This has been a dark week for lovers of, really, almost any form of entertainment. Reports of sexual misconduct have torn down the legacies and authority of person after person, ranging from Harvey Weinstein, a massive figure in film production, to Andy Signore, Former Senior Vice President of one of the biggest content creator organizations on YouTube. Many within the fan community are shocked by the present and fearful of the future as reports hit social media of celebrity after celebrity who, at some point in their career, attempted to use their power to abuse others.
What must we learn from this week of honesty and courage? What must we learn from this week of disappointment and anger?
To the abuser: Your actions now will not be forgotten.
There will be a time when your actions that you feel are so well-hidden or so well-protected will be found out. This might be due to people coming forward and shining lights on your shameful acts. This might be due to a legacy that will be shattered upon learning of what you did long ago. However, especially with the ever-increasing power of social media and the platform that almost all voices now possess, truth will be heard eventually. And, in the end, deserved justice will be served. If you are the abuser yourself, you will see the world you have created of shame and silence torn down. If you are protecting or hiding the abusive, you will find that, in the end, standing and watching can be as unforgivable as doing. There are some things society cannot and should not forgive.
To the hurting: You are not alone.
The beautiful truth that has emerged from the chaos of social media has been one of unity and support. Despite the almost unavoidable onslaught of victim-blaming and fandom-defending, the nearly-universal reaction to indescribably brave individuals coming forward with their stories of abuse and fear has been love and support. More often than one might hope, the response has been coupled with a story of similar pain. It is the responsibility and the privilege of those who encounter these stories to support and encourage those who speak. Stand with the hurting. Stand with the broken. Survivors of abuse, whether it be at the hands of an employer, a friend, or a loved one, have every right and every reason to know that they are part of a community that encompasses, despite the heartache of shared experiences, some of the best that humanity has to offer. Your story is important. Especially now, it can be and must be heard.
To the angry: Your words can be and must be testable.
Be sure that the righteous rage you express in public is reflective of a life that has been lived in tune with your statements. Oftentimes, those who speak against evil the loudest are the ones who are hiding the worst within their own private lives. Seventeen minutes ago (at the time of me writing this piece), Ben Affleck tweeted out an apology confirming allegations that he sexually harassed an actress in 2003. These accusations resurfaced after Affleck took to social media to condemn Harvey Weinstein’s misdeeds. Speak out loudly against that which is broken in this world. Condemn evil. However, in doing so, be prepared for the scrutiny that will come and be worthy of your own words. And, in situations like Affleck’s, when faced with the truth about your past, be humble, be honest, and be quick. The world, especially the world of social media, needs more lives that are worthy of their supposed convictions. Andy Signore was outspoken against men using their positions of power to abuse women. There are more worthy voices that deserve that platform. They will all be tested in some way.
To the confused: You can never truly know what is inside a person’s heart.
Your experiences and your judgment of individuals, especially separated by the wall of celebrity, will be proven wrong. For many of us, this week has been wrapped up in a shaky acceptance that even our heroes are capable of horrible things. For some, this week has involved the harsh realization that even your friends, coworkers, and loved ones can have masked much more than anyone ever could have anticipated. On one level, there is no way for any of us to know who a person is past their public persona. Truly, it is impossible for any of you to even know who I am on a deeply private or personal level. There are few people in this world who really, truly know me. There are few people in the world who really, truly know anyone. Allow yourself to hurt, to hate, and to even grieve. Embrace the wisdom that comes from watching heroes fall. Move forward with the increased prudence that comes from knowing that few deserve to be heroes.
To the world: You must ____ anyway.
There is still so much room around us for love. There is still so much room for creativity. There is still so much room for the great things about existence that make every ounce of pain we experience worth it. No matter how terrifying the world may seem and, in the end, no matter how terrifying the world actually may be, we must continue to do what we are passionate about in the midst of our fear. The way to tear down the powerful who abuse their positions is to not give up on our own dreams and desires. The way to defeat patterns and cycles of abuse is to not be silenced by them. In the end, the one thing that can be done from our individual positions in light of all that has been discovered anew this week is to just keep going. And do it forever with all the anger, the passion, and the drive that we feel today.
The world can be a cruel, soul-crushing place. The creative community can be competitive and corrosive in ways that demand souls in exchange for fame. However, in the midst of the chaotic search for meaning that we are all engaged in as fans, as writers, as performers, as voices within the world exchange of ideas, there is still a vibrant group of people dedicated to common ideas of love and justice. It has not been an easy week. There will, almost definitely, be more harsh realities to come. In the end, as long as those who have been forced into silence are greeted with the reaction they deserve, this will be a good thing for Hollywood, YouTube, and the Creative Space in general. Continue to speak out. Continue to support the brave. Continue to love.