Director Bryan Singer speaks at the 20th Century Fox X-Men: Days of Future Past panel during Comic-Con International 2013. Photo: Kevin Winter
X-Men: Days Of Future Past director Bryan Singer was last week accused of, among other things, drugging and raping a teenager. The plaintiff, named as Michael Egan, was 17 when he was allegedly raped by the director.
In a lawsuit filed in Hawaii (where the alleged crimes took place), it was claimed that “Defendant, BRYAN JAY SINGER, manipulated his power, wealth, and position in the entertainment industry to sexually abuse and exploit the underage Plaintiff through the use of drugs, alcohol, threats, and inducements which resulted in Plaintiff suffering catastrophic psychological and emotional injuries.”
It’s alarming stuff. The X-Men team has gone into damage control, withdrawing Singer from speaking at the past weekend’s WonderCon convention. Singer’s legal team has been volleying back and forth with Egan’s via The Hollywood Reporter; Singer’s attorney called claims that witnesses will place the director at the 1999 sex parties “bold-faced [lies]”, while Egan’s attorney claims they will file additional suits against “Hollywood insiders”.
Director Bryan Singer and actor Hugh Jackman speak at the 20th Century Fox X-Men: Days of Future Past panel during Comic-Con International 2013 in San Diego. Photo: Kevin Winter
Elsewhere, there are the reliably grim opinions from those “in the know”, claiming Egan is “only in it for the money”, and a bucketload of gross, homophobic “exclusives” about the “wild gay parties” Singer is apparently known to attend.
Through all this, however, there has been a surprising lack of outrage from press outlets and commentators who, one suspects, would likely be vocal in their criticism of Singer were the plaintiff a young woman. Where are the calls for boycotts of X-Men: First Class? The blow-by-blow rebuttals of Singer’s lawyer’s response to the lawsuit?
The mind immediately returns to the reaction to Dylan Farrow’s accusations of abuse against Woody Allen; countless essays were (correctly) written about the importance of solidarity with victims, and of believing their claims.
Let’s be perfectly clear: this is not about playing victims off against each other as though we were all ticket-holders in some coliseum of one-downmanship. It is instead about examining how well we apply our moral codes, as feminists, to issues like sexual assault and rape, which must never be seen to be “less bad” if the circumstances don’t fit our standard definition of how things happen.
Look at Jezebel’s coverage of both cases: a cursory glance over their various Farrow pieces will turn up regular use of phrases like “truly disturbing”, “heartbreaking” and “harrowing”. Of the two pieces they’d run, at time of press, relating to the Singer case, one was a fairly bare bones report of the accusations at the top of a piecemeal news round-up, and the second, by Tracy Egan Morrissey was titled “Read the Full, Lurid Sex Assault Lawsuit Against Bryan Singer”.
That article’s opening salvo is as follows: “It wasn't necessarily a secret in Hollywood that famed director Bryan Singer, who's openly gay, liked 'em young. In the 20 years he's been in show biz he's gained a reputation for being the biggest chicken hawk in the industry.”
What is this, Hollywood Babylon: The Next Generation?
Morrissey’s piece does make the valid point that previous allegations, in a series of civil cases, leveled against Singer in the mid-’90s had a “gay panic” edge to them (noting that the lawyer referred to the director as “a known homosexual”). Calling the new allegations themselves “lurid”, on the other hand, treats them like tabloid page-turner fodder.
Assume the mantle of a heartless cynic for a moment: both Egan’s accusations and Farrow’s have about as much chance as each other of being “false”, “suspiciously timed”, or “vindictive”. And yet we are apparently happy to let such chatter fly this week in a way we weren’t earlier in the year.
Have we suddenly decided, en masse, that we need to “hear both sides” and wait until Singer has his day in court? Because that’s what plenty of reasonable (and some very unreasonable) people said when the allegations were levelled against Allen, only to be run out of town on a rail for victim blaming.
(There is much to be said, it should be added, for the notion of waiting to see what happens in court, something lost on many of us in an era where social media and TMZ are judge, jury and executioner.)
The thing is, if we are going to engage in “believe all victims” rhetoric, which is a just thing to do, it can’t be “all victims except the ones that are probably just in it for a sweet payout”.