In 1997, Bryan Singer was accused by three underage extras, including a 14-year-old, of filming them nude for a shower scene in Apt Pupil. In April 2014, Singer was accused of drugging and raping Michael Egan in Hawaii at a party when Egan was 17 years old. In 2016, actor Noah Galvin alleged in a Vulture interview, in a quote that was eventually pulled, that Bryan Singer “likes to invite little boys over to his pool and diddle them in the fucking dark of night.” On December 7, Cesar Sanchez-Guzman filed a lawsuit against Singer for allegedly raping him in 2003 when Sanchez-Guzman was 17. This is an incomplete list.
When the first X-Men film was released (2000), I was still mired in a Christian worldview that bristled at the idea of gay subtext in popular media. Friends of mine, who had flocked to see The Matrix the year before, were refusing to see X-Men because the director was gay (though both directors of The Matrix have since come out as trans). Another friend likened Magneto’s plan to transform unsuspecting humans into mutants to “the Homosexual Agenda forcing its lifestyle on people” and corrupting our nation’s youth. They also objected to all the foul language.
It was a long, difficult road to my self-acceptance, but when I acknowledged that I was gay, I was able to enjoy that film and the second one on a whole other level. Bryan Singer became someone I could respect and admire. I thought he was someone young gay men could be inspired by. Instead, he was preying on them.
I was crushed when he was accused in 2014. Not just because of what had happened to Egan, or because one of my heroes had fallen, but I knew this somehow lent credence in the minds of my old friends to all their ideas about the insidiousness of homosexuality. “Gay men are child molesters or victims of child molestation” is a common refrain in that world, and here was further proof, as far as they were concerned.
When Egan dropped his allegations, I breathed a sigh of relief. If I’d bothered to learn more than that simple fact, of course, I would have had to face the hard truths I’m facing now. Like that the allegations were dropped on a technicality, or the reality of how traumatizing such court battles can be for victims. Eventually, some of Egan’s former lawyers apologized to two people he accused, and he was sentenced in 2015 for fraud. That this accuser might not be entirely credible does not mean he cannot be a legitimate victim. I turned a blind eye and went on my willfully ignorant way.
The other great lie the Christian Right loves telling about the gay community is that we’re a shadow network that conspires to corrupt children, covers for pedophiles, and take down politicians or preachers who try to stop us. Turning a blind eye to behavior like Singer’s practically validates such thinking. Kevin Spacey tried to take advantage of the gay community’s largesse by coming out of the closet as a way of hiding his admission of guilt in regards to sexual assault. Thankfully, other gay celebrities were not going to let him “hide under the rainbow,” as comedian Wanda Sykes put it. Nor should we let Bryan Singer try to do the same.
The gay community should be a welcoming place where people are free to be their best selves. Singer took advantage of that feeling, of his status and privilege, and turned it into something nefarious. He has irrevocably damaged the young men he has coerced and violated.
The day after Sanchez-Guzman’s accusations, the USC School of Cinematic Arts said it will remove Singer’s name from its Division of Cinema & Media Studies program known as the Bryan Singer Division of Critical Studies. But more must be done. After being found guilty of raping a 13-year-old girl (whom he knowingly intoxicated), Roman Polanski lived in a Swiss chalet and won a Best Director Oscar. He might finally be facing consequences for his actions; we must hope such a reckoning takes place for Singer.
But what about his movies? Can we still enjoy them? This is more than separating art from artist. This is being complicit in a pattern of criminal behavior that destroys lives just so that we can have a few good X-Men movies. What message do we send to victims of abuse when we continue to enjoy the fruits of their abusers?
I can’t do that anymore. And none of us should. I’m not going to host bonfires of X-Men merchandise or beseech my friends to denounce Singer. I’ve written favorably about work he’s produced, but no more. He might be nothing more than a producer on X-Men: Dark Phoenix, but I’ll be skipping that too. I’ll never enjoy another piece of art that his hands have touched. Because admiring the art while loathing the artist allows us to enjoy what we want without considering the human cost, the harm done by the people who have made this art. If an attempted rapist creates something beautiful, we need to be strong enough to recognize it as ugly.