Kevin Spacey, who was awarded a Golden Globe for playing a sexually deviant man in a position of power, and who was awarded an Oscar for playing an older man having an affair with a teenager, is now the scorn of Hollywood for using his position of power to have sex with teenagers.
Buzzfeed first broke the story of a Star Trek actor alleging that Spacey tried to force him into having sex when he was just 14 years old. Spacey then apologized, saying he didn’t remember the incident because he was probably too drunk. Then, to try to take some of the heat off of him, Spacey announced that he was gay – and the media bought it! Somehow the news wasn’t that an Oscar winning actor tried to rape a 14 year old, it was news that a man who hosted the Tony’s was gay – a fact about as newsworthy as Trump tweeting something crude (which somehow the media also confuses with news).
It then was leaked that Spacy had been the usual suspect for sexual harassment on the set of House of Cards for years. And then the scandal blew up to the point where Richard Dreyfuss’s son was claiming that Spacey groped him while his dad was in the same room – apparently the fourth type of close encounter is when the guy from K-Pax fondles your kid in front of you.
Trying to get in front of the controversy, Netflix quickly fired Spacey from House of Cards and cancelled his upcoming movie based on Gore Vidal – even though the film had already finished filming.
Netflix no doubt feared an online user rebellion along the lines of #DeleteUber, where 500,000 users deleted the app because the ride service was giving people who needed to go to the airport rides to to the airport . The “wokeness” of these activists would have dropped precipitously had they been the ones needing to catch an expensive flight to see a loved one (or more likely, to take gratuitous travel photos for their Instagram #NoFilter).
Spacey certainly deserves punishment. But the problem with Netflix acting swiftly to try an assuage the mob, is that the mob is only satisfied by mob justice. People online don’t realize that when you call for Spacey’s job, other people’s job come with it. The great irony of the Kevin Spacey saga is that the same star power that allowed Spacey to prey upon young men has also clouded the judgment of those trying to punish him as an abuser.
Because when you view Spacey as a god-like figure, cancelling his movie sounds like the perfect retribution. But when you realize that Spacey is just an actor, a grown man paid handsomely to play pretend, then you realize that you’re not really killing Spacey’s movie – you’re killing a project that literally hundreds of people worked long hours on.
These workers may have spent years writing the script, or taken the acting job for little pay in hopes of garnering more exposure. Now their hard work will never see the light of day. And since Gore was still in post-production, there were likely people working on finishing up the film. These crew members no doubt saw today’s news and wondered if they’re still going to get paid to not edit a movie that no one will see.
And even if Spacey made House of Cards a toxic work environment, the crew of the hit show has to wonder how long they’ll even have a work environment with Spacey gone. Perhaps the show will continue in his absence, but one imagines a lot of resumes are being freshened up right now.
Such collateral damage is common when public outrage is so great. For instance, after Jerry Sandusky was caught abusing children while an assistant coach at Penn State, the NCAA reacted by banning the incoming class of football players and their coach, most of whom had probably never even met Sandusky, from postseason play for four years – as if the high school juniors were at fault for not asking if any past assistant coaches had abused children before accepting their scholarships. A similar result happens when a charity rejects money from people like Harvey Weinstein or the Trump administration. Sure, the charity’s executives get to feel good about themselves by “punishing” a person they find morally repugnant, but the only people who are hurt are the charity’s beneficiaries who now have less funding.
It could very well be that there was no alternative other than to fire Spacey and kill his movie. But these were not altruistic decisions. Netflix knew for years that their star was harassing people on set, and they continued to pay him and produce new content with him because no one else knew. Netflix only took a moral stance once Twitter found out – because they knew if they didn’t, their subscriptions would suffer.
Making the decision easier was the fact that the already limited audience for a Gore Vidal biopic consists of viewers who do not want to see an alleged sexual abuser starring in a Gore Vidal biopic. If Netflix had an expensive superhero movie in post-production that starred Spacey starring as a radioactive bumblebee, you can bet there would be a different outcome.
None of this is to say that Netflix made the wrong decision in cutting ties with Spacey. Just don’t be fooled into thinking it was a moral decision to punish the abuser. This decision affected hundreds of people, and Spacey is the least concerned with how he’s going to pay rent next month.