The Four Hundred: Public Figures Like Louis CK Can No Longer Hide Behind Their Work

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

On Oct. 5, 2017, journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published an article in The New York Times about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Simultaneously, journalist Ronan Farrow also published his report in The New Yorker about Weinstein as well. Both these reports were focused on Weinstein’s abuse of his power in order to exploit and assault women sexually. The articles sparked off the #MeToo movement, a hashtag that was previously used by activist Tarana Burke on MySpace about a decade ago. 

 Although these articles initially began the #MeToo movement, more and more victims of sexual assault and abuse came forward. Soon, other high-profile celebrities and media personalities also came under the scanner for their behavior. In a report published in Time magazine on Oct. 4, 2018, as many as one hundred and forty public figures have been accused of sexual assault. Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. among the accused.

 In the case of actor Kevin Spacey, his co-star on several Broadway shows, Anthony Rapp alleged in an interview to Buzzfeed News that in 1986, Spacey had invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party. At the end of the night, Spacey picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top, making a sexual advance. Spacey was 26. Rapp was just 14 years old. Spacey responded to these allegations with a statement on his Twitter account. He wrote in the statement that if he “did behave then as he (Rapp) describes,” he owes him the “sincerest apology.” Although Spacey’s apology was included in the statement, it also included Spacey’s confession that he had chosen to “live as a gay man.”

 Rapp’s allegations seemed to have opened floodgates of sorts. A report published in The Associated Press stated that as many as twenty other young men had called a hotline set up by London’s famed Old Vic Theatre making allegations against Spacey. The allegations were about a “range of inappropriate behavior.” Spacey had served as Old Vic’s artistic director from 2004 to 2015.

 In the case of Louis CK, rumors had been swirling through the comedy world since the early 2000s. The now-defunct website Gawker ran a blind article about these allegations. The article did nothing to substantiate the rumors. But on Nov. 9, 2017, journalists Melena Ryzik, Cara Buckley and Jodi Kantor reported accusations on CK’s sexual misconduct in The New York Times. CK responded with a statement, accepting the allegations, and stating that he would take a “long time to sit back and listen.”

Both these men had reached positions of power. At the time the allegations went public, Spacey had starred in five seasons of Netflix’s hit show House of Cards, and his film Billionaire Boys’ Club was all set to release. Louis CK, on the other hand, had been co-creator of two beloved comedy series: Better Things with longtime collaborator Pamela Adlon, and Baskets with Zach Galifianakis. His movie, I love you, Daddy, was about to release in theatres as well.

 The allegations had adverse effects on their projects. While Billionaire Boys’ Club failed to gather any steam at the box office, with reports suggesting that the film made just $126 at the box office on the first day, Spacey was written out of the sixth season of House of Cards. For CK, the television network parted ways with the comedian, which meant that CK lost his credits as co-creator of the two aforementioned shows on the network. He also had to buy his film I love you, Daddy, back from the distribution company The Orchard.

 These artists in question belonged to collaborative forms of art, which meant that their actions affected not only their victims but also affected the people that they collaborated with. The implications of these disgraced artists’ actions are compounded when you consider that their collaborators are unfairly dragged into the scrutiny surrounding these artists.

 Even viewers are put into a predicament when artists fall from grace. How do viewer’s come to terms with their affinity for a work of art that was created at the expense of someone else’s work and life? Is there a time period over which people can learn to separate the art from the artist? Can you even separate the art from the artists?

 Kevin Spacey’s main contribution to a film or a TV show is often his acting. Maybe a viewer can convince themselves that what they see in front of them is a character from a fictional film. For CK, the lines are often blurred. After all, stand-up comedy is often an extension or an exaggerated version of the comedian. Often, the bits that a comedian performs has some version of the comic involved within the joke. There isn’t any separation between the art and the artist that. In fact, as an audience member, the more you believe that the joke happened to the performer, the better the act.

 The artists mentioned in this article have done themselves no good. Although Louis CK promised in his letter to take a long time, that long time apparently lasted only ten months. CK began making surprise appearances at comedy clubs in New York since August. A surprise appearance is something accomplished comics do regularly, but in light of the allegations, CK forces the viewers into a choice they wouldn’t have wanted to make: to stay or to leave. Ironic, if you consider the allegations.

 In what can be considered downright bizarre, Kevin Spacey posted a video on YouTube, addressing the camera like his character from House of Cards, Frank Underwood. Titled “Let Me Be Frank,” Spacey speaks to the camera for about three minutes, and questions the audience about whether they would “believe the worst without evidence.” The video did nothing to address the allegations, except it became a cryptic defense. How it serves the purpose is something that remains to be seen.

 With the revelations of the #MeToo movement, it has become imperative for us to take a step back before we laud and appreciate any artist that produces art of any kind. The fact is that artists need to take responsibility for their actions and for their consequences. Hiding behind your work is no longer an option anymore.