Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Kevin Spacey and #MeToo

Recently Kevin Spacey was charged with sexual assault. He has released an odd and fascinating YouTube video ("Let Me Be Frank')  in his own defence. He was accused by Heather Unruh of buying liquor for her son William N. Little — when he was 18 -- and then molesting the young man, in July 2016.
Kevin Spacey has been called a ‘#MeToo pariah.’ 
But the accusations against Kevin Spacey have absolutely nothing to do with #MeToo.
This is not a defence of Kevin Spacey. If Kevin Spacey is found guilty then few would argue that he does not deserve to be punished. But the #MeToo website states that “Women in Canada live at greater risk than men of domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment” and that this violence is “gender based" and related to “sexism.”
What does all this have to do with Kevin Spacey? NOTHING. Kevin Spacey is a gay man. Gay men are not the same as straight men. And what makes them different is not simply sexual desire, but — homophobia. Young gay men are physically and verbally attacked while growing up at school, and often lose the emotional and financial support of their parents. (For instance, The Williams Institute tells us that though the homeless population only makes up 7% of young people in American; 40% of them are LGBT.) Then as they grow up, these gay young men must decide — as Spacey did — whether or not to come out at work.
Homophobia is, arguably, the reason why Spacey is not presently a major U.S. film star, In 1997 Spacey was the subject of a homophobic column in Esquire which gossiped  about his sexuality (‘Kevin Spacey Has a Secret’). Spacey subsequently moved to England and became the artistic director of the Old Vic. He refused to identify as gay in an interview as late as 2010, and didn’t actually come out until he was accused in October of 2017 of making ‘sexual advances’ to Anthony Rapp — at which point, he was attacked on all sides for using his confession as a distraction/defence against Rapp’s accusations.
I would argue that Kevin Spacey is a deeply damaged human being who has endured a lifetime of torture over the conflict between his sexual feelings and his career ambitions. It has been impossible for him to be both a successful Hollywood actor and an out gay man. This is not an excuse for his actions, whatever they are. It is a plea for us to tell the truth about his life.
The whole incident with William N. Little is so mired in issues of sexuality and homophobia that it is almost too dense to analyze. One doesn’t dare speak of William N Little — or his sexuality — as that would be ‘blaming the victim.’ But why hasn’t William N. Little himself spoken out publicly against Spacey? Why has he left that to his mother? He is 20 years old at least — not a child. Little’s mother, Heather Unruh, a television personality, has two children. Her son founded the organization SWEAR — Stand with Everyone Against Rape, at his High School. Her daughter now runs the organization. Is it a co-incidence that Unruh has raised two children as anti-rape activists and that one of them is now accusing a closeted gay man of sexual assault? And why is she is speaking publicly for her son? What’s going on?
I ask this because Kevin Spacey’s situation has nothing to do with gender-based violence or #MeToo. Spacey is not a heterosexual male who has committed an act of sexual violence due to sexism. He is a damaged gay man whose actions in the past have yet to be determined. 
If he is guilty — and thus deserves to be called names — let’s at least call him the right ones.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

There’s no point in talking

to me anymore. For some. It’s been very interesting for me to see who wishes to talk to me these days, and who doesn’t.
You see once, I had a little bit of fame. (It was a long time ago.) Soon I was surrounded by people — but I didn’t know their motives. 
For example, a few years ago a young man wanted to talk about playwrighting. People don’t usually want to talk to me about playwrighting. But I love talking about it, so I said sure.
And when he sat down  in front of me I was impressed by what seemed at first to be intellectual passion. But a couple of sentences in, my fascination disappeared. 
He leaned forward. “What I want to know is — how do you write a hit that’s as popular as The Drawer Boy? I just want to know how to do that.”
I was speechless for a moment, as I had really been looking forward to talking to him about playwrighting. Then I told him that there was a formula for writing a popular play; in fact Eugene Scribe had perfected it many years ago. 
I won’t explain that formula in terms of The Drawer Boy — as I certainly don’t mean to suggest that Michael Healey is merely a craftsman. But I don’t mind speaking about it in terms of Come From Away.
The secret to writing a hit play — in case you want to know — is this. First, try not to challenge the audience’s basic assumptions about themselves. If they come into Royal Alexandra Theatre thinking that middle class white people are essentially good people — like the Come From Away audiences do — then they need to be congratulated on that fact. Also, your piece should centre around a controversial topic (something ‘edgy’), but the play itself must not be controversial, or ask any deep or probing questions about that topic. If you want to, you might add a suspenseful plot — you know, withhold some information until they very end. But audiences are a little less literate than they used to be, and don’t care as much about that anymore. Add a little romance, set your play in a locale that the audience will find ‘exotic,’ and you have the basics for what Scribe would have called a well-made play.
I told this young man the magic formula, and he went away. I don’t remember his name. Maybe he’s one of the creators of Come From Away.
But why in heaven’s name did this young man think that someone like me could somehow help him make his fortune in the theatre? 
That’s what it was, the fact that I was — or had been — somewhat famous at one time
Well I have news for this young man and anyone else like him. After all that’s happened, no one can ever mistake me for famous; I am merely infamous. That means (please write this down!) talking to me will no longer get you anywhere. In fact, if you are ambitious in the theatre, I suggest you stay away from me.  If you want to  be rich and famous and/or solidify for yourself a position in the 'entertainment industry,' you’d better talk to someone else.
Of course, if you want to have a serious (or perhaps oddly funny) discussion about art, theatre or sexual politics—I’m still available for discussion.
Just so you know.
Otherwise there is, in fact, no point in talking to me.
Thank God. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Ten Good Things About Spending Christmas Alone

It can be depressing, can’t it? Christmas. Especially when the forces of circumstance cause you to spend it alone. Well I can think of at least 10 reasons why spending Christmas alone is better than spending it with other people:
  1. You don’t have to listen to that boring instructor at your Aquafit classes monologue anymore because your Aquafit classes have been cancelled ‘for the holidays.’

2) You can always find a seat at one of those insanely popular Christmas movies (i.e. a movie written by an actual scriptwriter — not a committee, a movie written by and for adults — to win an Oscar, a movie which is actually a good movie — with absolutely no superheroes) because there is usually one SINGLE seat left (not two mind you, but one).

3) The only guys in gay backrooms are the guys who take sex very seriously in exactly the right way. (Look for the the guys wearing Santa hats. Really. They are really fun.)

4) Listening in on other people’s conversations is easy and the conversations are so fucking sad (well, it’s Christmas), that you could write a Christmas story that is even better than ‘The Gift of the Magi.’

5) You don’t have to visit with any boring relatives because all your boring relatives are finally dead.

6)  You can finally give your cat the love she deserves (and she will finally stop staring at you like that!).

7) You finally have time to read all those long, obsessive texts that people send you, texts that rest, stylistically, somewhere between an 18th century novel and crack inspired glossolalia.

8. Masturbation.

9. There’s really no reason why you can’t watch your favourite movie for the five hundredth time (mine is ELECTION).

10. You can finally admit that it’s better to be with people who you truly like (like, yourself) than people who you see out of obligation or because you are married to them or related to them or because you have this crazy idea that being alone is the same as being lonely. 

Hey, here’s a newsflash for Christmas: it’s not.