Seems I was correct when I said months ago that we were gonna get lots of opportunities to show our GRACE in dealing with the news out there.
Man, sometimes I’d like to be wrong.
Here’s the thing, though.
Hollywood is the home of spin. Hollywood was built on keeping the guy behind the curtain *behind* the curtain. On selling the fiction that someone fresh off the bus can be plucked from obscurity and made into a household name. That, “Stick with me, kid; I’ll make you famous” is a real promise.
We cannot be mad at Hollywood for keeping secrets when we have agreed to take part in it all.
Every time we lie about our age, fudge the details of how long we’ve been at this, plump up a credit to make it seem like a bigger deal than it was, or post a filter-perfected photo on Instagram with the hashtag “I woke up like this,” we’re complicit.
We help predators get away with shit.
We create, nurture, and support a culture in which secrets are okay.
In fact, secrets are part of what we’re selling.
It’s why — from the beginning — Self-Management for Actors may not have been the most popular book available about the business of acting. I pissed a lot of people off when I started debunking myths those in positions of power had always been able to lord over unwitting newbies.
I got hatemail when I talked about what was really going on in casting offices. When I revealed the power is actually in the hands of the creatives off whose backs every other human being in this industry makes a living, there was pushback. I describe my work as “pulling back the curtain” because we ALL have a “Great and Powerful Oz” image we’re selling.
And until TMZ actually mentions that the *reason* they caught this celeb out in sweatpants wearing no makeup is BECAUSE her high-paid publicist tipped off paparazzi that she would be there — all a part of a strategy to make her appear more relatable, of course — we’re continuing to buy into the giant fire-breathing head that lets Kevin Spacey diddle little boys for decades while we all just uncomfortably laugh at the inside joke.
Because being on the inside and laughing about the joke is like being allowed to sit at the mean girls’ table. You’re just so damn relieved you’re not their prey that you sit and laugh nervously and stay grateful it’s not your problem, even though you know a dozen people whose very real problem it is.
The reason no one has been shocked by allegation after allegation coming out of the Hollywood sex crime machine is because absolutely none of us didn’t know about it.
I talked about it on Instagram before going on vacation a couple o’ weeks ago. None of this is news. And that Kevin Spacey released his publicist-crafted “coming out” statement in diversionary-tactic response to the first of what will be many allegations of sex crimes against minors just goes to show you how well prepared he has ALWAYS been for the inevitable moment someone decided to speak up during exactly the right intersection of cultural readiness for believing what has been whispered in Hollywood for — again — decades.
And, again, this is only the beginning. (Again, I’ll encourage you to watch An Open Secret.)
(If you felt — like I did at first — any sense of conflict over NOT supporting someone in coming out, please read this thread at Twitter based off a convo Emerson Collins and I had when I asked him how best to support the LGBTQ community while also feeling rage about Spacey’s crimes folded into relief that finally there are convos being taken seriously beyond the walls of Hollywood.)
Now, from here, let’s dig into something I was asked on Twitter a few hours after the latest Hollywood scandal broke.
Essentially, Jay is asking whether he should remove Kevin Spacey’s name from his resumé. Despite the fact that the master class was a positive experience and presumably had value up ’til now, its presence among the list of other training has now fallen into question.
Let’s talk about this in a way it affects everyone, scandal or no.
Every name you EVER drop has the potential of having the exact opposite effect you hope it will have. Period.
This is always true.
Especially in the case of this specific example, there’s not a single human being on the receiving end of a resumé with the words “Kevin Spacey” on it who didn’t already have an opinion about his alleged proclivity for young boys.
So, remove the name from your resumé now that the “secret” information has made it outside the mean girls’ lunch table? Why? You were only ever submitting the resumé to people at that table to begin with, right? Nothing has changed. Not about Kevin Spacey, not about Harvey Weinstein, not about Bryan Singer (yup… up next. Count on it).
The only difference now is that discussions are more likely to happen. The THOUGHTS were already there. If your goal in including the name was because you hoped it gave you clout; know that it already may have done that where craft is concerned but it also carried this weight around with it. It already did that. Just like when my female clients got meetings with Weinstein. “OMG, congrats! Don’t go alone,” I would say. Clout plus… watch out.
We’ve ALWAYS had to make deals with devils in this business. We’ve ALWAYS known there were times we’d have to decide how to navigate murky waters. Again, these “open secrets” are labeled that way for a reason.
So, if it’s a convo you never want to have — meaning, you don’t want a meeting in which you’re discussing your brilliant credits and your solid training to go off on the tangent of Hollywood perversions and power plays — you remove the listing *and* every other name that potentially could cause the conversation to head off in a direction you don’t like.
And how could you possibly know *all* the names?
Or — more ninjaly — you prep for the inevitable. You practice your Brandprov. You are never taken off-guard with what salacious info is secretly or not-so-secretly woven into credits already on your resumé, in your reel, in your representation, and so on.
