As more allegations and accusations surface about Harvey Weinstein – including a new Ronan Farrow follow-up in The New Yorker, with harrowing accounts of his rape of Annabella Sciorra and harassment of Daryl Hannah – many have wondered how long it would take the industry to face the parallel problem of sexual exploitation of minors. It’s such an open secret that it was even the topic of a documentary bearing that title back in 2014 (a film that, unsurprisingly, had some trouble finding screenings and distribution; this weekend, its producers made it available for free on Vimeo). And now, the first high-profile post-Weinstein allegations of such abuse have surfaced.
Last night, Buzzfeed News published a piece in which actor Anthony Rapp – who originated the role of Mark Cohen in Rent and is currently seen on Star Trek: Discovery – alleges that at a party in 1986, Kevin Spacey “invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party, and, at the end of the night, picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance. According to public records, Spacey was 26. Rapp was 14.”
To re-use the overworked phrase, Spacey’s sexuality has been an open secret in Hollywood for years; in fact, an Esquire cover article cheekily titled “Kevin Spacey Has a Secret” appeared on newsstands not long after his first Oscar win. But in recent years, the rumors of his sexual advances included whispers of “aggressiveness,” and of a preference for younger men. But this goes beyond blind items and industry gossip; this is an accusation of underage advances, from an on-the-record source.
Shortly after its publication, Spacey tweeted a statement:
I have a lot of respect and admiration for Anthony Rapp as an actor. I’m beyond horrified to hear his story. I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years. This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are stories out there about me and that some have been fueled by the fact that i have been so protective of my privacy. As those closest to me know, in my life I have had relationships with both men and women. I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behavior.
What’s most troubling here is the manner in which Spacey’s explanations and excuses tilt towards age-old homophobic theories and stereotypes: that one can “choose” to “live as a gay man,” that gay parties are drunken orgies of inappropriate behavior, that homosexuality is a gateway or cover for pedophilia. But worst of all, it finds Spacey – and, no doubt, his PR team – attempting to change the conversation from an almost-admission and asterisked apology into a public coming-out, an attempt at shiny-object diversion barely less craven (or more believable) than the “I’m taking on the NRA!” turn of Harvey Weinstein’s first, post-accusations statement. (But this time, a few dopier outlets are taking the bait.)
It’s gross, a loathsome attempt to hijack a horrible story with Spacey’s own, long-delayed, savvily-deployed narrative. As The Daily Beast’s Ira Madison notes in a must-read editorial, “There’s never truly a wrong time to come out and I’d never begrudge anyone for accepting their sexuality. But the seediness of using your coming out to deflect from a sexual assault allegation is something else entirely… At least now we know why Spacey has fiercely guarded his ‘private life,’ as he calls it. He was merely safeguarding his most powerful weapon until he could use it on Rapp and the gay community he now claims he has chosen to be a part of.”