Spacey’s Nantucket case is one of the few high-profile criminal cases to emerge from the #MeToo movement. It has thus been freighted with significance, and all along, figures who’ve been skeptical of the movement have also voiced skepticism about these particular allegations (the popular podcast host Joe Rogan, for example, called them “horseshit”). Inevitably, the dismissal of Spacey’s case will be portrayed as a setback for #MeToo, and some fans of the actor are already saying he’s “vindicated.” The truth is that the case, and the dozens of other accusations against Spacey, demonstrate why #MeToo is not only—or even primarily—a courtroom battle.
The first public claim against Spacey came in late 2017 from the Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp, who said that Spacey tried to have sex with him when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was in his 20s. Other accusations flooded in. (Spacey said he didn’t remember the incident Rapp referred to, but apologized for “what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” Spacey’s representatives have since denied at least two other men’s allegations; they have not responded to all of them.) The director Tony Montana said Spacey grabbed his crotch and followed him into a bar bathroom in 2003. An anonymous former actor told Vulture about having a sexual relationship with Spacey when the accuser was 14 and Spacey was 24. Employees and former associates from the Old Vic theater in London, where Spacey had been the artistic director from 2004 to 2015, brought forward 20 complaints alleging misconduct by the famous actor. “It seems the only requirement was to be a male under the age of 30 for Mr. Spacey to feel free to touch us,” the actor Roberto Cavazos, who appeared in Old Vic plays during Spacey’s tenure, wrote in Spanish on Facebook.
The career ramifications for Spacey were swift and concrete. Netflix dropped him from his lead role in House of Cards and Ridley Scott reshot the then-forthcoming All the Money in the World, with Christopher Plummer taking the star turn. The stories that kept emerging, however, put a fine point on how Spacey had avoided real consequences for a long time. In 2012, the first year of shooting House of Cards, a crew member made a complaint “about a specific remark and gesture made by Kevin Spacey.” The show’s production company, Media Rights Capital, investigated. “Mr. Spacey willingly participated in a training process and since that time MRC has not been made aware of any other complaints involving Mr. Spacey,” the company said in a 2017 statement.
Yet reporting by CNN alleges that far more than one incident of Spacey acting inappropriately happened on the House of Cards set. Multiple crew members told the reporter Chloe Melas that Spacey had a habit of touching male staffers, sometimes by fake wrestling with them as a pretense to grab their crotches, and sometimes in yet-more-aggressive ways. One former production assistant said that Spacey had put his hand down his pants when the two of them were driving to the set, and then cornered the assistant in a trailer when they arrived. The incident “came months after the production assistant had, he told CNN, complained to a supervisor that Spacey was sexually harassing him. The supervisor’s solution was to never let the production assistant be alone with Spacey while they were on set, the production assistant says.”