Unethical, Shameless, Gutsy, Creepy Or Thought-Provoking: Kevin Spacey’s Christmas Video

What do we make of this, released by actor Kevin Spacey lastweek almost at the same time as he was being indicted for sexual assault?


The much-acclaimed actor  career collapsed in 2017 as more than 30 people claimed that Spacey had sexually assaulted them. Now he is speaking in the persona—with accent!— of his Netflix series villain, Frank Underwood, the central character of “House of Cards.” Or is he? Much of the speech seems to refer to Spacey’s own plight, and suggests that the actor is being unfairly convicted in the court of public opinion. By using the voice and character of an unequivocal miscreant however, for Frank is a liar, a cheat, a sociopath, indeed a murderer, such protests are automatically incredible.

Or is Spacey making a legitimate argument that an artist’s personal flaws should be irrelevant to the appreciation of his art, especially in a case like “House of Cards,” where the actor’s role can’t possibly be undermined by the actor’s own misdeeds: whatever one says or thinks about Spacey, he can’t  be as bad as Frank Underwood. If you enjoyed watching Underwood destroy lives on his way to power, why should Spacey’s conduct, even if it was criminal, make you give up the pleasure of observing his vivid and diverting fictional creation? This isn’t like Bill Cosby, serially drugging and raping women while playing a wise, moral and funny father-figure. Spacey seems to be arguing that there should be no cognitive dissonance between him and Underwood at all. Who better to play a cur like Frank  than an actor who shares his some of his darkness?

It it were possible to isolate the issue solely to the matter of art as Spacey may be doing, I would be in sympathy with the argument. The art shouldn’t be diminished by the character of the artist, except that how an audience experiences the art is inevitably at risk when the artist becomes a distraction (See cultural vandalism, here). There is  more involved than art, though Spacey would have us ignore that. “House of Cards” is also a workplace, and employers are ethically and legally bound not to allow sexual predators to run amuck. Employers, and their industries, are also ethically obligated to send clear messages to all employees present and future that sexual misconduct on the job will not be tolerated. Spacey’s video seems to be an argument for The King’s Pass, Rationalization #11: “Come on, I’m so good at what I do that these incidents and allegations, even if they are true, shouldn’t justify taking away the benefits and joy of seeing a great actor work his magic! Be practical!”

I like this analysis a lot better than that of conservative Hollywood commentator Christian Toto, who has four theories:

  • Spacey has to act, and the video was just a self-indulgence that he couldn’t resist.
  • Spacey is shifting blame to his audience, accusing them of being naive to think he was a better human being than he is.
  • He’s trying to exploit the declining trust in the news media, and suggesting that the allegations against him aren’t true.
  • He’s in denial.

There’s another possibility: Spacey, in his desperation to salvage some kind of acting career, may be emulating Jessica Hahn. After the church secretary’s reputation was destroyed by TV evangelist Jim Baaker, who dragged her down with him in a sex scandal, she decided to embrace her new  public persona as a siren. She had massive plastic surgery and breast implants, posed for Playboy, and became a high profile sexual temptress until her celebrity ran out. As long as his reputation has been shattered beyond repair, perhaps Spacey has decided to embrace his own villainy.

10 thoughts on “Unethical, Shameless, Gutsy, Creepy Or Thought-Provoking: Kevin Spacey’s Christmas Video

  1. Sorry. Clearly, Spacey plays a sociopath so well because he is one.

    And my feelings toward him are much like those I have for Woody Allen… much as I loved his movies: after he married his (albeit adopted) daughter, I refused to put one thin dime in his wallet and have never watched a Woody Allen film again. Artists, and the powerful in other realms, cannot use their brilliance or their contributions,to defend behavior that is immoral, unethical, illegal, or demonstrative of a total disregard for the general mores of their society. And for we poor regular folks the only way to talk is money and the voting booth.

  2. Not having paid attention, nor caring much, for the plight of Kevin Spacey, and only seeing his movies The Usual Suspects and one of the most morally appalling movies that could actually give nightmares to a person — American Beauty — I take a different tack as I watch him perform his persona-game that certainly must include some *commentary* about his present troubles . . .

    The tack is simply to notice the profound level of social sickness that *you all* and *we all* participate in. The question is really not his *guilt* or complicity, but our own level of guilt and complicity in having constructed this sick present that — soon it seems — will cave in on us. Actually, it is now caving in as each day passes. The question is where is its bottom.

    Kevin Spacey has a role in The Spectacle (Guy Debord) and he seems to know it. No, he definitely knows it. He is complicit, and he knows it, and he knows that each one of you — each viewer — to one degree or another, and each one of us, to one degree or another, is deeply complicit in the general seduction.

