Movies, Pop Culture

Time’s Up, unless you’re Bryan Singer

It seems like the Academy won't admit what he did wrong unless it is forced to.

The infamous director of Bohemian Rhapsody, Bryan Singer, is possibly a rapist and a pedophile.

A recent investigative report published in The Atlantic features several men who say Singer abused them when they were underage boys. Here are his accusers: Cesar Sanchez-Guzman, who says Singer raped him when he was 17; Victor Valdovinos, who says Singer fondled his genitals when he was 13; Michael Egan who filed an (unsuccessful) lawsuit against Singer in 2014; and two men called ‘Andy’ and ‘Eric’ (to protect their identities) who say Singer had sex with them when they were underage.

Singer has denied these charges, calling The Atlantic story a “homophobic smear piece” and his accusers “a disreputable cast of individuals” but he may prove to be Hollywood’s greatest post-#MeToo test.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic of world-renowned musician and LGBTQ icon Freddie Mercury, a member of the British rock band Queen. The film has faced criticism over its handling of Mercury’s HIV diagnosis. His death from the disease in the early 1990s was an important moment for AIDS awareness.

What makes this whole thing so troubling for many is that Singer has often provided representation for the LGBTQ+ community – his bisexuality influencing his films, and his presence as a successful director providing hope. Now, it seems that he is destroying that legacy when accusing his critics of homophobia, using queerness as an excuse for rape. It is disgusting that he’s hiding behind the good name that the LGBTQ+ community worked so hard to obtain.

Last year at the Golden Globes, the red carpet featured a lot of black gowns as superstars showed their support for the victims of sexual harassment and abuse. Powerful men were dethroned: Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer and many, many more faced judgment. Hollywood launched the “Time’s Up!” movement which included a legal defense fund for victims of sexual assault and called on corporations to address gender inequality. It seemed like the time for misuse of power was truly up.

A year later Bohemian Rhapsody won ‘Best Motion Picture – Drama’ at the Golden Globes, and its lead star Rami Malek took home ‘Best Actor’. Singer was fired from the film two weeks before its release because of his absences from the set and disagreements with Malek. He is still credited as the sole director of the film. He didn’t attend the Globes, and Malek never thanked him in his speech.

Singer’s career continues to blossom. He was signed onto direct Red Sonja by Millenium Films whose CEO Avi Lerner said that he refused to believe the “agenda driven fake news” against Singer.

Bohemian Rhapsody is also nominated for seven BAFTAs and five Oscars including one for ‘Best Picture’. It received a GLAAD nomination too but that was withdrawn after the allegations surfaced. GLAAD – a media monitoring platform which rewards films and filmmakers celebrating LGBTQ+ stories – told Variety that, “This week’s story in The Atlantic documenting unspeakable harms endured by young men and teenage boys brought to light a reality that cannot be ignored or even tacitly rewarded”.

That is a brave move. Will the Oscars follow suit? When Harvey Weinstein was removed from the Academy, the Board of Governors said in a statement they wanted to send a message that “the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over” but the Board remains shockingly quiet over Singer. Oscar nominations have been revoked before, albeit only over technical reasons, but there seems to be no interest in removing Singer’s film from the list.

This matters because Singer’s career continues to grow without the accountability and justice Hollywood promised a year ago. None of the high profile actors, directors or actresses have spoken out against Bryan Singer by the time this article was written, and his fellow nominees have not taken the Academy to task for rewarding an abuser. Celebrities shouldn’t be held accountable for the actions of others but in this case, it was Hollywood itself that vowed to take on industry abuse as little as twelve months ago.

The Time’s Up campaign faced rightful critique around in 2018. After the Globes, many were put off by the activists of color who appeared on the red carpet alongside famous actresses almost as accessories used to accumulate ‘woke’ capital. Corporations used the occasion to advertise their products and the whole thing seemed to some as Hollywood’s self-congratulatory pat on the back without the industry making structural changes.

Avi Lerner’s decision to hire Singer is based partially on Bohemian Rhapsody’s immense profits. If the Academy chooses to reward the film without calling Singer out these profits are likely to grow and Singer’s career with flourish while his victims live with the knowledge that his abuse changed their lives for the worse.

Time’s Up released a statement praising GLAAD’s decision to revoke Bohemian Rhapsody’s nomination. But it needs to do more. There are no easy answers here since the film is a combination of the hard work and talent of many people, but you don’t get to win praise for supporting victims when convenient and then turn around and pretend to ignore abusers later.

As the Oscars draw closer, those closest to Bohemian Rhapsody (hey, Queen) need to help Singer’s victims get justice instead of pleading ignorance (looking at you, Rami Malek). It’s what Freddie Mercury would have wanted.