So it seems we’ve been cheated on. Duped. Deceived. Whatever term you want to use, we’ve been lied to. And boy, did we fall for it.
Because we, Gen X-ers, the Hollywood audience of the 80s and 90s, made the icons that have now fallen, as person after person accuses them of bullying, harassment, and sexual assault.
We adored Bill Cosby as Dr Cliff Huxtable in The Cosby Show.
We were inspired by Dustin Hoffman
as Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man,
and as Dorothy in the revolutionary Tootsie
. Utterly fascinated by Kevin Spacey as ‘Verbal’ Kint in The Usual Suspects
, and Lester Burnham in American Beauty
. Those works and characters are some of the aspects that many of us identify as an integral part of the first half of our lives, because they were so influential when we were young and impressionable.
Back then, we had no idea what was to come, of course. If we did, we would have turned our backs on the actors years ago, and their careers wouldn’t have flourished. But that didn’t happen. The sexual allegations against Cosby only became widely known after comedian Hannibal Buress made reference to them in 2014
– more than a decade after the iconic show ended. And Spacey and Hoffman were revealed only in the last month.
So we’ve watched in horror as the men behind these much-loved characters have been exposed as entitled individuals with little respect for others.
As we’ve read the details, and heard about the suffering and sadness, we’ve felt guilty, maybe even a little ashamed, that while we were happily placing these guys on the pedestals from which they looked down on everyone, they were using their platforms to hurt people.
Listen: The Mamamia Out Loud team break down the Kevin Spacey allegations, and why the timing of his coming out is so inappropriate. Post continues after audio.
But, I’ll use a line from another iconic 90s movie, Good Will Hunting
, to remind you that: “It’s not your fault
.” We didn’t know. It may have been an open secret in Hollywood, but the audience were, dare I say, Clueless
Even quoting that moving and memorable line from Good Will Hunting
, a film which was written by and stars another actor recently accused of sexual misconduct, Ben Affleck
, is an example of how we can loathe the behaviour and a person, be crushed and disgusted, but not allow them to tarnish our view of the work.
The movies, the roles, which we for so long identified as part of the men, were, in fact just jobs.
It was paid employment for them. They were never those characters. They spoke scripted lines, and acted scenes under direction.
I’ll admit that this rationale is a little challenging to apply to The Cosby Show, because the comedian’s name is in the title. But remember, the show was successful and culturally important for reasons beyond Bill Cosby; its legacy of being the first show that positively portrayed a successful black family remains as a beacon for many black Americans. That was the take away at the time, and that doesn’t need to change.
In terms of Spacey and Hoffman, their movies belong just as much to the producers, directors, and screenwriters as they do to the actors.
When we watch ‘Verbal’ Kint reveal his true identity at the end of The Usual Suspects, we need to remember that Christopher McQuarrie wrote the screenplay – and won an Academy Award for it – and the director, Brian Singer, directed the suspenseful shots to build to one of the most epic plot twists in cinematic history. Spacey didn’t do any of that.
“The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
Further evidence that movies are more about the overall project than they are about an actor is director Ridley Scott’s latest announcement; that Kevin Spacey is being cut from All the Money in the World, a film about oil magnate J. Paul Getty, and replaced by Christopher Plummer, just over a month before its release. Obviously, the stakes are now too high to risk the time, effort and money that hundreds of people put in just to have the film ruined by Spacey’s presence. And we know that Netflix has done the same with House of Cards.
It’s clear by the world’s reaction that the era of blind celebrity adoration is officially over. And as we weekly hear fresh allegations of abuse of power, we realise we’ve reached the era of accountability. Judgement Day has finally arrived in Hollywood, and we have the brave people who told their stories after years of silence, to thank for that.
The industry won’t change overnight, but in many ways, with the first publication of allegations against Harvey Weinstein in the New York Times
, it did, because the floodgates opened. It’s given the victims a voice. All of the unknown people who had to work in environments where they witnessed and experienced the toxicity and abuse produced by these men.
So, as an audience, if we still want to appreciate all of the other people who contributed to the wonderful films and show, I think that’s ok. We can still support the victims, and we can still place the blame where it belongs.