When this issue goes to print it will have been less than two months since The New York Times broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal. In the weeks since, the press has been saturated with similar stories either previously untold or, more commonly, unheard.
But on the 30th of October Hollywood, and indeed the world, was shocked anew when Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of sexual harassment. In the interview with BuzzFeed News it was alleged that in 1986, Spacey ‘picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance.’
“The swiftness of the streaming service’s action either confirms the show was already on unstable ground or perhaps heralds a new era of zero-tolerance toward abuse within the industry.”
Rapp, who is best known for his work on Broadway and for being an original cast member of the musical Rent, was just 14. Spacey, who was 26 at the time, responded to the allegations promptly with an apology via Twitter writing ‘I honestly do not remember the encounter,’ […] ‘But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology.’ The Oscar winner then went on to ‘address other things’ about his life and explain that he now lives ‘as a gay man.’ This response sparked immediate outrage on social media platforms. Twitter user, activist and contributor to The Huffington Post, Shahem Mclaurin (@pettyblackboy), tweeted: ‘Kevin Spacey’s attempt to deflect his pedophilia w/ a coming out story p****s me off given the stereotypes the LGBTQ face working with kids.’ (Sic).
It wasn’t just the media and the internet that were outraged by the story. Speculation about the future of House of Cards, the show that has arguably defined Spacey’s career, began to trickle into newsfeeds the very same day as the accusations. Just twelve hours later, online magazine Deadline Hollywood reported that Netflix had decided season six, which had already started production in Maryland, would be the show’s last. Filming was officially suspended the next day. The swiftness of the streaming service’s action either confirms the show was already on unstable ground or perhaps heralds a new era of zero-tolerance toward abuse within the industry.
Since the initial story broke, countless men have come forward with similar accusations that span the length of Spacey’s career. The actor is now said to be ‘taking the time necessary to seek evaluation and treatment.’ He should have plenty of time to do so as Netflix have also scrapped his upcoming biopic of American writer Gore Vidal.
“What the Spacey scandal has highlighted is that sexual harassment is not merely a female issue. It is an issue of power abuse.”
Meanwhile, House of Cards fans are calling for Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), the wife of Kevin Spacey’s character “Frank” Underwood, to take centre stage in season six to prevent the loss of work to the large cast and production crew. Actor Jessica Chastain weighed in on the debate by tweeting: ‘Can #RobinWright just be the lead of @HouseofCards now? We’re ready for it.’
What the Spacey scandal has highlighted is that sexual harassment is not merely a female issue. It is an issue of power abuse. It is an issue of consent. It is an issue of celebrity untouchability. In Anthony Rapp’s Buzzfeed News interview he said: “Part of what allowed the Harvey situation to occur was that there was this witting and unwitting conspiracy of silence.”
We in the UK saw a devastating culture of wilful ignorance unfurl in 2012 starting with Jimmy Saville. After the staggering list of famous names that followed his into disrepute, we surely can’t expect this scandal to stop with Weinstein or even with Kevin Spacey. The question we are already asking is, which head will roll next?