Kevin Spacey’s plan, sadly, seems to have worked.
The actor was accused Sunday night of making a sexual advance on Star Trek: Discovery star and Broadway fan favorite Anthony Rapp, when Spacey was a 26-year-old Broadway rising star and Rapp was a 14-year-old child actor performing across Times Square in his own play.
As Buzzfeed News writer Adam B. Vary noted in his article detailing all of Rapp’s allegations—that Spacey invited him to a party and, seemingly intoxicated, carried Rapp to his bed, laid on top of him, and, after Rapp squirmed away, tried to lure back him into the apartment—Buzzfeed News made numerous attempts to reach Spacey by phone, email, and even letter.
So when Spacey released his flabbergasting “coming out” statement Sunday night in response to the Buzzfeed News article, he and his team knew about every accusation that would be detailed in it, and could likely anticipate what would be the public response to such damning accusations—least of which because they are coming after decades of Spacey playing coy with the media with his sexuality.
In other words, the spin was planned.
Spacey, in his response, claims not to remember the incident, says that if it happened then he apologizes for “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior,” and uses the occasion to clarify, finally, that he has chosen to “live as a gay man.”
It’s deeply upsetting to me as an out gay man to condemn another LGBT person’s coming out journey. But that is the extremely aggravating position that Spacey has put the community in with a statement that was not just problematic, but endangering to the progress of the movement.
In essence, Spacey didn’t just come out as a gay: he came out as a forgetful drunk who can’t remember if he sexually preys on minors.
It was an inexcusable deflection of horrific accusations, using the attention that Spacey and his team knew he would receive for coming out after so many years of speculation to drown out the ickiness of Rapp’s allegations.
To wit, many mainstream media outlets played ball, focusing headlines on Spacey’s coming out—some even calling it “emotional”—instead of the statement being in response to accusations of sexual misconduct.
As my The Daily Beast colleague Ira Madison wrote, the statement and the media response grossly conflates pedophilia and homosexuality.
For Spacey to say, ‘if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior,’ implies that when most gay men get drunk, it’s second nature for them to prey on a 14-year-old boy,” Madison wrote.
And therein lies the third problematic element of Spacey’s statement and the ruse it is pulling off in the media. Nowhere in his statement does he mention Rapp’s age.
There is one small element of the statement that is refreshing. In contrast to the spate of accusations of sexual assault, harassment, and impropriety being made against a host of Hollywood power players in the fallout of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, in which most—if not all—of the men flatly deny the allegations against them, releasing statements that often even discredit the accuser—Spacey doesn’t call Rapp a liar. He doesn’t accuse Rapp of making the incident up.
It’s rather shocking, actually, that in an orchestrated response to allegations that one of the most famous and celebrated actors in the world may have engaged in sexual misconduct against a minor, that the celebrity doesn’t even address them.
He apologizes to Rapp “for the feelings he describes having carried with all these years” but then he flips the script.
Spacey’s paragraph about his coming out journey is the same length as his paragraph apologizing to Rapp and addressing his allegations. Nowhere does he address the gravity of sexual misconduct against a minor, or the insinuation that he might have—at least at one point—exhibited those tendencies. He doesn’t take the opportunity to deny unequivocally that such an event took place.
Spacey might be saying that he doesn’t remember the incident, but he’s not going on the attack and saying it didn’t happen. What he is doing, however, is minimizing the sting of being accused of making a sexual advance on a minor but not acknowledging Rapp’s age at the time of the incident in his statement. It’s a clever, if gross, move by him and his team, to attempt to erase that part of the narrative amidst the spinning of the story to Spacey’s coming out instead.
As Vary, who interviewed Rapp for the Buzzfeed News piece, said Monday morning, the fact that Spacey’s statement ignores Rapp’s age “is the key element to this entire story.”
This Spacey bombshell is another example of something that came to light when the Weinstein investigations were first published several weeks ago, which is the flippancy with which the industry has treated dark Hollywood “open secrets” about sexual predators.
Separate away the winking way in which Spacey has commoditized rumors about his sexuality over the years, most recently, and with the most tone-deafness, as host of the Tony Awards. Instead, think of the way Weinstein’s behavior was openly laughed at as some sort of industry punchline for decades, whether behind closed doors or even by the likes of Seth MacFarlane at the Oscars. It’s been a crass, inexcusable behavior that an industry much reckon with now that the conversation has turned to complicity, and in a way that applies—albeit on a smaller scale—to Spacey’s behavior, too.
As many have pointed out, including Spacey himself in Sunday night’s statement, that the actor was living in a glass closet of sorts was hardly a secret. Also hardly a secret: Spacey’s penchant for seeking out younger men.
MacFarlane, once again, is behind a gasp-inducing joke that aired on Family Guy back in 2005, in which baby Stewie is seen running naked through a shopping mall screaming, "Help! I've escaped Kevin Spacey's basement!"
There’s the infamous case, as Gawker, which published the story in 2014, put it, “Remember When Kevin Spacey Groped a Male Model in Public for 2 Hours?” with a man described by the tabloid Star as a “well-toned” hunk half his age.
There’s the 13 anecdotes that Gawker later published as well, in which readers sent emails detailing encounters with Spacey in which he, as the readers recounted it, seemed to routinely prey on much younger men.
We are not conflating these claims with the accusation that he tried to force himself on a 14-year-old boy. And this isn’t to say that if Spacey has a thing for younger men that it is proof that he ever engaged in such behavior. That’s an egregious leap to take. This isn’t even to shame Spacey for exhibiting a kind of “modelizing” behavior that is routinely celebrated when it’s heterosexual male celebrities engaging in it.
But it is worth pointing out in absence of the conversation Spacey didn’t seem to see it fit to engage in, about the seriousness of sexual predation against younger men in the entertainment industry, even of men who are of age. It’s another of Hollywood’s “open secrets” that, even after a story as scandalous as this one, still won’t be legitimized because of Spacey’s erasure in his statement.
When The Daily Beast published a story two weeks ago about Hollywood’s pedophilia problem, actress Evan Rachel Wood galvanized the industry by calling it “the next dam to break.” Dozens of actors and industry players retweeted and commented on Wood’s tweet in agreement.
To echo what many gay men have been dejectedly pointing out in the wake of Spacey’s “coming out” statement, he has, inadvertently or not, exposed the community to the latent bigotry and inaccuracy that it has spent years combatting when it comes to the false conflation of homosexuality and pedophilia. What a cruel thing to do to the community to which he now purportedly identifies.
More, he seems to have actively silenced a conversation more broadly about the sexual abuse of young men and the pedophilia problem—regardless of sexuality—in the industry.