A couple of weeks ago I was on a date with someone who seemed ok (by ok, I mean distinctly average) and we were getting on as was to be expected. As with all first dates, we waded through all the normal topics of conversation: job, background, hobbies, and finally, we landed on the news. It was the week that the scandal around Harvey Weinstein broke.
For the next 15 minutes I found myself drawn into a sparring match with my date, who was adamant that whilst Harvey Weinstein’s actions were revolting, he was still a fantastic producer and should be remembered as such. I completely disagreed. Needless to say, that was the last I ever saw of my date for the evening. My argument lay on the grounds that Weinstein directly profited from his behavior, he threatened and bullied women into submission and as Rose McGowan pointed out – he ruined people’s lives. Every project that Weinstein worked on is tainted. I will never be able to watch Pulp Fiction again without him entering my thoughts.
The huge difference of opinions between my date and I got me thinking – in the wake of all these Hollywood scandals, should we really still be trying to separate the artist from the art? If so, then I’m failing miserably.
It wasn’t that long ago that I watched in horror as Jonny Depp was revealed as the new Grindelwald, thus, in my opinion, ruining the character and it’s with a little reluctance that I’m going to watch Murder on the Orient Express next weekend. I’ve felt this way ever since the news about Amber Heard came out. I just can’t – however hard I try – separate that knowledge from the man on screen playing a character. I am also troubled by how quickly Jonny Depp has managed to get back in the limelight, almost as if nothing had ever happened; it is perhaps, just another nod towards a system which inherently favours white men.
The downfall of Kevin Spacey has been particularly hard, purely due to the fact that House of Cards is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Yet, try as I might, if he’s in it and he’s profiting from it, then I just don’t want to watch it. It’s harder as I have the utmost respect for Robin Wight and the other characters of the show. I know that they will be bearing the brunt of Spacey’s despicable behavior, and they shouldn’t have to suffer because of what he did.
And to top it all off, this morning, Ed Westwick, known for his role as Chuck Bass has just been accused of rape. So that’s Gossip Girl gone on my Netflix list as well.
These men, who have used their position to intimidate and pressure others in order to get what they want, shouldn’t have a place in platform in popular media. Hollywood is a place where people look for inspiration and where those at the top of their career’s become role models for the younger generation. Yet, it’s also a place of ingrained sexism and abuse. I’m glad people are coming forward, and I hope that for once, people listen.
At university, I did a course on contemporary writing which asked the question – once published, is it possible to look at the work and the writer as two completely separate entities? Does that work even belong to them now that it is available to the public? I’ve tried to use this way of thinking, as a way to still watch these shows, and to remind myself, for example, that Frank Underwood is not Kevin Spacey. Yet, for the first time, I am finding it impossible. I simply can’t create a divide wide enough between the two which will allow me to watch their movies without thinking about the allegations which come with them.
The fact that Weinstein and Spacey’s careers are crumbling just isn’t good enough for me. I doubt it’s good enough for those they abused. In a post- Weinstien/Spacey era I simply can no longer find any excuses to separate someone’s actions from their art, and so no, as it turns out, I can’t still watch House of Cards.