I don’t like protests. I mean, if a group of hundreds or more people come together to protest, I can see the validity in that. People in that quantity can send a message. But that isn’t the norm. Most of the protests I see are a handful of people speaking out against an idea, action, or business. We see religious protesters all the time from the Westboro Baptist Church to just the small groups of people who gathered this past weekend in Cincinnati to protest the Gay Pride Parade and Festival. Or we see a few people outside a business with “Shame On You” signs, expressing their disdain for the actions of said business. Or even the people outside of abortion clinics. For the most part, I feel that protesting is annoying and useless at best, and harmful and damaging at worst. At least when it’s in small numbers. And yet, I find myself protesting privately, or withdrawing my patronage from business based on their actions.
When the controversy surrounding Chic-Fil-A emerged last year, I decided I would no longer eat there. It was a pretty easy decision to make. I do enjoy their food, but I only ate there maybe once or twice a year. And it wasn’t their religion I took issue with. It was what they did with their money, and in a sense, what they did with any money I gave to them. I don’t believe in pray-the-gay-away programs. They have been proven to be damaging to participants, and Chic-Fil-A had been giving money directly to those causes. We all saw the news, made our own assessments, and honestly, that’s not what this blog is about. My point with mentioning it is simply that I refrained from eating at Chic-Fil-A after this made the news. No protest needed – although many went that route. I was happy simply not supporting them. And last I checked, they are still doing fine, and I am not participating. Coexistence.
The X-Men movie franchise is enormous. It’s seventh installment, X-Men: Days Of Future Past was just released, shortly after allegations surfaced about the director, Bryan Singer. Singer had been accused of drugging and raping a male actor and model at a party in Hawaii in the late 90s. Just this past May, Singer’s attorney proved that neither Singer or the plaintiff were in Hawaii on the dates given. Then, another case was opened against the director, stating that he and X-Men producer Gary Goddard met a man for sex when he was a minor. This plaintiff in the particular case has remained anonymous. And even if this case is also proven to be false accusations, Bryan Singer was still accused in 1997 of asking minors to film a nude shower scene for one of his movies. This case was thrown out due to insufficient evidence.
While working with AVFTI, I have learned the absolute importance of believing the victim. Believing a false story is, in the long run, far better than the devastation you can cause a victim by not believing their true story. And based on reported cases, stories end up being falsely reported only 2-8 percent of the time. That said, when a story like this tends to come to light, I tend to believe it. At least when it comes to sexual abuse cases. When I learned about the allegations toward Bryan Singer, it was easy for me to not see the new X-Men movie. I have never see any of the other ones, so why would I start with #7? But my friends saw it. In fact, almost everyone I knew saw it. This somewhat angered me…were people really okay with him drugging and raping a minor? I felt as if they were saying “as long as he is producing awesome effects with some of my favorite superheroes played by some of my favorite actors, he can do what he wants.” This, of course, isn’t what people were thinking. Some people maybe didn’t even know of the news of the director. Or maybe some people didn’t even associate the allegations with the movie. Or, I even had people tell me that they saw the movie because not everyone in it was involved. In fact, most weren’t. And if they are a fan Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, or any other of the countless names in that movie, shouldn’t they be able to enjoy them in a new movie?
I don’t know how to come to an answer about this, but I think it’s worth discussing. If I give this franchise my money, am I really contributing to the potential harm he did? Sometimes I think no. He didn’t need money to perform these acts, if in fact he did. At the same time, I could hear the argument that these attacks couldn’t have happened were it not for the lifestyle of a movie director.
So what are we to do about the space where our own tastes and preferences in the media come to an impasse with the inexcusable behavior of the people who create them? To be fair, while I haven’t seen the X-Men movies, one of my favorite movies is The Usual Suspects. Guess who the director is? If you guessed Bryan Singer, you’d be correct. And I saw that before I knew who director was or knew anything about him. In fact, I just learned that he directed that movie while researching this blog. And I grew up on Michael Jackson’s music. I love it. To this day, pop in Thriller or Bad, and I will sing along with every word. I have extremely fond memories of listening to these albums with my mom and best friend growing up. Should I desert those memories because of the allegations toward him when I was an adult? Should fans of Woody Allen’s movies stop seeing them because of the accusations that he had an inappropriate relationship with his adopted stepdaughter before she was an adult? And what about Roman Polanski? He admitted to raping a 13 year old girl more than 30 years ago, and he even fled the country before his sentencing. Yet he still makes movies, and people still see them.
So where do you stand? How much can one protest on their own? Should we let go of all art that is created by people that end up being sexual assailants (or any other sort of criminal for that matter)? Or are they mutually exclusive? Can you accept the creation someone makes while at the same time feeling that their actions are inexcusable? What do you think?