Audiences will still watch problematic men in movies - study finds

Actor Kevin Spacey at the premiere of Baby Driver
Actor Kevin Spacey at the premiere of Baby Driver

The indictment on sex crime charges against Harvey Weinstein and the ignition of the #MeToo movement have seen some very big names in Hollywood fall from grace as they’ve been accused and convicted of serious misdeeds, predominantly of a sexual nature. Celebs like Kevin Spacey, Louis CK and now even Morgan Freeman have all been accused of sexual misconduct. Almost every day there’s a new allegation. 

But while we can be outraged by the fact that these famous people have betrayed our trust, what can we do about it? Well, for one thing, we can boycott their art. 

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My colleague Tammy and I are obsessed with the Harry Potter franchise (seriously it’s bad), but when it was revealed that Johnny Depp would be in the next Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film, we both decided to skip the series from there on out, because of the controversy around him. 

But it seems that not everyone takes that stance when it comes to their favourite actor’s projects. A recent survey by a technology company called Morning Consult analysed how the #MeToo movement and the calling out of problematic actors has affected audience’s viewing choices. The results? Well, not too reassuring.

The survey asked people how much more likely they were to watch a film or TV series if the trailer included a specific actor and then gauged whether allegations of sexual misconduct would impact that decision. Of the choice of 20 actors provided, only two – alleged perpetrators like Kevin Spacey and Louis CK – stood out as people whose presence in a trailer would deter audiences from watching to a significant degree. 

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Morning Consult also spoke to Danny Deraney, chief executive of Deraney Public Relations, and they said, quite simply, “Time is your best friend,” pointing out that many viewers have a short memory in general when it comes to the crimes of those beloved stars. 

They cited Mel Gibson as an example. Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic and racist rants in 2006 and 2010 made him toxic to the Hollywood scene and he wasn’t allowed near any movies for quite a few years, but then in 2017 he earned an Oscar nomination for best director for Hacksaw Ridge and is now enjoying a cushy comeback. 

This is the same thing that happens with most problematic men in Hollywood. We’re quick to anger when we hear these horrible accusations and all get on our Twitter bandwagons to call them all out and talk about how awful they are, but do we really buy into what we’re saying? 

Look at R Kelly. He’s been accused for 24 YEARS of sexual misconduct and keeping women against their will in his home, but people are still streaming his music even after Spotify removed it from their playlists. 

What about Chris Brown? After the 2009 incident where he beat Rihanna his career took a knock yes, but now he’s still making music and his latest single, Freaky Friday featuring Lil Dicky, hit number one in the R’n’B charts in April. 

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In South Africa, a few actresses have revealed that they have had to deal with unsafe working conditions and harassment from their male co-stars. Rhythm City actress Nokuthula Ledwaba shared her experiences in a Twitter thread and spoke about being just 19 years old and being groomed by a fellow actor in his 30s. She was vilified for speaking out about it at the time according to Cosmopolitan. Her story encouraged actresses Katlego Danke and Crystal-Donna Roberts to also share their stories. But will anyone stop watching their favourite soapies because they hear that the people involved have been affected by sexual assault? I highly doubt it.

We’re all quick to anger when it calls for being angry, but what about when it really matters? When it means we have to stand behind that anger and make choices to believe that maybe these people don’t deserve our loyalty? Why are we still consuming the art of alleged problematic people when we can stop doing so and show Hollywood that we will not continue to support anyone or anything associated with people who are in any way involved with sexual misconduct allegations. 

Is it just easier to turn a blind eye to the problems and keep watching that TV series simply because it entertains you when you know that the person involved in making it may have caused harm to several other people? 

READ MORE: Not so Pretty In Pink: what it means to love problematic art

Tell us why you still watch problematic people on film and TV or why you don’t on Facebook or Twitter. 

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