In a capitalist society, we as consumers vote with our wallets on what cultural content we prefer and apparently want more of.
This is why there are numerous films out right now that are attached to other franchises: they are reliable money makers. Whilst this definitely reduces the number of risks Hollywood studios are willing to take in terms of the kind of movies that are made, there is a small amount of power that audiences can exercise. By not seeing a film, we are telling studios that we are not interested in what they are putting out.
This brings me to #MeToo. The outpouring of support from Hollywood personalities and cinema-goers alike for the victims of Harvey Weinstein, Dustin Hoffman and other accused celebrities has been heartening, and much of the response has felt like positive progress. But promises in tweets and articles alone do not put out the message of a fully no-tolerance policy on sexual assault. It is easy to express condolences but then refuses to actively stop supporting abusers.
Kevin Spacey’s first film since the allegations against him, Billionaire Boys Club, is going to be released in July. Despite my being a film critic, I won’t be at the cinema to watch it, and I’m sure many others won’t. But I’m willing to bet there will be a number of well-intentioned, good people who will choose to go see it, and will, therefore, be unknowingly supporting studios casting abusers in their movies.
I don’t claim to be spotless in this respect – I have watched and enjoyed several Woody Allen films since his allegations, and still appreciate both Baby Driver and House of Cards, in part for Spacey’s work in them. I am now trying to make a conscious effort to consume media more ethically, and firmly believe that this can make a difference in how Hollywood will historically respond to the wave of allegations and arrests.
The average person found guilty of sexual assault in the US would likely be facing prison time, placement on the sex offenders register, and other life-altering punishments.
If you believe that not seeing a movie would be too harsh on Kevin Spacey and other apparent perpetrators, rest assured that they will likely retreat into their millions and still be adored by thousands of people. I do think it is unfortunate that by boycotting one actor, I am not providing support for fantastic people in the industry like Taron Egerton and Billie Lourd, but I feel as though this is a sacrifice that must be made.
If Billionaire Boys Club does well at the box office, a message of forgiveness is inevitably put out, regardless of whether it was intended. I don’t want to contribute to that, and if you truly want to support the #MeToo cause, I don’t think that you should want to either.
Taking this action of inaction obviously isn’t the be-all and end-all of activism, but at least it’s a start.
Cover Image Courtesy of Netflix