It’s always a shame when someone beloved lets you down, even though by this point we’re getting used to it - it feels like a national treasure is outed as a bastard every week or so, and it’s almost a relief when you see someone’s name trending and it turns out they’re just dead, not horrible.
The latest icon to reveal himself as just not as good as he should be is Sir Ian McKellen, giant of stage and screen, kick-ass wizard and a man who treated the ridiculousness of a character in a purple helmet named “Magneto” with the seriousness of a Shakespearean tragedy and in doing so, helped usher in the modern superhero film.
Yeah, turns out he’s kind of an arse though.
Speaking at the Oxford Union, he began sensibly enough: “People must be called out and it’s sometimes very difficult for victims to do that. I hope we’re going through a period that will help to eradicate [abuse] altogether.”
So far, so good. Then he used the word “But” and it all went wrong. “But from my own experience, when I was starting acting in the early Sixties, the director of the theatre I was working at showed me some photographs he got from women who were wanting jobs. Some of them had, at the bottom of their photograph, DRR — ‘directors’ rights respected’. In other words, if you give me a job, you can have sex with me. That was commonplace from people who proposed that they should be a victim. Madness. People have taken advantage of that and encouraged it and it absolutely will not do.”
That DRR thing absolutely probably happened - the Sixties were bonkers, showbiz is bonkers and there have always been people willing to do anything to get into it - and McKellen isn’t explicitly saying that people being sexually exploited to get work are to blame for their own exploitation or for propagating a culture of abuse. But what’s being achieved by him saying any of this? Isn’t he just, in real terms, giving those who do wish to discredit victims an easy out, and giving those who would like to come forward to tell their stories doubt that they’d be believed?
Not content with his ruining-everything “But”, he followed it up with an everything-ruining “Even though”: “I assume nothing but good will come out of these revelations, even though some people get wrongly accused — there’s that side of it as well.”
Obviously, people are underwhelmed by Gandalf’s thoughts on this matter.
We’ve still got Patrick Stewart. Patrick Stewart’s still really nice, right?