    You who has not sinned, go ahead then and throw your stone:

    Debord’s first chapter Society of the Spectacle talks about the separation of society, this separation is brought upon society from the fabricated reality through the mass dissemination of images, images are pre-programed structure that consists of advertisements, stereotypes that are embedded into television programs, social standards, etc. The fabricated reality is not only being conveyed through images we see, but also in a constructed environment we live in.

    Anybody can notice that I am attracted to the Jeremiad — please forgive me, it is a mechanism for dealing with aspects of my own self! — but I do not think my observations are easily dismissed.

    There’s another possibility…

    I have no idea what goes on in the psyche of this man, but it is possible that, even implicated in sin at whatever level he is, he *knows* himself and has *come to terms* with himself.

    I really do not believe anyone who points their finger in the Culture of Profound Culpability that is now gaining power. This does not mean that I think that no one commits crimes, sexual, moral, ethical, what-have-you. It means that it all takes place in situations of complicity. My theory is that *people* do not desire to recognize their complicity and for them it is part of the Spectacle to be able to watch their heroes, Illiad-like, go through their various writhing agonies. It has cathartic value I reckon.

    But it is all Spectacle.

  3. He’s actually one of those caught up in the me-too mess that I am ambivalent about even from when it first broke. Some accusations in the mess seemed as uncredible as those for Mr Kavanaugh. Most accused already gave me the creeps, and I am aware that my own biases could be in play. Which came first? Did I dislike them because I felt they were creepy, Or did I dislike them and creepy was the only thing I could point at? I can’t say I like Mr. Spacey especially, I don’t have HBO and I haven’t seen any of his hits. I still think I want to see Beyond the Sea, more because I like Bobby Darin and no other actor is likely to touch it for a remake.

    Me too just bothers me mostly because of the piling on, for accusations to destroy non-felonies far past the expiration date of law and fairness. Being on the Supreme Court will probably rehab Mr Kavanaugh’s rep for the average person (ignore the average progressive, they will probably not reconsider barring St Kennedy floating down with a halo to scold them for being tacky) I think people accused in the court of public opinion, especially past the time for actual guilt/acquittal, have a right to try to salvage their jobs in whatever way they can. The mob doesn’t care if a louse loses everything and family suffers for something unproven, they just want blood. A grope a dozen years ago deserves what? Not doxxing 3rd parties. Not Tar and feathering. Not sweeping under the rug or pay offs. Bad rep is deserved and difficulty getting new work, but not the crazy stuff appearing now.

    What is proportional?

    • I think people accused in the court of public opinion, especially past the time for actual guilt/acquittal, have a right to try to salvage their jobs in whatever way they can. The mob doesn’t care if a louse loses everything and family suffers for something unproven, they just want blood. A grope a dozen years ago deserves what? Not doxxing 3rd parties. Not Tar and feathering. Not sweeping under the rug or pay offs. Bad rep is deserved and difficulty getting new work, but not the crazy stuff appearing now.

      What is proportional?

      Excuse me one and all for continuing with the theme of the ‘spectacular’, but I think you point to it nicely here. This ‘culture of accusation’, powered by social media and rapid communication, is by its nature a horrifying mob activity, like snarling dogs. The ‘snarling dog’ with teeth bared to tear into flesh, presents itself as an emotional complex, and the emotional complex has a root in the deepest, and most invisible, part of an individual who in catharsis externalizes his or her emotional complex.

      Certainly there have been incidents of abuse and violation. But one must at the same time point out that society as a whole is in a process of succumbing to the seductions through advertising and film that are, in truth and in fact, invitations to participate in these *spectacles* of imagined participation, and one of the pillars in this grand seduction has very much to do with sexuality and sexual image.

      I read recently an essay about the college girls who through their own desire and lust, and under the effect of alcohol and social pressure, allowed themselves to be seduced and, one figures, participated in the seduction. But then, afterwards, dealing with *remorse*, but unable or unwilling to see their own *complicity*, chose the strategy of blame of the other in order, it would appear, not to have to deal with their own error. Then, troops of *angry women* who have a whole range of grievances or remorse or disquiet, take up the cause through a socio-political campaign, and all on the sudden there is a ‘rape crisis’ and a ‘culture of rape’. And just as suddenly the entire issue (of sexuality, of sexual freedom, of desire, of restraint, everything) finds itself in a mire. What is going on? No one knows.

      But: “The mob doesn’t care if a louse loses everything and family suffers for something unproven, they just want blood.”

