The first time I saw Frank Underwood onscreen, literal chills ran through my body.
If you've seen House of Cards you know the scene I'm talking about. Literally the very opening of the series, Underwood comes out into the street and kills his neighbor's dog after it has been struck by a car. It is such a fascinatingly twisted and complex bit of television (enhanced I think by the fact that we never actually see the dog in the shot) and it propels the TV series to a story that its equal parts haunting, terrifying, and in many ways revealing.
Frank Underwood is a despicable, rotten character. I found many parts of House of Cards to be so overly, gut-wrenching sad that, while I enjoyed the plotting, pacing, and character development, I often was left feeling hollow after watching. The character of Frank Underwood had a knack for finding the lowest, most depraved level of humanity and sinking to a slimy layer just beneath that.
Never, though, did I attach the very real persona of the actor who played Frank Underwood, Kevin Spacey, to such an abysmal standing.
At the time of his starring in House of Cards in 2013, Spacey was already among Hollywood's best and brightest, having won two Oscars: in 1995 for The Usual Suspects and in 1999 for American Beauty. His appearance in House of Cards alongside Robin Wright most certainly leant the series credibility, as it was Netflix's first foray into original programming.
Yet, what's most important in the here and now is not Spacey's titanic credentials in film, but rather the actions that he has taken to precipitate his downfall.
In 2017 Anthony Rapp, a fellow actor, accused Spacey of attempting to molest him at a party thrown by the latter. At the time the alleged incident took place in 1986 Rapp was 14 years old and Spacey was 26. While Spacey apologized for this incident, he has resisted anything resembling a confession. Subsequently, 14 other individuals have followed up Rapp's accusations with ones of their own, including some from Spacey's time on House of Cards.
All of this lends itself to a bizarre lead up to a Christmas Eve social media post by Spacey, who had maintained almost complete publicity silence since Rapp's accusations surfaced more than a year ago. In the posted video, titled "Let Me Be Frank," Spacey poses as Frank Underwood, speaking with the same accent and with the same mannerisms as the character from the show. He wears a Christmas-themed apron and speaks cryptically about "paying the price for things" that he supposedly "didn't do."
The issue is, however, that 14 allegations is something that becomes difficult to write off. As with any instance of alleged sexual assault, while physical evidence or even corroboration may be lacking, the appearance of expanded accusation makes it difficult to justify ignoring testimony from any one person. After all, 14 separate people wouldn't risk their careers and reputations just so they could drown themselves in legal fees against a popular and well-known actor in court, would they?
In the era of #MeToo, for all the complex nuances that phrase purports, Spacey's case might be among the most unique and, like Frank Underwood's, most chilling.
Spacey's sexuality had long been something of a mystery, with multiple rumors advancing the theory that he was in fact gay. All of these rumors were denied by him in person. However, the onset of Rapp's allegations and then the same by the other alleged victims, all of whom are men, made it evident. Spacey is in fact gay. He admitted such on Twitter in the aftermath of Rapp's commentary.
Recently charged with felony sexual assault in Massachusetts over a 2016 incident in which Spacey invited an 18-year-old to a bar and subsequently groped him, Spacey's Christmas Eve video was seen by many to be a controlled attempt to try and influence the soon-to-come legal proceedings that will decide his most immediate future.
When I first encountered the character of Frank Underwood, I was terrified, but in a delighted way. It was of the same kind of thrill that you get when you ride a rollercoaster or visit a haunted house, though I won't deny that the entertainment gleaned from House of Cards is of a darker variety than that of a theme park.
And yet, with all of that said, I had never dreamed that the man behind the character could be darker still.