Today’s after school special is on how to stop supporting abusers in the film industry. I know, you’re all yelling “but Nat! what about so-and-so? what about THE ART? where do we draw the line? its all SO complicated”.
Well, you’re friendly neighbourhood film buff is here to guide you and tell you it’s actually really simple, so lets break it down.
So lets start with a prime and scummy example, Johnny Depp.
What are the facts: He hit and abused Amber Heard, there were court cases, video and photographic evidence.
What is still ‘speculation’ (aka, not common knowledge or fully confirmed): He abused Winona Ryder causing her hospitalisations, as well as speculation that their relationship started when she was a minor. That he was a pivotal role in the cause of death of River Phoenix (i.e, questionable motivates for him dragging River Phoenix’s body out of the viper room, possibly supplied him with the fatal drugs). Reports of him engaging in sex and sexual acts with minors on his band’s tour of Russia.
Films that JD is currently starring in at the cinema: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Should you see it at the cinema: NO.
Our second pile of trash is, Bryan Singer.
What are the facts: Multiple court cases have been filed against him for sexual misconduct, assault and the rape of a minor. One was thrown out for lack of evidence, (the 1997 case of misconduct surrounding minors and nudity on set) one he counter-sued, one was settled out of court. Multiple allegations have also been made against him on twitter, in press and other media outlets.
What is still ‘speculation’ (aka, not common knowledge or fully confirmed): That he regularly holds parties in Hollywood filled with underage boys for men to engage with sexually. That he has sexually harassed and assaulted a lot of young males he has worked with.
Films that Bryan Singer is involved with, currently at the cinema: Bohemian Rhapsody
Should you see it at the cinema: NO.
But Nat, you haven’t told us why not to watch it! I wish the world was a simple place where I could give you the facts and just say don’t do it but I know people want more than that, so lets break down some arguments that people have for supporting abusers work.
“What about the other people that worked on the movie?”
We can break these people down into two categories, those who were aware of the abuser’s status and those who weren’t. Those who were aware and supported it, shouldn’t be supported either, I’m not saying you boycott them completely, or whatever, but you look closely at that actor’s/producer’s/director’s actions and you make a decision if they are someone you respect.
Those who didn’t know, they can’t help that but they already got paid for the film, so you seeing the film, isn’t supporting them financially. Instead by seeing the films at the cinema, buying them or renting them you are putting money back into the pockets of those who profit off the distribution (Cinema, VOD and DVD sales).
These people will be the studio heads, the producers, the director, maybe some of the cast depending on contracts. Films this financially huge are only benefiting big studios and people who already have money. If you like an actor, a production member, or whoever, from a film with an abuser in it, seek out their other films that you can support. Support work by actual POC, LGBTQ+ and other marginalised groups and support independent film because they will see the money and the impact.
“Why can’t you separate the art from the artist?”
I wish we could and I think in certain cases you can: an actor says something mildly problematic, well done, they’re human! Move on, we don’t need to crucify them.
However, high profile celebrities that have committed, or been accused of, multiple felonies and in an environment where sexual violence is rampant, we need to hold them accountable.
Our arts industries reflect and contribute to our societal landscape. If we ignore these industries, we are ignoring our own society, art is not free from morality or ethics when people and industries are involved. So yes, it’s time to stop playing R. Kelly too, even if you think it’s a bop.
“Will me boycotting it, actually do anything?”
Individually, no. Hollywood is a billion dollar, well oiled, messed up machine that will continue to tick over no matter how many people are accused or proven of sexual violence.
But collectively, with the increase of high profile support and rules and contracts being put in place on sets, the industry can change.
The big thing is, we need to show the people making decisions, that we don’t want to see these films. The more demand, the more they will overlook abusers to make money. So if we don’t show up to opening weekends, if we don’t go out in droves to see these films, they will lose traction and eventually not be made. Its not a fast process but if you look at the positive outcome that audiences have had, with supporting movies like Black Panther, ultimately, the audience is king.
(Also, use social media! Its 2018, if you’re not posting about it online, is it even real?)
So that’s the end of today’s lesson, folks.
It’s easier than you’d think to not support abusers, you just don’t do it.
Films are wonderful things and I urge you to support them, watch them, obsess over them and let them expand your mind. But before you support that Woody Allen, Johnny Depp, Bryan Singer, Kevin Spacey or Gary Oldman film you think twice about it.
Think of the population that collectively hurts when you support abusers, when you don’t believe victims and when we continue to live in a landscape where leaders and people in positions of power can still be abusers and face no repercussions.