Anyone who has paid thirty seconds of attention to the news in the last few weeks has been unable to miss all the reports of powerful men being called out for sexual harassment on up to assault, by both men and women in lesser positions of power. Most of the complaints have been against Hollywood types, but also several political types.
It’s a sad but undeniable fact that when the accused is someone who you like or is on your side politically, you are more likely to respond with skepticism about the accusations than if the accused is someone you dislike or disagree with. A truly honest person would be skeptical of *all* claims until either the accused confesses, sufficient evidence is produced, or the accusers tales are properly vetted. But let’s be honest, it’s *really* easy to believe that some of these power-mad fantasy-land-dwellers are scumbags, and so the general response to these accusations is to just accept them at face value.
In the current political climate, it’s probably accurate to suggest that a sexual harassment accusation is more PR-damaging than an accusation of conventional physical violence. If, say, Kevin Spacey had been accused of getting drunked up and pummeling some people 30 years ago, I doubt there’d be much hoopla. How many rap stars actually *bolster* their “cred” with an actual felony rap sheet? But things are what they are; if you are suddenly announced to have been pervy decades ago, you become culturally toxic *now.*
As a consequence, we’ve got Ridley Scott rushing to replace Spacey in a movie due out in *weeks.* Netflix promptly shut down and cancelled production of Spacey’s “House of Cards.” Louis CK’s new movie “I Love You Daddy” has had its premiere cancelled, and may get stuffed down the memory hole; Louis CK was working on a new animated series with TBS called “The Cops,” this has now been cancelled. The Weinstein company may wind up going down in flames, even after they fired the guy the company is named after.
Lets assume the accusations are correct (and in Louis CK’s case, he’s confessed that they are). So you hear about this guy acting badly, and as a result his career blows up in his face, and your initial response is likely some variation of schadenfreude. “To hell with that guy, good riddance.”
But here’s the thing: these movies, TV shows and whatnot are not just the products of that one guy. The cast and crew of “House of Cards” are now SOL. There is every possibility that there was an actor or makeup artist or *somebody* in one of these now-trashed shows that that job that they busted their butts on was going to be their big break. Maybe the Weinstein Company had just signed a deal to produce some young filmmakers dream project, and now it’s vanished like a fart in the wind.
OK, here’s the ponderable. Should the bad behavior of One Guy torpedo the work of hundreds or thousands? Let’s put it in terms that readers of this blog might be more directly amenable to: let’s hypothesize that Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk is accused of the same sort of thing. Should Blue Origin or SpaceX dry up and blow away as a result? If Seth Macfarlane turns out to *gasp* convert to a Trump supporter, should “The Orville” be promptly cancelled? Heck: there is a small but non-zero chance that my own chance for fame and fortune evaporated with “Man Conquers Space,” my role as technical advisor, prop maker and vehicle designer gone due to the movie project folding because… well, reasons are unclear but claims are made and unsubstantiated in the comments section HERE.
Granted, I’m not really seeing a whole of of alternative in a lot of these cases. Hollywood is by definition all about Public Relations; when someone suddenly falls out of favor, their careers often instantly tank. Charlie Sheen, that kid who was on 2.5 Men, Mel Gibson, OJ Simpson, Bill Cosby, Paula Deen, even Fatty Arbuckle Way Back In the Friggen’ Day all found that accusations (some true, some unfounded, some on full public display) were enough to end careers essentially overnight. You tick off the public, the public may well decide to stop throwing money at you. But when these people go down, they take a lot of other folks with them.
So: when one actor or director or producer turns out to be an accused scumbag… what should happen with the work they’re doing? Work that hundreds of others rely on for paychecks, and millions of others rely on for entertainment?