There’s a lot of humor to be mined in the dread associated with being away from your phone, tablet, laptop, and god forbid, a television, in 2017. Turn away from the connected world for a moment and the world has utterly changed behind your back. The most extreme example I can recall recently was biking straight from class to the gym. It’d only been about ninety minutes since I’d checked Twitter from my phone, yet I walked into the gym to find an ominous CNN chyron declaring in all white block text that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders was emphatically denying President Donald Trump had declared war on North Korea. “Last night the plans for a future war was all I saw on Channel Four,” Morrissey crooned inside my head.
It’s a level of chaos that makes community and taking care of ourselves all the more acute, pushing me to organize group viewings of Star Trek: Discovery, the one thing these days that can eat up whole conversations, dragging them out of the dire news cycle and into speculation and imagination unencumbered by the threat of nuclear warfare. This past week was my first time watching the show in a group and it couldn’t have been a better episode to start with if we’d planned it: a madcap episode that swung from hilarious to deadly intensity in which the crew were trapped in a thirty minute time loop by Rainn Wilson’s showstopping take on Harry Mudd.
The only crew member who keeps their memory of the previous cycles is Anthony Rapp’s Stamets, thanks to becoming the human conduit for the ship’s mysterious spore drive. The episode quickly becomes a game of cat and mouse between Mudd and Stamets; the former repeating the cycle until he gets what he came for and the latter having to continuously convince his crewmates of the impending danger.
Picking up my phone to check Twitter immediately following the episode opened up a much darker interpretation of the episode, as the first thing I saw on my timeline was a retweet of Kevin Spacey’s response to Rapp’s allegation that Spacey had gotten him alone and made a sexual advance towards Rapp when Spacey was 26 and Rapp was 14. Thankfully, Rapp is widely being believed in this, the first time’s named Spacey in the incident, saving himself the cycle that his character was trapped in the same day that his account was published. It’s a cycle that few victims of sexual harassment and assault are spared, especially when the perpetrator is a powerful Hollywood figure, as brutally illustrated by Asia Argento being effectively run out of Italy for claiming to have been raped by Harvey Weinstein.
The difference between arriving to the gym to find that nuclear war could be imminent and picking up my phone to see Rapp’s account is that in the former case I felt a giddy sense of dread, in the latter, elation. Calling Spacey’s alleged history of pursuing underage actors an open secret is a bold faced lie, it was more or less public knowledge. Spacey was identified in a blind item detailing accounts of Bryan Singer’s predation as recently as 2014 “holding court” over “a bunch of young guys” described as being in their late teens at the oldest.
Singer’s behavior and reputation for pursuing young and possibly underage teens is a matter of public record not shaded in the innuendo and insinuation that hovered over Weinstein for years. The Defamer piece from 2014, which ran with a feature image of Singer dressed as a Catholic priest surrounded by teenage boys, included extensively detailed and dated accounts of Singer surrounding himself with questionably young “twinks” which also featured the allegation that the X-Men director had set up an infrastructure as extensive as Weinstein’s to procure the boys. It seems almost impossible for there to be a bombshell about Singer, given that his documented history goes back to allegations of drugging and raping a seventeen year old in 1998. Especially not when The Real O’Neils actor Noah Galvin was forced to retract a comment about Singer last June.
What’s truly terrifying about the reality of Singer, Spacey, and those yet to be named, is that the culture of homophobia we exist in normalizes and conflates the behavior of sexual predators, ephebophiles, and pedophiles with homosexuality, normalizing exploitation and further stigmatizing legitimate, consensual expressions of sexuality. It’s a fog that Space attempted to exploit in his prepared statement, using the context of Rapp’s allegation to come out as gay, implying the same kind of connection between homosexuality and pedophilia that right wing demagogues like US Vice President Mike Pence or Russian President Vladimir Putin use as the pretext for enacting policies that curb the civil rights of the LBGTQIA community.
It’s a positioning that Rapp’s fellow Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto challenged in a statement of his own:
“It is deeply sad and troubling that this is how Kevin Spacey has chosen to come out. Not by standing up as a point of pride -in the light of all his many awards and accomplishments- thus inspiring tens of thousands of struggling LGBTQ kids around the world, but as a calculated manipulation to deflect attention from the very serious accusation that he attempted to molest one. I am sorry to hear of Anthony Rapp’s experience and subsequent suffering and I am sorry that Kevin only sought to acknowledge his truth when he thought it would serve him – just as his denial served him for so many years. May Anthony Rapp’s voice be the one which is amplified here. Victim’s voices are the only ones that deserve to be heard.”
Rapp recounting his experience with Spacey does more than expose an opportunistic predator, the deepens the context and importance of his journey as a queer actor from an original cast member of Rent to portraying Star Trek’s first on screen same gender couple with Wilson Cruz, who plays Dr. Hugh Culber. Between the New York Broadway scene that Rapp encountered Spacey in and the Hollywood circles that Spacey and Singer now move in, Rapp’s account could and should draw renewed attention to the gauntlet that young gay and queer actors are forced to run in order to build a career.
While Rapp wasn’t deterred from acting by his encounter with Spacey, many of his peers of all genders and orientations have understandably left the industry after dealing with the harassment and assault detailed in allegations against figures from Spacey and Singer to Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Louis CK, and even Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. What Spacey is not denying having done is monstrous in any context, but what has to be understood within the framework of his attempting to exploit the situation by coming out is that he very nearly robbed both Rapp and the generations of LBGTQIA youth he’s inspired from a vital, trailblazing career from Rent through to Discovery.
Rapp was certainly an inspiring and important figure long before he stepped onto the Discovery, but coming forward the way he did while on it places him in the company of an incredible array of humanitarians and activists whose actions offscreen easily match, and sometimes even eclipse, their Starfleet counterparts.