, a ruthless kingpin in the rollicking Baby Driver (2017). Eloquent and domineering, he has consistently delivered memorable performances as antagonists because he makes evil seem so glamorous.