Madeleine Gaudin: Everybody knew, everybody knows

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - 6:17pm

Earlier this week, Kevin Spacey joined the growing list of “everybody knew” sexual abusers after Anthony Rapp came forward, detailing how the actor came on to him when he was only 14-years-old. In a particularly disgusting turn of events, Spacey spun the news into a coming out announcement.

Like Weinstein earlier this month, Spacey’s digressions seem to have been expertly covered up by a complicit support system. People have dug up Family Guy jokes that hint as Spacey’s sexual misconduct, and Rosie O’Donnell tweeted at him: “we all knew about u.”

I was surprised, and a little emboldened, by the swift and thorough takedown of Kevin Spacey. Hours after allegations surfaced, Netflix announced the show he leads, “House of Cards,” was indefinitely suspended. The decision was ostensibly made months prior, but the announcement’s timing was conspicuous. Meanwhile, the LGBTQ community attacked his conflation of homosexuality and pedophilia and the TV Academy withdrew his International Emmy Founders Award.

For an industry built on the bodies of women and children, Hollywood has proved itself to be a somewhat sentient beast in the last month. Spacey and Weinstein’s luciferian falls from grace might signal a sea change in the way the industry deals with one of its most rampant and complicated problems.

This kind of instantaneous and all-reaching condemnation is similar to that of Ben Hopkins of queer punk band PWR BTTM. After allegations surfaced, the band was dropped from its record label, their music removed from streaming services and their upcoming tour canceled. It was exactly the kind of reaction perpetrators of sexual violence deserve. It was, in the context of basic human decency, just and fair.

The reaction didn’t, however, fit into the mold of how the music (or for that matter, film) community deals with sexual assault. There was little debate, overwhelming support for the victims and, for once, some kind of justice.

But, of course, not all reactions are created equal. Woody Allen still has a new film coming out this month and another slated for next year. Johnny Depp has three movies coming out this year and at least two for next year. After winning the Academy Award for Best Actor, Casey Affleck was in one of the years most highly regarded indies, “A Ghost Story” and has two more films slated for 2018.

These men are also “everybody knew” cases, only with them, the “everybody” includes us. We know. The people who cast and work with them know. Their agents, producers, directors and co-stars know.

It doesn’t make sense that the same industry can react to these men in such different ways. What makes Weinstein or Spacey’s case different from Depp or Allen’s?

Kevin Spacey, of course tried to use his sexuality to undercut and distract from the allegations. His sexual misconduct, he seems to think, is only condemned because he’s gay. Not because he’s a gay man preying on underage boys.

Maybe it’s the magnitude of Weinstein’s crimes that forced an unwilling public to come to terms with what it long had known: Hollywood (and really, America) has a problem with sexual assault. It’s much easier to ignore one woman than it is to ignore 100. Maybe it’s the status of his victims, who include Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, that forces us to acknowledge what he’s done.

As a person with a body, and more specifically a woman who wants to work in a creative industry (don’t ask me which one, I don’t know yet), this all feels very immediate and confusing.

Men have touched my body who I haven’t wanted to, they’ve yelled at me, followed me, made me feel afraid of them. But I’ve never felt trapped by them or indebted to them. I’ve never been made to feel that my silence and my success were one and the same.

So it’s a little (a tiny bit) heartening to see an industry that I (maybe) want to enter so swiftly and thoroughly punish the men that abuse their power and status to make less powerful people feel afraid and unsafe. But, I’m not completely convinced.

Because there will be more cases that emerge where we sigh and say “everyone knew.” And there are still people that we know about, whom we let succeed nonetheless. Hollywood is still a hypocritical, self-serving piece of garbage. But maybe, just maybe, it’s getting better.