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How guilty are we when our past deeds come back to haunt us? Something done yesterday and revealed today means we must answer for our actions in short order. Certainly, the longer the time between act and revelation doesn’t lessen the scorn heaped upon the perpetrator.
But how far do we stretch that window of culpability? If we expand it to include our entire lives, it could be that none of us would escape unscathed. Perhaps all of us would suffer our moment of notoriety in the harsh spotlight of public embarrassment and censure for something in our past.
Kevin Spacey is suffering that public condemnation for an alleged incident that occurred in 1986. Another actor, 46-year-old Anthony Rapp, claims that Spacey, now 58, made sexual advances towards him when he was just 14-years-old. That’s 31 years ago for anyone keeping score.
Let’s be clear: I don’t know what happened on that night. But let’s be just as clear that neither does anyone else in the general public. Spacey says he doesn’t know, either. He doesn’t challenge Rapp’s story and says that his deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour was inexcusable. In other words, he’s dutifully falling on his sword – accepting guilt – and apologizing for something he can’t recall but doesn’t dispute.
And, of course, that’s what he must do to mitigate any fallout that will continue to rain down on him. Since the Harvey Weinstein affair has blown wide open the secret sexual currency that so often marks Hollywood transactions, to do anything other than that would be career-ending suicide.
It may just be that Spacey can never recover from this stain that social media is very happy to turn into a full-throated bellow of righteous indignation on the part of the pitchfork-carrying mob hiding behind their hashtags.
It’s certainly disturbing that the incident – if accurately remembered – involved a 14-year-old boy (Spacey was 26). But the lawyer in me wants to know so much more of the entire circumstances of the evening in question. I want to be able to objectively evaluate the behaviour that resulted in Rapp feeling he was being harassed, propositioned or otherwise violated.
No one condones any sort of adult-youth sexual interaction or even the ‘horseplay’ tinged with innuendo that so often masks true predatory behaviour – particularly where young men are concerned. So much attention is focused on women and girls when it comes to raising awareness of sexual misconduct that young men and boys are often left to suffer in the shadows of self-inflicted and socially-imposed shame. And that’s simply because the wider community didn’t always take their situations as seriously as they did that of similarly-situated females.
Obviously, that’s changing and that’s an unqualified positive evolution. If that was Rapp’s motivation, then the argument could be made that he had every right to use this long-ago incident as a way to highlight that harassment affects everyone and it’s never acceptable, no matter what the gender combination of the individuals involved.
But there’s still something unseemly about these kinds of revelations when celebrity is involved – when fame is the fuel that rockets these stories to the trending top of social media and public consciousness.
Rapp is a middle-aged man and a successful actor in his own right. He has a starring role in Star Trek: Discovery. He’s no longer in a position to be victimized by Spacey.
Why, then, did he not reach out to the actor in private and reveal the hurt, confusion and anger this incident engendered? Did he not think that was an option in an age when the public vomiting of private lives is what makes the world go round?
Andy Warhol is credited with being the source of the pop culture notion that everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame.
I’m wondering if that should have been 15 minutes of shame instead.
Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
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