Commoners (you and I, presumably) have been looking up to the famous elite for centuries. From Charlie Chaplin to Honey Boo Boo and every mildly-interesting TV personality in between; if someones got fame, talent and power, we love to watch them use it.
But what happens when these stars gain too much power and can suddenly get away with criminal acts like sexual assault? When the accused isn’t who you’d expect? Or when the bad guy isn’t even a guy at all? Apparently, not much. Here are just a few examples of how Hollywood superstars squeeze through the cracks of the judicial system, professional backlash and, evidently, our personal standards and values.
But first, a brief refresh on the #metoo movement
A quick tweet last October from our favourite Charmed sister, Alyssa Milano, reignited the term #metoo, which was coined in 2006 by social and community activist Tarana Burke. Milano encouraged people to speak out about their own experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace.
By the end of the day, the hashtag had been used more than 200,000 times, with a number of other high-profile Hollywood stars tweeting about their own experiences. Since then, the culture surrounding sexual misconduct has shifted significantly and people from a range of industries have been outed for their harmful behaviours. But we still have a very, very long way to go. And here’s why…
The Big Bad Wolf: Harvey Weinstein
Occupation: Former American film producer, Academy award winner
Current Location: Laying low in his $16 million mansion in Connecticut, poor guy.
On October 5th, 2017 Harvey Weinstein awoke to the extensive history of his sexual abuse scandals splashed across The New York Times for the world to see. Through the bravery of more than eighty women speaking up, the Weinstein Effect was formed: a global trend that saw thousands of people coming forward about their sexual harassment experiences with rich and powerful men. USA Today labelled this watershed moment and the rest of 2017 as the year in which “sexual harassment became a fireable offence.” No shit, Sherlock.
“used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually.”
So, you’d expect the disgraced mogul would be spending his days repenting in prison, right? Wrong. After being released on $1 million bail, he was in and out of treatment for sex addiction and anger management at the Gentle Path at the Meadows in Scottsdale, Arizona. Although this facility is well-renowned for its successful rehabilitation methods and treatments, it’s important to note that the $58 000 price tag and ability to come and go (which Weinstein took full advantage of) is a luxury that many accused criminals can’t afford.
Weinstein* throwing money at the problem to make it go away.
*Actually Kim K.
As of late, Weinstein spends his days shacked up in his cosy eight bedroom mansion in Connecticut, working with legal counsel to defend allegations with his next court appearance scheduled for November. Lifestyles of the rich and famous, hey?
The Shocker: Kevin Spacey
Name: Kevin Spacey
Occupation: Actor, producer, broadway star and all around pretty talented guy
Current location: Whereabouts unknown, but pretty much hiding out hoping the scandals of 2017 will all blow over in time
Kevin Spacey was the unexpected villain who shocked the world. In another October 2017 downfall, Anthony Rapp spoke up about the alleged sexual advances that occurred in 1986, when the then-26-year-old Spacey drunkenly climbed on top of Rapp in a hotel room. Rapp was just fourteen years old at the time.
More than fifteen other victims have since come forward with allegations of similar harassment and abuse. In December 2017, Spacey’s The Usual Suspects co-star, Gabriel Byrne, revealed that production of the film halted for two days back in 1995, after Spacey made unwanted sexual advances towards a young actor.
Professionally, Spacey has definitely taken a hit. After the scandal broke, his scenes from Scott Ridley’s newest film, All the Money in the World, were reshot with Christopher Plummer taking over his role. Spacey’s Oscar-winning character on the Netflix series, House of Cards, was also written out of the upcoming season.
More recently, the stars fall from fame was confirmed when his latest movie, Billionaire Boys Club, made a measly US$425 in the US box office on opening weekend. A little ironic if you ask me.
Don’t wanna say I’m glad. But yeah, I’m glad.
Never heard of Billionaire Boys Club? Yeah, me neither. Academics have cautioned audiences from believing that Spacey’s role is the only aspect that made the movie tank. After three years of stale marketing the flick was destined for DVD anyways (and tbh no one even watches those anymore).
Spacey’s reputation, while certainly tarnished, is far from rock-bottom considering the weight of his allegations. When asked if her former co-star deserved any kind of career comeback, House of Cards’ leading lady, Robin Wright, said,
“I believe every human being has the ability to reform … In that sense, second chances, or whatever you are going to call it — absolutely, I believe in that. It’s called growth.”
Now, I may be wrong, but I’ve got an inkling that Wright would not afford this kind of compassion to just any average Joe accused of multiple sexual misconduct allegations.
It seems that the power and influence that Spacey has built up throughout his distinguished career is just enough to cloud public judgement on what is unacceptable and what simply has a little room for “growth”. Don’t worry guys, as long as a scandal breaks after you’ve secured a couple of Oscars, you’re good to go.
The Doesn’t Count (It so does): Asia Argento
Name: Asia Argento
Occupation: Italian actress, singer and model.
Current location: Defending herself online to anyone who will listen, but we’ll get to that.
Asia Argento’s fiery speech at Cannes Film Festival on May 20th, 2018, publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her at the same festival when she was 21-years-old. The Italian actress initially spoke up about this abuse in October 2017, via the original New Yorker article addressing Weinstein’s sordid past. Since then, she has been a supporter of other victims of the #metoo movement and actively fought to prosecute other abusers.
But in August, 2018, the accuser became the accused when The New York Times reported Argento’s own past of sexual misconduct. The article details an agreement to pay former child star, Jimmy Bennett, over claims that she sexually assaulted him in 2013, when Bennett was just 17.
Argento has denied any sexual abuse allegations and claims that the $380 000 pay out was simply the result of her late husband, Anthony Bourdain, attempting to avoid any negative publicity for the couple. Riiiiiight.
Unfortunately, the reactions to Argento’s sexual assault allegations pale in comparison to her despised male counterparts.
If you’ve heard about Rose McGowan, you know that she has been one of the most prominent and controversial #metoo activists to speak up after suffering abuse at the hands of Weinstein. While often quick to scold Weinstein, or anyone involved in his scandals, McGowan’s response to her former ally’s case was somewhat softer and more sympathetic in a now-deleted tweet, urging the public to “be gentle.”
Coverage of the story on the Young Turks’ Youtube channel was even more damaging, with host, Cenk Uygur, undermining Bennett by saying that,
“Most 17 year olds in that position would be thrilled.. Me, I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have liked it. I would’ve loved it.”
Eye. Roll. Not only does this statement totally disregard California law involving sexual consent and abuse of minors, it adds to the stigma surrounding male victims who are afraid to speak up in fear of being denied and dismissed.
Soooo seriously, now what?
Whether it’s a successful producer, an Oscar winning actor or an Italian model, it seems as that the general public fails to hold stars accountable for their actions when it comes to sexual abuse.
Because ultimately, we’re all guilty of not being able to separate the art from the artist. We claim to love stars with no real concern for their personal beliefs, morals and, apparently, their criminal histories. And we adore Hollywood elites for the characters that they play rather than judging them on their actual character.
We need to stop talking about individuals on a superficial level and start talking about their abuse of power and privilege in order to shift the culture surrounding sexual violence. The founder of the movement, Tarana Burke, has summed up what we need to hear in 140 characters or less:
You heard it here first guys. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable and start fighting for real change.