Since the long overdue exposure of Harvey Weinstein caused the dam to break, accusations of varying severity have washed away numerous other Hollywood careers. But while allegations made by actresses and production assistants have quickly become routine, a filmmaker fingering himself, so to speak, is an unexpected turn of events.
Morgan Spurlock is best known for his film Super Size Me, a documentary in which for one month he consumed nothing but McDonald’s meals to demonstrate . . . well, nothing much apart from the blindingly obvious fact that eating Big Mac and fries three times each and every day is not the most balanced of diets. But in a remarkable blog (Morgan Spurlock – I am Part of the Problem As I sit… | Facebook) posted on 13 December 2017, Spurlock laid bare a different appetite and denounced himself, and his past sexual behaviour, as ‘part of the problem’. Having apparently come to the realisation that he is ‘not some innocent bystander’, Spurlock announced: ‘I don’t sit by and wonder, “Who will be next?” I wonder, “When will they come for me?”’
But who are ‘they’? Although he alludes to ‘there having been many instances that parallel what we see every day in the news’, in his lengthy mea culpa Spurlock describes only two events. Much the more serious is the revelation that while in college a one-night stand alleged he had raped her – though seemingly she did so, not by reporting to the police, nor by notifying the college authorities, nor even by accusing him to his face; instead, the woman apparently chronicled the event, naming Spurlock, in a short story. As you do.
Describing himself as having been ‘floored’ by the accusation, Spurlock recounts a drunken encounter in which initially the woman declined full sex and ended with her in tears – no Mills & Boon here – but also contends that in his mind their naked ‘fooling around’ had led to intercourse which was consensual. As rebuttals go, Spurlock’s is reminiscent of George Galloway’s infamous defence of Julian Assange, on the basis that the women who cried rape were, in George’s deathless phrase, ‘already in the sex game’ with Assange.
Spurlock’s other admission is paying off an assistant whom he had routinely called ‘hot pants’ or ‘sex pants’ – ‘something I thought was funny at the time but then realised I had completely demeaned and belittled her’. At what point during the subsequent eight years this realisation sank in is not made clear, though Spurlock claims that when the woman left he readily agreed to the ransom demand for her silence – which, if true, seems a grubby deal from which neither party emerges with credit.
Beyond that, Spurlock admits to being a repeat philanderer: ‘I have been unfaithful to every wife and girlfriend I have ever had.’ Such recurring disloyalty certainly deserves opprobrium; but unless these liaisons involved coercion, conflating them with tales of an alleged rape and boorish name-calling is nonsensical. Serial infidelity is, sadly, far from unique in all walks of life, nor are the cheats exclusively male; should #MeToo be expanded to include betrayed spouses, the present steady flow of complaint would immediately become a tsunami.
Spurlock has since left the production company of which he was a partner and his latest film is no longer to be distributed, so for now he is persona non grata. Only Spurlock himself knows whether his unexpected penitence comes from being struck by a bolt of self-awareness or if it is a calculated, pre-emptive effort to keep ahead of potential accusers in the hope of longer-term rehabilitation. Regardless of whether it was prompted by conscience or cynicism, Spurlock’s public Oprah-style confessional was in stark contrast to, for example, the quintessentially British ‘in the past I have fallen below the high standards that we require of the Armed Forces’ acknowledgement by Michael Fallon.
Morgan Spurlock instead put himself on the analyst’s couch: ‘What caused me to act this way? Was it all ego?’ In response to which many readers will doubtless nod in agreement and, with justification, dismiss Spurlock as yet another narcissistic bully who for too long had been indulged within an unprincipled business.
Spurlock is currently exceptional for outing himself. But such is the amorality of the movie industry that it is difficult to read his admission without a jaundiced eye. And hard not to regard his voluntary surrender as a measured attempt to bank some goodwill for a future comeback, gained as reward for a few tweets (though a minority) have hailed as Spurlock’s ‘courage’. It would therefore be no surprise if some of his equally nervous peers are now closely monitoring the public reaction and weighing up the pros and cons of a similar career move.
It will be mightily interesting to see whether anyone else adopts a comparable strategy for self-preservation, and if so how they attempt to trump Morgan Spurlock. For now, though, Spurlock has vowed to be ‘more honest with you and myself’. So far, this ‘honesty’ includes him sharing the inevitable and exculpatory back story: a father who was a poor role model; being a victim of sexual abuse in his teens; suffering depression and 30 years of alcohol dependency – pretty much a full checklist, which has resulted in an ‘emotional hole’. Who knows, if this misery memoir by Morgan Spurlock goes on to have a redemptive ending, one day there might even be a lucrative film in it.