Someone hits you with, “What do YOU think about…” and you’re prepared with how to — on brand — take a breath, state an opinion, and get things back on track for the business at hand.
This is part of why I initiated the dialogue with Emerson last night. I know I will be asked. (I’m a source for several industry publications for cryin’ out loud. I’m asked about a lot, a lot.) And I didn’t want my focus to be on my conflicted feelings. I wanted it to be on pulling back the curtain on all this SPIN.
Back to Jay’s question about removing Spacey’s name from his resumé.
We can’t avoid conflict in this business.
Whether we’re fudging our age to fit a casting bracket we feel we should be able to fit into or dropping a name that means less than dirt to the person on the receiving end of the mention, we’re constantly entering an arena in which the potential is there for us to be asked about what’s real. And how we feel about it.
So, Jay, you remove something from your resumé that represents a major part of how you do your work as an artist, how you built your craft and continue to deliver the goods IF the idea of talking about something that makes you feel uncomfortable feels worse than the benefit you get from owning the credit.
If you were only ever including the entry on your resumé because of what you hoped it GOT you in terms of name dropping or cred at that cool kids’ table in the lunchroom, welp, I’ve already told you what’s been going on over there all along, right?
And that’s happening with other credits, other scenes in your reel, other names you drop every day. You can’t control what others know, feel, think, or believe about anything you share.
Share it because it’s meaningful to you, not because you hope it’ll impress anyone. Ever.
Y’all, I’ve made a living pulling back the curtain on things in this business for nearly two decades now. I never said we were gonna love everything we would see back there. But for me personally, a world in which we’re all IN ON the spin, clear on how the magic tricks are done, aware that we’re perpetuating myths for the rest of the world to buy into is a better one.
Integrity is when your words match your actions. (Tweet it.)
I live from a place of integrity.
Wherever you stand on any of this, be ready to talk about it. People outside of Hollywood are curious about how this culture of secrecy could exist for so long.
But creating realities that never existed is kind of what Hollywood’s job is.
May we only use this power for good.
Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!
I love so much of what you say in this post. My desire to create the Hollywood I want, rather than be complicit in a Hollywood I abhor (in the hopes of receiving personal gain), is a big part of what led me to change my approach entirely almost two years ago (my post on that transformation is available here: https://grdnprty.org/2016/02/24/standard-advice-for-all-women/). Since making that decision, I have been happier and more free in my work as an actor than ever before (and busier, in a non-busywork, kind of way: I shot my soon-to-be-released project “The Commons,” have been writing a number of other projects and editing my blog for feminist culture makers, The Garden Party – grdnprty.org). Your empowering work (so much of which is referenced in this BonBlast) was crucial in getting me to the point where I could make that decision. So for the millionth time, THANK YOU for all you do! I’m moved to write to address one semantic distinction that I care about: I think it’s really important (for the sake of survivors and changing our culture) to not conflate sex with assault or abuse, so instead of referring to the Weinstein/Spacey/Tyler Grasham/James Toback/Brett Ratner news stories as “sex scandals,” I think it’s better to call them “abuse scandals” or something else that similarly references the specific abuse of power. I think the more we can use the word sex to refer to a collaborative act that involves consent on the behalf of all involved, the more we can move towards a sex-positive culture and away from a rape culture (in which rape is considered sex). Just my two cents on the semantics of all this! Thank you again for doing all of the wonderful work you do to empower actors! It’s more important than ever!
1. You’re fucking awesome. (Duh.)
2. You’re welcome. I love knowing the work I put out into the world played any role in helping you get your work out into the world with such passion and focus.
3. That post is amazing. I’m calculating how to share it in tomorrow’s BonBlast. It’s really good. It’s a great “yes, and…” to this post of mine, even though you wrote it long before and that means “yes, and…” isn’t really the right direction of the dance, but you get my point.
4. TOTALLY agree about removing sex from the power plays, the abuse scandals, all of it… and honestly used the phrase both for Google traction and for shorthand (especially considering I’d already taken a nice long sidebar in the piece about how to support the LGBTQ community at a time Spacey is/was using his gayness to distract from allegations of a criminal act). In fact, I’d been thinking about how to do a follow-up piece about power in general and I got an email this week unrelated to these issues that seems to have planted the seed; your blog post and this comment seem to have fertilized it a bit. Will let that stew for a few hours and see what I come up with before bed.
5. Thank you. As always, I treasure you and your role in our world. THANK YOU, Merkel, for sharing this and for sharing your badassery in general. Truly appreciated!
“Y’all, I’ve made a living pulling back the curtain on things in this business for nearly two decades now. I never said we were gonna love everything we would see back there.”
It’s *exactly* for this reason that you’ve such a superhero, Bonnie. You don’t make a big fuss about that cape of yours, but we here see it 😉