Shortly after The Atlantic published its story, that last question got an answer: Singer, it seems, will be keeping his job. Millennium Films, the company producing Red Sonja, offered this terse statement to The Hollywood Reporter via its CEO, Avi Lerner: “I continue to be in development for Red Sonja and Bryan Singer continues to be attached.” Lerner added:
The over $800 million Bohemian Rhapsody has grossed, making it the highest grossing drama in film history, is testament to his remarkable vision and acumen. I know the difference between agenda driven fake news and reality, and I am very comfortable with this decision. In America people are innocent until proven otherwise.
The statement is noteworthy for several reasons, the most immediate being that it suggests, outside of a lawsuit that is still pending against him (in late 2017, Cesar Sanchez-Guzman claimed that Singer had raped him when he was 17) that Singer will for now face no meaningful repercussions for the many allegations that have been leveled against him.
But Lerner’s defense of his director is even more insidious at its edges: Lerner is suggesting, with his emphasis on the gross of Bohemian Rhapsody, that there is a causal connection between a filmmaker’s “vision and acumen”—and relatedly, his ability to bring massive profits to the companies that make use of those talents—and the filmmaker’s moral behavior. It’s an assumption that lingers in Hollywood, in spite of the layered revelations of #MeToo: It was there when Harvey Weinstein defended Roman Polanski; when a CBS board member, after a series of allegations against Leslie Moonves were made public, framed Moonves’s step away from the company as a mere retirement; when corporations decide that the best course of action, given strong evidence of a profitable abuser among them, is merely a stern talking-to.
When money enters the moral calculus, the combination allows for a pernicious form of magical thinking. When money is allowed to serve as a kind of character witness—the over $800 million Bohemian Rhapsody has grossed—the allowance summons one of the shiniest lies that American culture has devised: That there is a meaningful connection between money and moral attainment. That the ability to accumulate wealth—for oneself, or on behalf of a corporation—is its own form of exoneration.
What Lerner’s defense of Singer does not mention is that Millennium Films, the company, is facing its own allegations of misconduct. A former executive at Millennium (the outfit also produced The Expendables, London Has Fallen, and 2008’s Rambo) filed a harassment lawsuit against it in 2017, alleging that the company fostered a culture that was demeaning toward its female employees and actors. “The suit alleges,” Variety notes, “that women were called ‘whores,’ ‘c—suckers,’ and ‘mistresses,’ and actresses were routinely called ‘too fat,’ ‘too ugly,’ and ‘too old.’” Avi Lerner is listed as a defendant. (“It’s all lies,” Lerner told Deadline in response to the suit. “It’s all a joke.”)