Netflix, in response to sexual predation allegations against actor Kevin Spacey, has “decided to suspend production on House of Cards season six, until further notice” in order to give them “time to review the current situation and to address any concerns of our cast and crew.”
New allegations continue to surface against Spacey, and, unless Netflix decides to recast their lead, it’s unlikely that House of Cards season six will ever arrive.
Most observers assume that Spacey’s career is essentially over as a result of allegations made by another actor of an incident that took place more than 30 years ago, which Spacey concedes may have happened in a drunken stupor that he doesn’t remember.
This comes on the heels of allegations of “sexual assault” leveled against 93-year-old former President George H.W. Bush, who apparently has patted several women on the behind from the wheelchair in which he has been confined for the past five years.
His spokesman, Jim McGrath, acknowledged that the former president “has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.”
The wide-ranging fallout from Harvey Weinstein sexual predator scandal
All of this is fallout from the Harvey Weinstein debacle, and the hordes of #MeToo posts on social media have made sexual misbehavior the preeminent sin of the moment.
Certainly calling attention to predatory behavior is a positive thing. The lack of context and perspective, however, is not.
Compare, for example, the cases of Spacey, Bush, and Weinstein, all of which have been painted with a similarly broad bush.
With Weinstein, we have evidence of decades of genuinely predatory behavior, with a man in power demanding sexual favors from unwilling participants. The pattern is clear, and it extends into the present day. The perpetrator has made no attempt to deny his culpability, and the career-ending consequences of his behavior seem entirely appropriate.
With Spacey, however, there is a single allegation which, if true, would constitute a serious offense. The problem is that this allegedly took place in 1986, well beyond the statute of limitations, and Spacey himself doesn’t remember the incident.
From a legal standpoint, it would be impossible to convict Spacey of anything here, but the career devastation he is experiencing is the equivalent of Weinstein’s. Is that appropriate?
Kevin Spacey is said to have climbed on top of a young boy in bed, while George H.W. Bush patted a woman on the rear. Yet consider that both of these incidents are being characterized as “sexual assault.” Are they really the same thing? Isn’t there a difference of degree here that ought to be mentioned?
George H.W. Bush’s cases proves the need for clarity on allegations of sexual harassment and assault
Linda Chavez, who served in Ronald Reagan’s White House as Director of the Office of Public Liaison, wrote a column about George H.W. Bush’s misbehavior:
President Bush is 93 years old. He sits in a wheelchair, and anyone who witnessed his appearance last week when all the living former presidents gathered to help raise funds for hurricane victims can plainly see that he is much diminished, physically and mentally….
Like many elderly men — and women — President Bush said and did something inappropriate not out of malice or with the intent to harm but because he now lacks the judgment to behave as he did all his life.
And those who are using this incident to score political points or to turn themselves into victims akin to women who have been assaulted by individuals with all their mental faculties intact should show a little mercy….
To treat this incident as if it were akin to the stories about men who used their power and fame to demean women and solicit or force sex or sexual contact is disgraceful. It not only hurts an honorable man who served his country but also demeans the real victims of sexual assault.
As we come to terms with the reality of sexual assault and the devastation it has caused, we need to recognize that context and perspective are always necessary.
(Photo of President George H.W. Bush with members of the International Space Station via NASA employee Hayley Fick)