This past Sunday evening (Oct. 29), Buzzfeed broke a story in which the actor Anthony Rapp recounted a sexual advance made on him by Kevin Spacey when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. This assault happened more than 30 years ago, but this is not the first time Rapp has spoken of it. The article makes clear that those close to Rapp knew of Spacey’s actions, and Rapp even recounted the story (without naming Spacey) in “The Advocate” in 2001.
I was sitting in Romeo’s Coffee when I saw the news break on Buzzfeed. Like any gay kid who was in high school fine arts, I knew who Rapp was. He’s built his career while being out. Rapp’s most recent role has been on the new series “Star Trek: Discovery,” becoming the first actor to play a character that was openly scripted as gay in a “Star Trek” television series.
Adam Vary, who wrote the article in Buzzfeed, reports that they reached out to Spacey’s people for comment but received no response. Spacey knew this article was coming, and therefore it is not illogical to assume that he had his statement prepared. You can read his response on his Twitter.
— Kevin Spacey (@KevinSpacey) October 30, 2017
He had time to think about his response, and this is what he chose. It does not matter if he was drunk, it does not matter if it was 30 years ago, it does not matter if he was suffering from the toxicity of the closet — nothing justifies advances on a 14-year-old. Nothing.
I won’t speak to the abuse, because that is not my story to tell. It is Rapp’s, and he has told it.
There are so many ways his response was deplorable, so let’s break it down. Not only did Spacey respond by trying to deflect blame (“drunken behavior” and “I do not remember”), he chose now, in the same statement, to come out as gay.
Speculation about Spacey’s sexuality is not new. Esquire ran a story in 1997 hinting at the possibility that Spacey was closeted. Spacey himself, though, has been firm in his insistence that he has no desire to speak about his sexuality publicly. Previous conversation Spacey has had about his sexuality is that it was a fiction and/or it was nobody’s business. Neither of these reasons stopped him from using the opportunity to make multiple jokes about the closet as he hosted the 2017 Tony Awards.
His coming out in the same breath as his “apology” gave the news outlets another story to focus on. Within hours, the New York Daily News ran the headline “Kevin Spacey comes out as gay after Anthony Rapp allegations.” The opening of the headline is not the abuse, it is the coming out. Their article itself follows the same structure — it mentions his coming out first and the abuse later. While the actual article is admittedly somewhat balanced, the New York Times theater account’s tweet with the link to the op-ed featured the excerpt, “While coming out is often met with support, the response was far different for Kevin Spacey.”
Spacey got what he wanted — people are talking about his sexuality not his predation.
As Ira Madison III noted in his condemnation of Spacey on the Daily Beast, Spacey’s actions call to “mind hateful rhetoric like Anita Bryant’s 1977 Save Our Children campaign, which sought to associate gay men and child predators.” This is not a new narrative — it is a firmly rooted and terribly destructive one. I can personally testify that it was one I heard growing up in an extremely homophobic area of the country. It is also not a new association in the Hollywood context. “The Celluloid Closet” notes the homoerotic undertones in “Dracula’s Daughter” as a clear example of the “essence of homosexuality as a predatory weakness.”
Whether Spacey did not know or did not care, his way of responding to someone saying he had hurt them was to enact further hurt.
Both Zachary Quinto and George Takei made excellent statements censuring Spacey and attempting to reorient the focus of the conversation. Quinto noted that the important voices are those of the victims, and again, the focus should be on Rapp’s story. Takei spoke more directly to Spacey’s tactic, saying “Men who improperly harass or assault do not do so because they are gay or straight — that is a deflection. They do so because they have the power, and they choose to abuse it.”
Spacey had power — and he is still trying to use that power.
The way his assault, as well the deep-seated abuse and sexual violence that persist in our society, are covered in the coming weeks will decide whether he is allowed to maintain that power.