After #MeToo, How Do Broadway and Hollywood Move Forward?

Kevin Spacey, in a now-deleted scene from All the Money in the World (image credit: Variety)

The #MeToo phenomenon has resulted in an outpouring of sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations throughout the entertainment industry. Besides exposing the “open secret” of sexual abuse in Hollywood, it has necessarily crossed over into Broadway and off-Broadway. Sexual predators continue to be revealed everyday, and an enormous amount of pressure has been put on businesses to dismiss employees suspected of sexual misconduct. The reputations of many powerful industry players have already been destroyed: just last week, Justin Huff, a casting director for Telsey + Company, who has cast award-winning Broadway musicals like Kinky Boots and Newsies, was fired after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against him. This week, Israel Horovitz, a well-known playwright, screenwriter, and director, was reported as having sexually harassed/assaulted nine employees who have worked with him over the past 30 years. The allegations, dating back as early as 1986, involve women who were underage at the time the misconduct occurred.

Israel Horovitz; Playwright and Recreational Sexual Predator

The main take-away thus far is that it’s a bad time to be (or ever have been) a sexual predator in the entertainment industry. Victims are finally being listened to and taken seriously. People in the public and business world are taking action to ensure that there are real consequences for abusers everywhere. While the road to having legal charges brought against these people is a long one, Broadway stars like Uma Thurman have encouraged survivors of assault and abuse to continue coming forth.

Thurman, a long-time film actor who recently made her Broadway debut in The Parisian Woman at the Hudson Theatre, took her time on Thanksgiving to voice her support for the #MeToo movement on Twitter. She also summarized her disdain for Harvey Weinstein, the now-disgraced film (and sometimes theatre) producer, as well as Weinstein’s “wicked conspirators,” presumably those who were aware of Weinstein’s history of sexual abuse and did nothing to stop it.

Uma Thurman and Josh Lucas in The Parisian Woman (image credit: Sara Knulwich/The New York Times)

Why am I mentioning this? The Parisian Woman is an original play by Beau Willimon, best known as the creator of the Netflix series House of Cards – the hit show that was recently cancelled after lead actor Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual assault by actor Anthony Rapp when Rapp was 14. Spacey, an award-winning theatre and film actor who hosted the 2017 Tony Awards, is an internationally-recognized star whose career has been entirely put on hold by the numerous allegations against him. However, Spacey’s long-term popularity has proved difficult to overcome. More than a month after Rapp’s story went viral, many of Spacey’s fans are now attacking Rapp on Twitter after House of Cards’ cancellation was announced.

The fans have given a variety of great reasons for shaming Rapp including questioning why Rapp waited 30 years to come forward with his story, claiming that Rapp is “seeking for attention,” and pointing out how talented Spacey is (isn’t this the Brock Turner defense?). Anybody who’s seen Law & Order: SVU will instantly recognize these stereotypes of victim-blaming. But the most confusing of any is a comment from an Instagram user named DigableDude:

The suggestion that Anthony Rapp is solely responsible for the cancellation of House of Cards is incorrect, for multiple reasons:

First, Rapp is not the only person who has accused Spacey of assault. 14 different people have come forward since Rapp’s statement went public, and those allegations indicate that Spacey has regularly engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior over the course of his career, from as early as the 1980s and as recently as 2016. The sheer number of claims against Spacey made firing him the moral move for Netflix, rather than employing a sex offender.

Second, Spacey was originally only fired from House of Cards and the show’s production was suspended. The Independent reported that Spacey’s contract for the show doesn’t have a morality clause: this means that Spacey, who was also an executive producer of House of Cards, can’t technically be fired from the show for reasons of “morality” – this includes sexual assault (at least as long as he hasn’t been convicted). In other words, Spacey can legally sue Netflix if they make episodes of House of Cards without him. Thus, cancelling the show altogether is the only possible option, besides possibly buying Spacey out of his contract (which would likely be expensive and risky).

A mural of Kevin Spacey, which has hopefully been vandalized since this photo was taken (image credit: Duncan Hull)

Third, Spacey apologists claim that Rapp is responsible for the cast and crew of House of Cards who have now lost their jobs. But do they know who Spacey’s accusers are? Numerous crew members who worked on House of Cards have opened up about their experiences working with Spacey, claiming that he regularly harassed young men on the set and calling it a “toxic environment.” There were multiple complaints reported against Spacey, and he even completed “a training process” after a complaint was filed against him back in 2012, when House of Cards began production. Rapp’s detractors, who claim they care about the House of Cards crew members, only care as long as House of Cards is running, and not about the physical and emotional well-being of those people, who deserve to feel comfortable in their workplace.

However, there is a major concern hiding underneath DigableDude’s otherwise tone-deaf comment. We’ve all heard the idiom, “the captain goes down with the ship.” But does the ship go down with the captain? When the person at the top is guilty, are the people at the bottom guilty by association?

I’ve already noticed one example of this happening. The Parisian Woman was originally being advertised as being written by Beau Willimon, the creator of House of Cards. It’s traditional in advertising to use previous work as a selling point, and The Parisian Woman is a dark political comedy that fans of House of Cards would likely enjoy. However, Beau Willimon’s role in House of Cards has been downplayed in recent advertising for The Parisian Woman, obviously out of fear that any association with the name “House of Cards” will translate to box-office poison. House of Cards has, if you’ll excuse the pun, fallen like a house of cards, burying everyone associated with Spacey in its debris.

The same goes for The Weinstein Company, which has been financially crippled by its name connection to Harvey Weinstein, even though Weinstein was fired from the company almost two months ago. The productions behind films that Weinstein recently produced have fought to have his name removed. Many in the film industry still remember the fallout from the 2016 film The Birth of a Nation, which was considered a front-runner for the Oscars until rape allegations from the director/writer/lead actor Nate Parker’s past derailed the film entirely. Ridley Scott, the director of the upcoming film All the Money in the World, which starred Kevin Spacey in a leading role, is not taking any chances. Scott recently completed massive reshoots to replace Spacey’s performance entirely, ensuring that the film will be released on schedule. When asked about his risky decision to reshoot the film, which cost $10 million and had to be completed only a month before the film’s release, Scott replied, “We cannot let one person’s action affect the good work of all these other people. It’s that simple.”

He’s right. Now that sexual predators in high places are finally being toppled for their crimes, we have a responsibility to ensure that the people they have worked with do not come falling down with them. This is a time for forgiveness – not for the Kevin Spaceys and Harvey Weinsteins of the world, nor the “wicked conspirators” that Uma Thurman described, who facilitated or encouraged the behavior of these abusers – but the regular, everyday people who may have worked with them. These are the people who either honestly did not know, who witnessed an abuse but did not understand it as such, or who recognized it and were afraid to speak out of fear that they would lose their jobs. While we continue to hear the stories of those who have been abused, we cannot forget the people caught in the middle.

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