Late this past Sunday night, Buzzfeed reported that actor Anthony Rapp, best known for being a part of the original cast of “Rent”, had accused Kevin Spacey of sexually assaulting him when Rapp was only 14 years old (Spacey was in his mid-twenties at the time). Hours later, Spacey released a response on Twitter, in which he claimed to not remember the events and that he owed Rapp “the sincerest apology.” This alone would’ve been problematic enough, as “I don’t remember doing that” does not excuse one’s actions. However, Spacey’s response continued: “This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life … I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live life as a gay man.”
Wow. To be honest, I cannot believe that Spacey’s agent/PR advisor/famous-person-helper (this is a thing) approved this statement. There is a great deal to unpack here, much of which has been said already. However, I think it is worth saying again.
First of all, it is completely obvious that Spacey was attempting to use coming out as gay as a distraction from the accusations of sexual assault. It is clear that Spacey was not blindsided by the accusations. The author of the Buzzfeed report, Shani Hilton, confirmed that they had reached out to Spacey repeatedly. Spacey was able to craft his response, meaning that his choice to come out at that time was a premeditated and strategic attempt to change the focus of the report. The unfortunate truth is that this worked, to a degree. Multiple websites, including Reuters.com, initially reported the story with headlines like “Actor Kevin Spacey Declares He Lives Life as a Gay Man,” which is completely meaningless in this case, considering that he was accused of ATTEMPTING TO SEXUALLY ASSAULT A 14-YEAR-OLD BOY.
Fortunately, people were quick to point this out, and many of the websites have since updated their headlines. However, this doesn’t change the fact that Spacey used coming out — something that can be incredibly difficult for many people — as a PR mechanism designed to distract. This is especially malicious when one considers Spacey’s previous stance on coming out. He was notoriously private about his social life, and although he made some very awkward jokes while hosting the Tony Awards about his lack of coming out despite rumors about his sexual orientation, he has largely completely avoided the issue. That’s why it is especially insulting that he would come out at this time, just to garner sympathy in the face of scandal. As comedian Billy Eichner put it on Twitter: “Kevin Spacey has just invented something that has never existed before: a bad time to come out.”
However, the problems don’t stop there. As many have pointed out, coming out as gay when accused of assaulting a minor is especially problematic, as it furthers the patently false narrative that being gay makes one more likely to be a pedophile. As James Hamblin pointed out in his Atlantic article “A Bad Time to Come Out”, “This is a narrative that has been cultivated — and continues to be — to paint gay people as deviant.”
I hope that this means that Kevin Spacey is done, finished, over forever. Netflix announced on Monday that this season of “House of Cards”, in which Spacey is the star, will be the show’s last, but that seemed to be coming anyway, regardless of scandal. I hope that Kevin Spacey never gets another acting job. If Kevin Spacey really thinks he owes Anthony Rapp “the sincerest apology,” he should have made his statement about that apology. Instead, he attempted to paint himself as a marginalized figure, something he was only willing to do when it was advantageous to him. For this, he must pay.