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Kevin Spacey deserves a comeback

Why is the already exonerated actor seemingly cancelled forever?

John Mac Ghlionn

Topics Culture

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In a sobering interview on Piers Morgan Uncensored last week, Kevin Spacey revealed the emotional and financial toll of the cancellation campaign against him. Facing bankruptcy, the once hugely successful Hollywood actor broke down while explaining that his Baltimore home was being foreclosed because he ‘can’t pay the bills’. This raises the question: will the media outlets that have relentlessly targeted Spacey, often lumping him in with convicted criminals like Harvey Weinstein, ever leave him alone?

Whatever you think of Spacey, the fact remains that he has never been found guilty of any crime. Since 2017, when the first allegations of sexual assault against him emerged, several civil and criminal prosecutions were launched in the US and UK. In every case, Spacey was either exonerated by the jury – sometimes unanimously – or the charges against him were dropped.

Yet media outlets continue to tar Spacey with the same brush as those who have been convicted in a court of law. In April this year, the Daily Beast claimed that Spacey had simply ‘dodged’ criminal prosecution. In May, Channel 4 in the UK released a documentary that took a ‘forensic’ look at the allegations against him.

It seems that in our post-#MeToo world, trial by jury has been supplanted by trial by media. Any notion of the presumption of innocence is discarded in the media’s pursuit of sensation and scandal. Allegations are treated as fact. Speculative claims are treated as the truth. And the consequences are devastating. Spacey’s award-winning career is in tatters, his life and finances in ruins, all without a single conviction to his name.

However, the problem goes far beyond Spacey. His inability to get on with his life and career reflects the much broader power of cancel culture in Western societies. Consider the case of actor and comedian Aziz Ansari, who faced a media storm in 2018 after he was accused of sexual misconduct by a woman he briefly dated. Despite the accuser’s own admission that the encounter was uncomfortable but consensual, Ansari’s career took a significant hit, and has never really recovered.

Similarly, Hollywood star Johnny Depp was dropped from the hit Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter franchises after his ex-wife, Amber Heard, accused him of domestic abuse in 2018. In the highly publicised defamation trial that followed, those allegations were revealed to be baseless – and the jury unanimously ruled in Depp’s favour in 2022. But there is no indication that Depp will ever be able to reclaim his former career.

We live in an era where media narratives and a vocal minority on social media can destroy careers in an instant. This brings us back to Spacey. We claim to value rehabilitation and second chances, yet we have denied this to a man who remains innocent in the eyes of the law. It’s time to ask ourselves: are we willing to continue down this path of relentless judgement, or can we find it within ourselves to allow Spacey to get on with his life?

The answer to this question, and with it the fate of Kevin Spacey’s career, largely rests in Hollywood’s hands. Hopefully, the media and the film industry will give him the second chance that he deserves.

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. Follow him on X: @ghlionn

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