Last night, as you probably saw, Bohemian Rhapsody won Best Drama at the Golden Globes over films such as Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, and A Star is Born. Rami Malek also won Best Actor in a Drama for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury. Both he and the crew of the film have been highly visible during this awards season, and their hard work has paid off with not only these wins but nominations at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. It has now become all but inevitable that the film will receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. The film has managed to overcome mixed reviews and controversy over its treatment of its central icon, including problems relating to their portrayal of his sexuality and diagnosis of AIDS. They have mostly overcome these bumps in the road by having immense commercial success. Currently, Bohemian Rhapsody is the eighth highest grossing movie of 2018 with $743m grossed worldwide. That’s more than Deadpool 2, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Ant-Man and the Wasp. The film is a success.
And now, so is Bryan Singer.
Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed how Malek, Bryan May, Roger Taylor, and the film’s producers have nimbly side-stepped the elephant in the room that is Mr. Singer. Malek has turned the ‘difficulties’ of working with him and dealing with a change of directors midway through shooting as an admirable obstacle for a serious actor dedicated to his craft to overcome. The industry has treated it as a snafu that’s inconsequential in the long-run because there’s so much money in the bank. Critics, industry journalists and organizations like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have seemingly collectively agreed to treat the incident as a professional mix-up that was dealt with and can easily be compartmentalized so the mundanities of awards season can continue as normal. The whispers are getting louder and the protests more vocal but that hasn’t stopped the apparent inevitability that an accused rapist will win.
And make no mistake, Bryan Singer is already winning.
For those of you who do not know - and I struggle to imagine there are people who don’t know at least some of the allegations - Bryan Singer has two decades of very credible allegations of sexual assault and harassment against young men to his name. Singer’s reputation is one of the most sordid and openly talked about scandals in the industry. Whispers around him were as plentiful and widely accepted as any against Harvey Weinstein. Shortly before he was fired from Bohemian Rhapsody, news broke that Singer was facing a lawsuit from a man who alleged he had been raped by the director in 2003 when he was 17 years old. he lawyer representing this man, Jeff Herman, also represented Michael Egan, the man who accused Singer, among other Hollywood figures, of sexual assault in 2014 (that case was eventually withdrawn and Herman issued an apology to the accused). This was not the first time Singer had faced a lawsuit of such a kind. In 1997, a suit was filed against the producers of Singer’s film Apt Pupil by the parents of a young actor named Devin St. Albin, alleging that their son and other minors were filmed naked for a shower scene without appropriate permission. That suit was dismissed due to insufficient evidence. Singer was also sued by an anonymous plaintiff in 2014 when a John Doe accused him and producer Gary Goddard of sexually assaulting him when he was a minor. Singer was eventually dropped from that case. Goddard would later be accused of molesting and raping actor Anthony Edwards for several years, starting when he was 12 years old (Goddard denies all allegations).
Most notably, Bryan Singer was prominently featured in Amy Berg’s documentary An Open Secret, which sought to expose the systemic child abuse of the entertainment industry. It’s not hard to find people talking about Singer or cracking jokes at his expense, much in the same way gags about Weinstein’s behaviour or allegations against Kevin Spacey were ten a penny in the business. Actor Noah Galvin, himself gay, famously called out Singer for his parties in an interview with Vulture, claiming he liked ‘to invite little boys over to his pool and diddle them in the f*cking dark of night.’ Galvin was quickly forced to apologize to Singer but he wasn’t saying anything people hadn’t heard before. Everyone’s made jokes about Singer’s penchant for younger men and his bacchanalian pool parties. Websites like Queerty and Gawker reported on them for years. There’s a reason for that one joke in season one of Big Mouth.
As well-known as the sexual assault allegations, Singer’s unprofessional behaviour on-set has been extensively documented. Honestly, as cynical as this sounds, I thought this problem would hurt his career more than any accusation of rape. IndieWire compiled a timeline of his extensive history of bad behaviour and allegations, starting from 1994 when production was halted on The Usual Suspects. His films go over schedule and over budget frequently and he is known for his incessant lateness and bad attitude on sets. Once again, this is something 20th Century Fox knew when they hired him for Bohemian Rhapsody. They most certainly knew about the sexual assault allegations too. They were well publicized enough.
Bryan Singer is a man with multiple very credible accusations of sexual assault against his name, as well as a decades long history of costing studios time and money with his rampant unprofessionalism and bad on-set behaviour.
So why does none of this matter now?
One year on from the Golden Globes where everyone wore black and flashed their #TimesUp pins with pride, a film directed by an accused rapist took home top honours. In the same room where activists like Tarana Burke, Rose Clemente, Calina Lawrence and Ai-jen Poo helped to signal a seismic shift in industry attitudes, everyone applauded as the cast and crew of a movie directed by an accused rapist won an award. We have collectively decided that the people who put Bryan Singer in that director’s chair, the people who signed onto that project knowing his reputation and those accusations and didn’t see them as a problem, are not complicit in this situation. We cheer on Rami Malek because we want to believe he’s not complicit in this situation, that his award wins can be done without empowering the monster in the room. We excuse his deflection of very serious questions because hey, it’s not his fault, right? It’s not anyone’s fault. Not the people who hired Singer, not the people who put his name on For Your Consideration materials for the awards campaign, not the directors guild rules that allowed him to take full credit for the film, not the people at Millennium who have allegedly offered him $10 million to direct the upcoming Red Sonja movie.
I would love to ask Rami Malek if it’s worth it. I’d love to query May and Taylor on whether their band’s cinematic legacy matters more than calling out the thing they’ve side-stepped for over a year (then again, there’s a lot I’d like to ask them about that awful movie). I’d love to see how much money the executives at Fox think is enough to justify their decisions. I wonder if any of them realize that what they’re doing right now is the same behaviour that empowered men like Harvey Weinstein, Les Moonves and Kevin Spacey for decades: Just look the other way, pretend you’re not doing anything bad, see it as a justifiable evil because that little gold man means so much. Will they still support #MeToo, even as they do everything that movement stands against? Is it worth all this hassle?
I once told a friend that I firmly believed in a sad ethos: If people are given the options of doing the right thing or going out of their way to avoid being made to feel mildly uncomfortable or inconvenienced, they’ll do the latter every single time. It’s a driving force of an industry that had to be publicly shamed into dealing with its systemic rot, but over a year on from the roots of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement as we know it, it’s back to business as usual. The money matters more. The awards have more value than the people. And they don’t even need to fight for it because everyone will let them get on with it, just to have a quiet life.
I won’t. I’m done with this complicit bulls—t. Bryan Singer doesn’t get to waltz back into the film industry through the back-door, empowered by a business that thinks it can return to the status quo without any pushback. And we shouldn’t just let it happen. We shouldn’t be quiet on this. We fail so many people when we’re quiet. We fail an entire movement when we buy into these tired narratives and push forward with our shiny awards season.
Bryan Singer is an accused rapist.
Still waiting on that profile, Esquire.
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