Here is a perfect example of why the politically-minded should stay out of conversations about sexual violence against men and boys:
I wrote about the accusations against Singer earlier this week. An actor named Michael Egan accused Singer of drugging and raping him 15 years ago. Egan was 17 at the time. The actor’s allegation is that Singer took at advantage of his position in Hollywood to manipulate and abuse the young man. The allegations appear to have nothing to do with gay culture, let alone “white male privilege.”
Zachary Tallis, however, has a different opinion. He starts with this statement:
Let’s get two things clear. Number one, Bryan Singer has been accused of the repeated anal rape of a child. Number two, none of us can say whether or not he is guilty.
Yes, let us get two things clear. One, Singer has been accused of raping a 17-year-old boy. While I agree a 17-year-old is a minor and not necessarily fully mature, he is a not child. Two, Tallis is correct that none of us can say whether Singer is guilty or not, which makes his rant about “white male privilege” all the more curious.
The worst aspect of the press coverage of Michael Egan’s allegations is the suggestion that the timing is related to the release of the latest X Men sequel. A site called Movie Pilot offers a typical reaction: “Well… how about that. The timing is certainly interesting at least?”, their writer comments, rather insidiously inferring some kind of hidden agenda without having the guts to state it outright.
What is the suggestion here (and all over Twitter)? That Michael Egan is somehow attempting to skewer the success of the film, or capitalize on the publicity surrounding its director?
Yes. Even if the allegations are true, the timing looks very much like a money grab. Specifically, it comes across as if Egan wants Singer or Fox Studios or both to pay him to drop the suit. That may not be the intention, but that is what it looks like. I think the allegations are true, yet even I find the timing curious. It happened just as Fox began its heavy marketing for the new X-Men film.
Why do I bring gender and race into it? Because it’s currently only white male directors who our industry allows to ascend to this position of invincibility. You only need to look at a director like Spike Lee, and how often reports of his actions undermine him with derogatory “angry black man” tropes, to see that. Meanwhile, we are shamefully far from the day that the work of women directors is similarly sanctified.
Spike Lee is a poor example. He is not playing into a trope; he is a legitimately angry black man (in both meanings of that phrase). To my knowledge, no female directors have been accused of anything. More so, the white male directors that receive “invincibility” do so because of the admiration they garnered, not because they are white or male. If people like a famous person enough, they will give that person a pass. Look at R Kelly and Michael Jackson. These are two famous black men accused of committing sex acts on children (the former doing so on video), and yet they are still wildly adored.
Has Singer reached that level? I doubt it. More likely is that fans of his films and the X-Men franchise care more about being entertained than some apparently failed actor accusing Singer of raping him 15 years ago. This should not surprise anyone. People, Americans in particular, are rather fickle about this sort of thing.
Tallis, however, is put off by people’s reaction, writing:
The idea that anyone could even think “Whatever happens, it’s the films that matter” is the real problem here.
I agree, however, what does that have to do with being white and male?
Just ask Roman Polanski, who had a child rape conviction to his name when he won his first Oscar. If you are a (white) (male) director who makes successful films, no behaviour is too damaging to derail your career. […] And please don’t get me started on Wagner and anti-semitism and whether art can transcend an artist’s personal life. Yes, that’s a question. But this is a problem. And it’s not a particular Hollywood gay subculture (unpalatable though that may be), but our wider culture, which apparently doesn’t give a shit whether a director is guilty of a crime or not, so long as he – yes, he – makes a film we want to see.
I agree, but again: what does that have to do with being white and male? Where is this “white male privilege” that enables the abuse? The examples Tallis gives only show that if people like a director’s films or the director, they will give that person a pass. We already know that. That has nothing to do with “white male privilege” any more than it has to do with “gay culture.”
It is simply how humans work.
We make excuses so we can continue to do and get what we want. When something challenges our belief system or worldview, we equivocate. We cannot help ourselves. If Singer did what he is accused of, he could have done it while being black. People would have reacted the same way: with initial disbelieve. Take people’s reaction to the accusations against Kevin Clash, the former voice of Elmo. Initially, people wrote it off as some former lover trying to cash in. When the other accusations came, people changed their minds. Granted, the suits were dismissed and Clash is likely innocent of any crime. But the damage had been done.
If more people make allegations against Singer, we will see a shift. Depending on the nature of those accusations, the shift may be slight or large. However, it will happen. “White male privilege” will not protect Singer from that, just as it did not enable him to abuse anyone if he did. What enabled that is a culture that places high value on people who entertain us to such a degree that those people think they can get away with anything.