For the most part, the condemnation of Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey has been near-total, as the two Hollywood figures—whose allegations of serial sexual misconduct set off the industry’s current wave of outing its long history of abuse—have seen themselves swiftly shunned from the community that kept its open secrets. “His career now, I think, is over,” actor Bryan Cranston said recently of Spacey, in an interview that captured what a lot of people seem to be feeling. “He’s a phenomenal actor but he’s not a very good person.” And as the industry, for once, makes moves toward valuing its actual human lives over its pretend ones, the idea that someone like Spacey or Weinstein might someday be welcomed back today seems increasingly unthinkable.
Except, Cranston now says... Maybe not?
“It would take time, it would take a society to forgive them, and it would take tremendous contrition on their part,” Cranston says in a new interview with the BBC, suggesting that there’s a possibility that anyone—even Weinstein, accused by more than 90 women of some form of sexual misconduct, including multiple rapes; even Spacey, who has been cited for sexual assault or harassment by 15 young men so far—could still have a comeback, provided they acknowledge “that they have a deeply rooted psychological and emotional problem” and put in the work to address it. At the very least, Cranston says we should all be open to the idea:
If they were to show us that they put the work in and were truly sorry and making amends and not defending their actions but asking for forgiveness then maybe down the road there is room for that. Maybe so. Then it would be up to us to determine, case by case, whether or not this person deserves a second chance. And I think in the face of it, we should let that open. We shouldn’t close it off and say, ‘To hell with him, rot, and go away from us for the rest of your life.’ Let’s not do that. Let’s be bigger than that. Let’s leave it open for the few who can make it through that gauntlet of trouble and who have reclaimed their life and their dignity and their respect for others. Maybe it’s possible.
Maybe! Of course, it would not only require a genuine display of contrition and self-flagellation—something that’s not exactly been encouraged by stories of Weinstein napping through therapy sessions and blaming it all on conspiracies, or photos of Spacey doing penitent yoga—but also this ostensible forgiveness coming directly from the many victims whose lives and careers were ruined by their actions, as well as from anyone who sympathizes with those victims more than the powerful abusers who were able to so easily close them off, the way they are now being asked not to do to Spacey, Weinstein, et al. Sure, theoretically, “on the face of it,” this seems like the Jesus-y, spiritually enlightened approach to take. But, perhaps in a more concrete sense, fuck these old rich guys who got away with this shit for so long, and fuck what’s left of their working years. Maybe their earthbound “rot” is that they just don’t get to make movies again, and no one should feel all that bad about it.
To be clear, Cranston is not defending Spacey or Weinstein here. This was a hypothetical answer to a hypothetical question, dropped in the middle of a wide-ranging interview in which he was thoughtfully, philosophically musing on just about everything, from gun control to the “anger” that’s permeating America. He’s also been quite direct in other interviews about the “beyond disgusting… almost animalistic” sexual misconduct in Hollywood; in this very same interview, in fact, he praised the new transparency around it, saying, “What’s so great [is] that it’s being exposed. Young men and women should not have to tolerate being mistreated. We’re an enlightened society—enough already… Let’s get rid of these people and that behavior, it doesn’t belong in our society.” Cranston is well aware that they are predators and welcomes their punishment.
At the same time, his statement does articulate what it is the unfortunate, unspoken undercurrent of every single one of these scandals: Hollywood’s persistent love of a “redemption” story. After all, if Mel Gibson can suddenly be declared “family-friendly” again, who’s to say that Weinstein and Spacey can’t also claw their way back in some capacity, along this very same bullshit path of performative amends that Bryan Cranston is hypothetically laying out here? As he says, it will be up to us to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether they deserve it. Let’s be open to the idea that maybe, in these particular cases of sustained serial assault, we can finally decide that this time they don’t.
Anyway, Cranston’s comments follow a similar, recent call to be open-minded about Donald Trump, with Cranston saying, “It would be egotistical for anyone to say, ‘I hope he fails.’ To that person, I would say, ‘Fuck you. Why would you want that? So you can be right?’” and it might be best if he just sits out the next couple of plays.