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The Daily Illini

It might be time to stop streaming

It started with Harvey Weinstein, and now, the floodgates are open in Hollywood — leading men are receiving boundless allegations of sexual misconduct, both on and off screen. The renowned actors Kevin Spacey, Ed Westwick and Louis C.K. are just a few of the alleged offenders.

Like many of the issues that divide our country, a clean-cut solution that pleases all sides of an argument might not exist, and this issue is no exception.

While there are other ways to advocate for survivors and prevent sexual assault that we have addressed in the past, a usual go-to answer when stories like these break is to completely ban the accused’s work. Knowing what to dislike creates a feeling of social action. For example, cable network FX removed C.K.’s critically acclaimed show “Louie” from its platforms.

Yet an interesting thing happens when it comes to streaming services. Going out to purchase a single film or a new album is rare today, making the resolve to abstain from streaming all the more difficult. It comes down to the symbolism behind your actions and the thought about where your money is really going.

“Louie” and other C.K. content is still available on Hulu; however, HBO is in the process of removing his work from its catalog, which has become a precedent for streaming services to remove content sponsored by big names that have been associated with illicit activity. Likewise, Netflix has canceled forthcoming projects based on similar allegations about contributors in the past, including that of C.K. and Spacey, but it’s unclear if they’ll follow suit and remove the work that’s already up, including “House of Cards.”

Netflix frequently removes films and series from its catalog due to low sales and the churning of new content to replace it, so why not remove “Gangs of New York” and “American Beauty”?

This isn’t a debate over separating the artist from the art, but a conversation stemming from a firm resolution that the two are unbreakable. We must now decide how to move forward knowing that Spacey, Weinstein, C.K. and any of the other accused men or women don’t deserve our interest — monetary or emotional.

We can’t pretend to know the answer. It isn’t a matter of deciding on a clear solution and calling upon everyone to take steps to complete it. It’s a conversation you must have with yourself and those around you.

Here are the implications to consider when choosing whether or not your decision to view the content of the accused has any weight in the matter:

It’s not just the alleged sexual predators

While “House of Cards” and “American Beauty” have been in the limelight because of the recent allegations respectively about Spacey and Weinstein, hundreds of other working individuals contributed to making these productions what they are. It might seem unfair to completely boycott specific movies and shows because of one person’s mistakes.

Though the blood, sweat and tears of writers, actors, filmographers, editors and many more who worked with Spacey on “House of Cards” aren’t as visible, their legacy will forever be associated with an alleged pedophile’s criminal actions. If the show is removed from Netflix, then the work of eight crew members who publicly accused Spacey of pedophilia will also be discounted.

This begs the question of whether or not it’s considered fair to ban the show in its entirety or to watch it in support of the countless others who contributed to its success.  

Where you spend your money speaks volumes. If canceling Netflix subscriptions in support of sexual assault survivors becomes a national trend, Netflix will notice and make changes; however, having content with actors who have been accused of sexual assault is not specific to Netflix — you’d need to also cancel your Hulu, Amazon and HBO subscriptions, as well as subscriptions to basically every other media source, including cable.

The accused still get paid

Part of what has made C.K.’s revelations so repugnant is his own self-condemnation in his acclaimed stand-up routines. What he’s now reviled for people once praised as courageous honesty, so his work must go if we want to stop the conditioning that condones patriarchal art.

It may not be enough to just cancel new content, because as long as those programs remain on the platform, your subscription will help them get a paycheck.  Spacey is still a producer on “House of Cards” even if he’s no longer the star.

Before you decide and act, it is paramount that you consider the implications of your choice. This is not a standalone conversation, and it is one that will not come to a close any time soon.

1 Comment
  • Bob

    Why punish the other actors, directors, editors, grips, etc. who worked on a film such as “Baby Driver”? I may concede to removing “House of Cards” because it’s specifically a Kevin Spacey vehicle, but he was only a non-lead member of an ensemble cast in the film.