Actor Kevin Spacey pleaded “Not Guilty” to sexual assault charges on Monday, January 7th. The ex House of Cards star is on trial for the alleged groping of an 18-year old busboy in 2016. While the actor’s name still carries weight as a major television and movie star, Spacey’s celebrity is not the only noteworthy aspect of his trial. The events leading up to this first court date have been significant if not outright bizarre.
During the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017, Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct by more than 30 independent sources. The actor infamously responded to the beginnings of these accusations by announcing his choice to live as a gay man in a post to Twitter. Within 24 hours of the original accusation, Netflix dropped the star from their powerhouse drama House of Cards. As the controversy and accusations against Spacey continued to grow, it was announced that Spacey was to be removed as the lead role of J. Paul Getty in the completed Ridley Scott project, All the Money in the World. Scott reshot every scene that included his former lead with Christopher Plummer.
Spacey was officially charged for sexual assault on December 24, 2018 for allegedly groping a teenager in a Massachusetts bar. That same Christmas Eve, the two time Academy Award winning actor posted the video Let Me Be Frank where Spacey eerily denies the allegations against him from the persona of his House of Cards character, Frank Underwood.
So beyond Spacey’s celebrity, why are the allegations and trial against him significant to the greater entertainment industry? Well, Spacey’s legal battle may be indicative of the coming change within the industry. Hollywood’s relationship with the separation of personal behavior – especially sexual misconduct – and creative work has been historically complicated. In the case of Roman Polanski, his directorial talents have allowed him to continue to produce projects and work with top stars in spite of allegations of sexual assault and even his admission to committing statutory rape.
While it is not appropriate for the media to prosecute, and it remains uncertain if Spacey committed the crimes he is accused of, the coverage of these events along with pressure from inside and outside the industry demonstrates a newfound hunger to look behind the curtain. Juggernauts within the entertainment industry are being held accountable regardless of their contributions and talent. In many ways, the trial of Kevin Spacey may be telling of how #MeToo has changed these power dynamics in Hollywood. More than that, these trials represent the ending of an old guard in entertainment.