Separate the man from the show

By William Keve

(Netflix/ MCT Direct)

When actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of sexual misconduct on Oct. 29, I didn’t know what to say about it. Despite my usual mindset to believe survivors, I wanted to believe Spacey’s apology wherein he showed some contrition, blaming the incident on his “inappropriate drunken behavior.” I found Spacey’s apology remarkably sincere. He didn’t deny the accusations, didn’t beg for forgiveness; most importantly, he didn’t assassinate Rapp’s character or credibility. Because Spacey checked all of these boxes, I naively believed that it might blow over.

Since then he has not only been fired by Netflix, but also, at least seven other people have accused Spacey of sexual assault, paying off victims and even pedophilia. The instinct to believe someone I didn’t know based on his fantastic filmography has embarrassed not only myself, but also millions of other fans. It would be easy for me to shut my mouth and pretend that I hadn’t been rooting for the incident to have been just a decades-old drunken mistake, if it had happened at all. I realize now that doing so would perpetuate the benefit of the doubt given to high-profile abusers, and so it must be said: fandom should never be an excuse to see abuse through rose-colored glasses.

I’m deeply grateful that Netflix acted quickly in firing Spacey. The “House of Cards” writing staff is reportedly scrambling to rewrite season six to exclude Spacey, a source told the Hollywood Reporter. Writing has been suspended for two weeks to plan the future of the show, and the source couldn’t rule out the show being cancelled entirely. Variety magazine reported that Netflix is considering a spinoff replacement centered on popular supporting character Doug Stamper, played by Michael Kelly. Since season six was already planned as the show’s conclusion, it’s likely that the Stamper spinoff had been in the works prior to the accusations against Spacey. Even if that’s the case, it still feels like a way to distance the show from Spacey.

Netflix releases original content, like “House of Cards,” in sets of entire seasons, at 11:30 p.m. pacific standard time. I know this because for the past few years, I have been waking up at 2:30 a.m. to binge watch 13 consecutive episodes. With its penchant for suspense and cliffhangers, “House of Cards” encouraged binge watching. Beyond the show’s incredible writing and relatable characters, including Spacey’s depiction of Frank Underwood, I was hypnotized by the digital TV format. I felt like I owned the show the moment it premiered; it existed at my leisure. It was this connection to the “House of Cards” storyline that brought me back season after season. Season six has been set up as the grand reward for fans demanding to know Underwood’s fate. Imagine if “Breaking Bad” had fired Bryan Cranston before season five, or if HBO announced today that “Game of Thrones” was moving on without Kit Harington. It would just be a dead end to a great story. Spacey’s actions have ruined four years of build up for a community that wants to know what’s next for Frank Underwood.

The best advice I can give to fellow fans of the show is to separate Kevin Spacey from Frank Underwood. Even if on a second viewing, Underwood’s sexual deviance on screen might have been a little too real, it wouldn’t be right to give up on the show now. After all, one of Spacey’s accusers was a former production assistant on “House of Cards.” Boycotting isn’t fair to co-star and co-director Robin Wright or the other cast members who have given years of effort for our entertainment. It sickens me to think that I have been supporting an alleged rapist with my dollars and my fandom for years. It hurts me even more to realize that when confronted with reality, I hoped that Spacey wasn’t guilty out of selfish desire to keep watching my favorite show. As awful as it will be to hear Claire Underwood narrating us the death of her husband in the next season premiere, I’ll welcome it for the good of the show and the fan community.

William Keve is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]