Dear Judi Dench, Please Stop Defending Kevin Spacey

Judi Dench in Skyfall

Apparently, we can’t all be Jane Fonda. At the San Sebastian International Film Festival, Dame Judi Dench spoke fondly of former co-star Kevin Spacey, with whom she worked on the 2001 film The Shipping News. Spacey was accused last year of sexual abuse and harassment by several men and, as a result, was cut out of All The Money In The World, dropped from House of Cards, and his last film made about $126 dollars in its small opening weekend.

Still, Dench spoke candidly about disagreeing with the decision to drop Spacey from his projects, saying,

“I can’t approve, in any way, of the fact that — whatever he has done — that you then start to cut him out of the films. Are we to do what happened when he was replaced with Christopher Plummer? Are we to do that throughout history? Are we to go back throughout history and anyone who has misbehaved in any way, or who has broken the law, or who has committed some kind of offense, are they always going to be cut out? Are we going to extrude them from our history? I don’t know.”

Referring to Spacey as a good friend, she also said, “I don’t know about the conditions of it, but nevertheless, he is, and was, a most wonderful actor. I can’t imagine what he is doing.”

Honestly, erasing abusers and predators from history sounds like a really good idea. There’s also a fairly sizable difference between misbehaving and sexual abuse. One is when a kid draws on the walls, or a teenager talks back. The other is sexual abuse. They’re not even in the same area of classification. To write Spacey’s alleged actions off as misbehaving is the same excuse as “boys will be boys.” No, Spacey should be held accountable for his actions, which merit more than a slap on the wrist.

Dench’s words are truly disheartening, but not entirely surprising if you research her stance on feminism. While she voiced support for Harvey Weinstein’s victims, she also has said that she “wouldn’t call myself a feminist at all, really. I don’t know what a feminist is. I believe in women having a say.” She also spoke about the #MeToo movement on the red carpet for Murder on the Orient Express, saying, “It is scandalous, but it’s very hard when a lot of people concerned are great friends of yours. I feel loyal to them, and at the same time, I feel appalled by what has happened to a lot of young actresses who had no way of getting out.”

Dench seems to be only okay with the movement as long as it doesn’t affect those she knows personally. A conflict is to be expected—after all, none of us want to admit that a friend of ours might be a monster—but her words are deeply harmful to survivors. The decision to remove Spacey from his films and television shows means that Hollywood was actually trying to do something right and punish Spacey for his actions. Dropping him from further work on projects was also an attempt to make sets safer for those involved, because having an alleged predator on set is downright unsafe.

We cannot exclude all who have done wrong from history, but we can make that part of their narrative going forward. “Whatever he has done” is sexual assault; that is something that he should suffer consequences for. Dench has shown that her care for victims only extends to those who are not accusing her friends, which is a deeply harmful attitude to hold. If she does care about young actresses and actors who have been put in situations where they had no way of getting out, she would care about Spacey’s victims.

It’s disappointing when someone reveals that these are the views they hold. Dench might not know what a feminist is, but the rest of us need feminism, and movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp. Hopefully she’ll learn from this and come around to understanding where Spacey’s accusers are coming from. If not, then maybe she’ll keep her deeply harmful views to herself and not shame the accusers for coming forward or studios for doing what is right.

(via IndieWire: Image: Sony Pictures)

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