Another week, another onslaught of big name stars to add to the list of sexual predators. Ever since Harvey Weinstein was outed by the press as a serial sexual abuser in early October, there’s been a domino effect of men and women accusing people in positions of power of sexual misconduct: filmmaker James Toback, actor Kevin Spacey, actor Danny Masterson, to name a few. The list goes on, and this week there’s a whole new lineup of sex offenders.
So, where should I begin? Here’s the list of the most notable allegations this week:
- Actor Ed Westwick, best known for playing the manipulative Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl, has been accused of rape by two women within a matter of days.
- Mariah Carey, known by many as the “Queen of Christmas,” was recently accused of sexually harassing her bodyguard.
- Producer Steven Seagal was accused by actress Portia de Rossi and others of sexual misconduct.
- Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in Alabama for a U.S. senate seat, was accused of initiating sexual encounters with underage girls when he was in his 30s.
- Comedian Louis C.K. was accused by multiple women of sexually harassment and misconduct.
Have I missed anyone? At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised — it’s amazingly difficult to keep up with what Woody Allen recently called a “witch hunt” against men. Not that we should listen to him, though — he was infamously accused of sexually abusing his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow when she was a child.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: nothing about these allegations should be particularly shocking. Should they make us angry? Sure. Should we find them disturbing? Definitely! But should we be surprised? I wouldn’t go that far.
The #MeToo movement showed just how prevalent sexual assault and harassment actually is — nearly every woman and quite a few men had some story to tell as the hashtag movement took over our social media feeds. But the true epidemic doesn’t lie in how many women and men are victims of sexual misconduct, but in how many men and women are perpetrators of it. Sexual predators aren’t just creepy men who live down the street or shadowy figures who follow you down alleyways. They’re your classmates, your friends, your family members. Sometimes, they’re your heroes.
Westwick’s Gossip Girl character Chuck Bass has captured women’s hearts for a decade now. Sure, he’s manipulative and terrible throughout the series’s run, but his romance with Blair is considered a love story for the ages. Their relationship has spawned fan made YouTube videos and social media accounts, and Chuck Bass himself has a huge fan following. According to one of my friends, “You don’t even care how terrible he is. He’s just so hot.”
But the fact of the matter is this: Chuck Bass sexually assaulted female characters on the show and still remained a fan favorite. And while what an actor’s character does doesn’t reflect who the actor himself is, it’s an uncanny similarity that’s stood out to some. Women considered Chuck Bass a hero, even wanted him despite the fact that he forced himself on a woman. People loved the character enough to justify his actions and dismiss them. Did Westwick think he could get away with the same? By loudly emphasizing our love for the flawed character, did we lead him believe that he could?
It makes me wonder who else we let slide through the cracks, who we unwittingly justified. I mean, just look at Louis C.K. His comedy routines seemed lighthearted and funny, but with the information we have now, they feel off, as if they were a joke we weren’t completely let in on. Take this particular bit about women, for instance:
“We’re the number one threat to women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women, we’re the worst thing that ever happens to them.”
We all laughed, didn’t we? Even though, statistically, women are bound to be abused or harassed by a man in some form or another at some point in their lives. But maybe Louis wasn’t even joking at all. And maybe by disguising it as a joke, he was not only able to cover his own ass — after all, he was too “woke” and “self-aware” to be a real threat — but also found a way to be praised for, well, just telling the truth. We all laughed off the sincerity of the joke and Louis C.K. laughed off his transgressions.
Not that the bit is only part of his career that now feels incredibly wrong. He’s made a ton of masturbation jokes during his routines, many of which are about masturbating in front of women, which just feel creepy now. And then there’s the fact that his new movie, I Love You, Daddy, is literally about sexual misconduct — the film revolves around the teenage daughter of a TV producer who starts spending time with a film director who’s been accused of pedophilia and sexual assault. There’s even an entire scene in the movie where the film director masturbates in front of others — which is exactly what women accused Louis of doing.
Interestingly enough, Louis’s character, the TV producer, is supposedly the one who condemns the film director’s sexual misconduct while others find excuses to justify it. He’s the knight in shining armor, the woke bae who comes sweeping in to pacify our moral compass while the rest of the characters make us question what right and wrong really is, even going so far as to justify the rapist. And while the script was originally believed to be about Woody Allen, people have already begun to wonder if the film is somewhat self-reflective of Louis. Instead of writing himself as the TV producer he wants us to believe he is, maybe he’s the film director.
Louis C.K. is hardly the first person to turn their transgressions into art. Even Woody Allen, despite the very public allegations against him, is releasing a new movie that includes a storyline about the sexual flirtations between a 15-year-old girl and a man in his 4os. And despite how incredibly gross the whole thing feels, there’s no doubt in the world that Allen is going to make money off of it — especially when he got ahold of big name stars such as Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez, and Jude Law.
But should we be surprised? Of course not.
The fact of the matter is that, as a society, we’ve created an environment that allows these things to happen with little consequence. We’ve swooned over the Chuck Basses of the world. We’ve laughed along to Louis’s jokes about harassment. We’ve supported films and TV shows that featured (and, consequently, tried to justify) sexual misconduct in the name of art. We’ve put celebrities on pedestals where they — and even we — believe they’re untouchable. We continue to support artists who have been accused of all these things because, well, we like what they do. No, not the sexual harassment. No, not the misconduct, either. But, you know, all those other things they do.
So while this day and age might actually feel like Woody Allen’s prophesied “witch hunt”, that’s hardly the case. On the contrary, we’re finally stepping up as a society and saying that this environment we created isn’t okay anymore. People who have been silenced are finally speaking up because, as more allegations come to light, they realize they’re finally safe to. People believe them now, which wasn’t always the case. And there’s no doubt in my mind that in the weeks to come, there are going to be a lot more accusations out there. But I’m sure we’re still going to act surprised when it happens.
You know what they say: all your faves are problematic. Our favorite movies and TV shows are riddled with celebrities we once revered but whose pedestals have been knocked down. It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but it’s something we can’t continue to ignore. Our heroes aren’t untouchable anymore — but maybe it’s a good thing.