What Marvel's Loki Can Teach Kevin Spacey (and All of Us)
Marvel's Thor and Loki have a lot they can teach those who've fallen from grace in the wake of #MeToo allegations. And all the rest of us as well.
On Christmas Eve, Kevin Spacey published to YouTube a bizarre and shocking video apparently responding to the multiple career-torpedoing sexual assault allegations made against him in the wake of the #MeToo movement. In the video, Kevin Spacey basically pretends he's Frank Underwood, the villain he played on House of Cards for years until Netflix fired him due to members of the cast and crew coming forward with their own allegations against him. Kevin Spacey talks to the camera the way he did in the show and denies any allegations made against him will stick, implies that his character isn't really dead because the show never showed him die, and that he (Kevin Spacey/Frank Underwood) will make a comeback. He did this possibly in response to former Boston Globe anchor Heather Unruh filing charges against him the same day on behalf of her son, who she claims Kevin Spacey assaulted in 2016.
You can watch the full video below.
What's particularly disturbing is Kevin Spacey defending himself by doubling down on his evil persona. