Art cannot be separated from the artist.
There’s almost certainly some truth to the 30 individual sexual assault and harassment allegations levied against famed Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey in 2018. Despite the fact that the legal criminal assault charges against Spacey have all been dropped, far too many people have separately corroborated similar accounts of abuse for the charges to be a series of misunderstandings.
This, coupled with that photograph depicting Kevin Spacey with Ghislaine Maxwell (Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking conspirator), makes it all too clear that Kevin Spacey is, at the very best, a horrendous creep, and at worst, a wholly unrepentant sexual abuser.
At the same time, Kevin Spacey is arguably one of the best actors of his generation. And as much as it may be disturbing to think about, Spacey’s undeniable talent for acting may very well be linked to his real-world awfulness. Case-in-point: Kevin Spacey’s deeply unsettling Christmas video “Let Me Be Frank.”
Before we get into “Let Me Be Frank,” though, it’s important to understand the context surrounding it.
In 2017, after being credibly accused of sexual assault by RENT star Anthony Rapp, a teenage boy from Nantucket, and dozens of other men, Kevin Spacey was fired from his leading role as Frank Underwood on the hit Netflix political drama House of Cards. This was an especially big deal considering the fact that House of Cards was one of Netflix’s most prominent original shows, and it was largely driven by Kevin Spacey’s star power.
The character of Frank Underwood—a criminally ambitious Southern politician with a knack for manipulation and both eyes on the presidency—is the kind of role that could only be pulled off by an actor of Kevin Spacey’s caliber. Frank Underwood is prone to long, drawling, fourth wall-breaking monologues delivered directly to the viewer, and in the hands of most actors, he would almost certainly come off as cartoonish. But Spacey’s entire career has been built on imbuing nasty, repulsive characters (epitomized by Lester Burnham in American Beauty) with a strange sense of pathos, or at the very least, making them more compelling than just plain “evil.”
Frank Underwood was a standout role amidst a career of standout roles, but even so, Netflix fired Spacey before the start of the show’s sixth season and unceremoniously killed the character offscreen. The show soon floundered and ended, and Kevin Spacey’s career disintegrated into dust.
Then, on December 24th, 2018, Kevin Spacey dropped a deeply unsettling video on YouTube.
Let Me Be Frank
Titled “Let Me Be Frank”—an admittedly clever double entendre—a bloated, unhealthy-looking Kevin Spacey dons a Santa apron and speaks directly to the camera in Frank Underwood’s patent southern drawl. Except, instead of talking about politics, as one might expect from Frank Underwood, this monologue is seemingly about the sexual assault allegations against Kevin Spacey.
Weirdly, this character isn’t Frank Underwood so much as it’s Kevin Spacey doing Frank Underwood’s best impression of Kevin Spacey. If that sounds unsettling, well, it is.
First, Spacey muses to you, the viewer, about how intimate your relationship is with him. “I told you my deepest, darkest secrets,” he says, gazing directly into your eyes. “I showed you exactly what people are capable of. I shocked you with my honesty, but mostly I challenged you and made you think. And you trusted me, even though you knew you shouldn’t.”
As Spacey’s words urge on the welling pit in your stomach, he continues to strike back against his detractors. But if you’re watching this video, you must be on Kevin Spacey’s side, right? Well, at least that’s what he seems to think.
“Of course some believed everything and have just been waiting with bated breath to hear me confess it all. They’re just dying to have me declare that everything said is true and that I got what I deserved. Wouldn’t that be easy? If it was all so simple? Only you and I both know it’s never that simple, not in politics and not in life. But you wouldn’t believe the worst without evidence, would you? You wouldn’t rush to judgments without facts, would you? Did you? No, not you. You’re smarter than that.”
Then, after informing you that you’re a true Kevin Spacey fan, Kevin Spacey drops the kicker:
“If I didn’t pay the price for the things we both know I did do, I’m certainly not gonna pay the price for the things I didn’t do.”
Essentially, this video seems to boil down to Kevin Spacey channeling Frank Underwood in order to inform you, the viewer, that he probably sexually assaulted some people, but not all of the people who said he sexually assaulted them. In which case, it’s like, okay dude, if you only sexually assaulted 10 out of 30 people, you still sexually assaulted 10 people. That’s really f*cking bad.
But Kevin Spacey still isn’t done.
“Now that I think of it, you never actually saw me die, did you?” he says as he puts on Frank Underwood’s distinct ring from House of Cards. “Conclusion can be so deceiving. Miss me?”
Kevin Spacey walks offscreen, followed by the stock DUNN DUNNN sound effect that goes hand-in-hand with a mystery being afoot.
It’s all so, so, so bizarre. “Let Me Be Frank” is the kind of repulsive video that’s somehow impossible to look away from. Which is to say, it’s upsettingly compelling. The writing, presumably by Kevin Spacey, is verbose, attention-grabbing, and genuinely interesting. In a different context, it might even be considered a great monologue. And Kevin Spacey sells it, entirely. Like many of his greatest characters, Spacey manages to make you feel both disgusted and intrigued, perhaps even inspiring some degree of pity.
And yet, this isn’t a fictional character. Ultimately, this is Kevin Spacey, the man himself, and perhaps the reason that the grotesque characters he’s played have always been so compelling, is that those characters aren’t such a far shot from who he really is.