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‘Spacey Unmasked’ Demonstrates How Sexual Harassers Get Away With It

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A white man in a grey suit and pink tie stands behind a podium with many microphones at chest height.
Kevin Spacey speaks to the media outside London’s Southwark Crown Court in July 2023, after he was found not guilty of sexually assaulting four men. (Lucy North/ PA Images via Getty Images)

At the conclusion of new documentary Spacey Unmasked, the prevailing feeling is one of distressed resignation.

Unmasked — about the personal conduct of Kevin Spacey, spanning five decades — is not the first documentary to chronicle a public figure’s sexual misconduct after they’d avoided or been released early from civil or criminal charges. Surviving R. Kelly, Allen v. Farrow and We Need to Talk About Cosby all did just that.

But each of those series also left viewers with the sense that the subjects in question — R. Kelly, Woody Allen and Bill Cosby — would not be able to successfully resume their careers, in part because of the documentaries themselves.

Unmasked leaves no such sense about Kevin Spacey.

The two-part documentary relies upon 10 men — nine of whom have never spoken out publicly against Spacey before — describing disturbing encounters they each had with the actor. These incidents start from the time Spacey was in high school, and come from Spacey’s former coworkers and students, as well as aspiring actors who believed Spacey could help their careers. Additional voices include House of Cards crew members who describe a toxic work environment, and Spacey’s brother Randall Fowler, who alleges that he was sexually and physically abused by their Nazi-sympathizing father. (Randall is unclear if Spacey himself was ever abused in similar ways, but says that “acting was a way for [Spacey] to escape where he came from” — a home that “was creepy, cold and violent.”)

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The men in the documentary suggest that Spacey has little comprehension of consent and zero qualms about using his own status to get what he wants. They describe being inappropriately groped and touched by Spacey in both private and remarkably public spaces, including on active sets. (One man even says he was assaulted in the lobby of London’s Savoy Hotel, not far from a bank of photographers.) Some of the men describe Spacey as a public masturbator. Other incidents are described in which the actor presses his body just a little too hard against someone, or whispers just a little too closely in their ear.

Many of the men describe feelings of guilt and shame after their run-ins with Spacey. Some describe negative consequences for their careers. Many have difficulty coming to terms with feeling sexually violated. The hyper-masculine men in Unmasked in particular — two of the speakers here served as Marines — seem to struggle with that the most. Not feeling in control of their own personal space simply isn’t something they had ever anticipated dealing with. One tries to strike an optimistic note, saying that he hopes by coming forward, it will help other men speak honestly about matters relating to sexual harassment and abuse.

Early in both installments, Unmasked is careful to emphasize that Spacey has been found not guilty in a British court of nine different sexual assault charges, and that Anthony Rapp’s case against Spacey was dismissed by an American court. (Rapp made accusations against Spacey during the peak of 2017’s #MeToo movement.)

And yet the overarching portrait Unmasked paints of Spacey is one of a cold, sexually aggressive manipulator who pushes against normal physical and social boundaries, but also knows exactly where to draw the line in order to get away with it. The stories in Unmasked suggest that Spacey was restrained enough to never verbally spell out quid pro quo sexual propositions, but that he was able to propose such arrangements to aspiring actors around him in more subtle ways.

Harvey Weinstein’s accusers frequently talked of his outright threats to destroy their careers if they didn’t do what he wanted. The testimonies in Unmasked suggest that Spacey’s propositions were infinitely more subtle, and less committal. Perhaps it’s that subtlety that has kept Spacey safe from prosecution. As the documentary notes, the actor regularly dismisses accusations against him by citing his “inappropriate drunken behavior,” making a “clumsy pass” and being “a big flirt.” While it’s impossible to know if Spacey believes this version of reality, it’s one that’s been effective at keeping him out of jail.

At the close of the documentary, words flash on the screen from Spacey himself:

Kevin Spacey said that he had been provided with insufficient time and detail to respond to the testimonies in this film. He said, ‘I have consistently denied — and now successfully defended — numerous allegations made both in the US and the UK, both criminal and civil, and each time have been able to source evidence undermining the allegations and have been believed by a jury of my peers.’

Given how few #MeToo era villains have suffered legal consequences, one can’t help but feel resigned to the fact that at this point, Spacey probably never will either. Having that slowly spelled out over Spacey Unmasked’s two hours of heart-wrenching testimonies makes for a bleak and frustrating conclusion.


‘Spacey Unmasked’ is streaming now on Max.

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