      It seems to me that the present *rehearsals* and the present *enactments* of women — and some men — coming forward with *accusations* and calls for retribution, have an entire submerged or invisible side. How long has this training to live life through vicarious image-reception been going on? One receives an image and one *reacts*. It becomes rather Pavlovian. (*Ding* *drool* *Ding* *drool*)

      What horrifies me is that every hot topic and many that we deal on here are *spectacular* in this sense. Charlottesville. The Russian ‘hacking of our democracy’. Nearly everything that touches on any transmitted image of President Trump (who is, of course, himself a walking spectacle and then the *victim* of spectacular treatment…) But then there is the entirety of the *events of 9/11* and the subsequent wars.

      What analysis, what *analytical tools*, could be used, and should be sued, to get to the bottom so to be able to talk about What Is Going On? Is reality real? Can one get an accurate representation of the real from the irreal? or the hyper-real?

      My dearest and I think truest friend Michael West thinks it strange that I always think about *metaphysics*. But it might be helpful to better understand what Richard Weaver calls the ‘metaphysical dream of the world’ in the context of our strange present.

      What dream shall we dream? What dream shall we be induced to dream? What series of images, representing what content and what *meaning* will we give ourselves over to? What is the content of my inner landscape and what relationship does it have, or not have, to yours? Is it possible to *invade someone’s dream* in the sense of interpose image and content into the ‘imagined world’ of another? One must note that we have no choice but to live in and out of our ‘imagined world’ (and as Weaver says our ‘metaphysical dream of the world’). We are beings who ‘imagine the world’. The only way around that would be to have no imagination, and to be reduced to being simple mechanisms.

      What is very very peculiar about Kevin Spacey’s video is that it is or it takes form through a kind of *game*. He’s playing! This game and the play could well be, and likely is, diabolical, that is, if one believes in dark, determining, powerful, captivating and also enslaving psychological — or spiritual — mechanisms (which invade people’s imagined spaces and set up *occupational forces*). And it is precisely there that *we* are complicit. Because we are to one degree or another involved in The Game.

      Sure, this is a rather dark picture, I admit. Or perhaps I should say it is a *convoluted description* that could confuse. But the actual question I would ask, that I do ask myself, is what is the metaphysical antidote? If I am being invaded by *unwanted advances* that are in their way foreign entities, and if all these entities dance macabrely on the landscape of my ‘inner world’, what is the proper antidote to them?

      • I think the problem is precisely that nobody thinks about metaphysics. The mass of society is equipped with blinders that prevent thought or discussion about the objects of thought or discussion. An ocean of the brightest positivists can never penetrate the intellectual bedrock of their own words. To have a Natural Law requires an understanding of a thing’s nature. To say what should be done with a thing requires that we know what the thing is in fact. Impasse is the only possible result if all we have are factions disagreeing about the definition of the name attached to the thing without referencing the thing’s essence – the only means of determining which definition is best. The result of printing new money to cover national debts is a matter of historical fact. Someday, the convenient redefinition of terms to evade real problems will be known to have an intellectual effect similar to the former case’s economic effect. We’ll be as famously instructive as the Weimar Republic.

        You made a similar point in a later comments section by way of Confucius, but I couldn’t resist piling on in this case. I aimed to reassure. I’ve wondered something like this too. How many false ideas were told to me with the right amount of undeserved confidence at just the right time to get me to believe them which I haven’t scrutinized yet? Are some of them not ideas but something more fundamental? Maybe I haven’t seen all the way through the webbed false reality but only through several of what are actually many layers. If seeing only that far causes me grief at others’ blindness, maybe I’d collapse in total despair if I knew my goal was further away. St. Francis said “He who expects nothing enjoys everything.”

  4. The rumors in the industry of Kevin Spacey go back years, I heard them over 16nyears ago, those of us that trained young actor were often told,so we could warn our students not to be alone with the man, his reputation was such that when I coached young actors I always did so with another person I the room. Anyone that knows me knows I would never cross the student teacher, coach, performer line, I hold my own moral fortitude in too high of a regard. But as I was teaching I was seeing things from colleagues things I could not prove, and I decided that I needed a buffer to be safe, so I always made sure nothing that even looked inappropriate was to happen. I would meet with actors that were under age in public places. Often two at a time so there was always a witness. Adults I would not meet alone til I knew them and built a trust between us. It made me less vulnerable it often however limited my actors work as they sometimes were inhibited by another presence, but I would push them saying it was a practice audience to get them comfortable, it was also for my comfort. I am not Mike Pence, I trust myself to be with a person that I might find attractive, but maybe he does too, he just does not want rumors hurting his effectiveness. Mister Spacey was a serial abusser, I heard stories from two of my former students neither was brave enough to come forward. I never had the misfortune too meet the man, but I quietly warned young men to avoid being alone with him. Most gay men are not predators neither are most priests, or all closet cases. But there are enough that those of us that are decent have too take procautions to protect the taint of rumors from us.

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