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Amid Misconduct Allegations, Can We Enjoy the Same Media?

By Lindsey DeRoche; A&E Editor
On December 15, 2017

Amid Misconduct Allegations, Can We Enjoy the Same Media? 

Lindsey DeRoche

A&E Editor

lederoche@plymouth.edu 

2017 has been a year teeming with controversy. Previous silence regarding heinous sexual misconduct within Hollywood was shattered earlier in the year by the courage of victims who spoke up not only for themselves, but for others who have faced the same injustices, but have not been able to be as vocal.

As most of us know, it didn’t take long for allegations of this nature to trickle out into the industries of other forms of entertainment, like music, as well as the world of politics, already infamous for being riddled with corruption. Everyone from actors, to vocalists and guitarists, to senators are under fire, as they should be. A position of power does not give you a right to anything, especially not sexual favors.

Sexual misconduct controversies have been and still are popping up everywhere like a plague, leaving many of us (myself included) wondering, “How is this behavior still deemed acceptable by certain people?” For a long time, this internal query was, for me, often followed by, “I thought we [society] had come so far. I guess I’m naive.”

Part of me feels foolish regarding my naivety. I believe that, to a certain extent, I was ignorant to how twisted and dark sexual predation still is in industries like film. But, part of me probably “bought” the story because it was easier to digest, easier to accept.

With societal advancements like the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace (compared to eras where it was so widely accepted) and the implementation of Title IX (part of educational amendments that guarantee equality in education and financial aid for all demographics), I separated the era my grandmother grew up in from my own. I would watch episodes of “Mad Men” and think to myself about how archaic the gender roles were, and how far equality has come in the United States.

But just because women are no longer confined to cooking and cleaning all day, or dictating notes for a sleazy, winking boss, doesn’t mean that sexual dynamics are not still perversely contorted.

But, as a 22-year-old woman who has never truly had to deal with oppression, that was easy for me to believe. In fact, it was probably nicer to believe. I was born with a great deal of natural privilege, and I’ve always liked to think that I make it a priority to stand up for those who don’t have those same privileges with the platforms at my disposal.

Therefore, part of me feels as though I fell for the facade of living in a progressive time and place. Yes, the United States today has come a long way since our nation’s conception. And yes, our nation is doing a lot of things right, things that we ought to be thankful for.

Still, there is always room to do better, and to further social advancement. And, of course, I want to be a part of the advancement, a part of the change. And I believe that part of helping change along becomes personal to me not just as a human, an American or a woman, but as a lover of arts and entertainment.

For me, this begs the question, “Can I still enjoy the same films, albums, etc. while being privy to the deviant and sexually-transgressive natures of many of my favorite artists?” After all, it’s hard to completely sever artists from their work, regardless of certain scholarly theories that argue otherwise.

Take, for instance, actor Kevin Spacey. Spacey was one of the first to be accused of sexual misconduct in the film industry, following the initial allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Yet, Spacey is, regardless of his morals and actions, a phenomenal actor, in my opinion. Judging him solely based on his performances in films that I love, such as “Se7en,” “The Usual Suspects,” “American Beauty” and much more, I see Spacey as a stellar performer, one who commands the screen.

But, how do I enjoy these same movies, which I also enjoy for the performances of other actors and the directing and screenwriting, while I know that one of the stars is a sexual assailant who preyed on teenagers?

I want to enjoy art with Spacey in it, but he has tainted it for me. I can’t separate his character from who he truly is. After all, at the end of the day, his characters in movies are fictitious; he leaves every set as who he really is.

And who Kevin Spacey really is, evidently, is someone who believes that he has the right to sexually assault others, prey on victims that are not old enough to even consent to sexual acts if they had wished to and tries to issue an apology that uses his coming out as gay as some sort of pathetic (as well as utterly insulting to the LGBTQ+ community) attempt to camouflage what he has done wrong.

And that’s not someone I have any desire to watch in a film, ever meet or wish to fiscally support, in any fashion.

Sadly, film is not the only media tainted by such a situation. A band that I have considered to be one of the most poetic and tragically beautiful, the pop-punk ensemble Brand New, has recently had their frontman, Jesse Lacey (vocals and guitar), in the crosshairs for sexual misconduct.

Multiple women have come fo ward accusing Lacey of coercing them into sex using his powerful position as a rock star, sexual assault and exposing himself to them via Skype, all while they were underage and he was in his twenties.

The frontman offered his own apologies on the band’s Facebook page, citing that he had used sex as a “coping tool” in the past. And, so it goes. On and on. Every day, a new allegation. Every day, an apology penned to sound sincere, but only issued because someone who abused their position of power and ignored their responsibility to be a good human being was finally caught.

No longer can I listen to Lacey lament about lost love, existential crisis or pondering the possibility of a higher power without remembering that he physically preyed on underage girls, leaving them with psychological scars that will never fully fade.

Let me be clear, I am not the victim here, nor am I trying to portray myself as one. The true victims of the rampant sexual misconduct in society are the women AND men who have been assaulted, coerced and harassed by those who create art that I consume. And I cannot offer my support enough to those who have those burdens to bear.

Still, the question lingers (and I think it’s a fair one): Can we still consume the media we once loved and held dear when those behind it have been exposed for what they truly are, which is repulsive and devoid of morals?

I don’t have an absolute answer. But, one thing I do know is, the sexual transgressors of our society in high-paying industries of fame have not only the power to ruin lives, but also to taint any further experiences consumers and diehard fans have with their art.

I only hope that this weeding out is continued, and that we do not stop until everyone is held equally accountable, regardless of how much power they hold. 

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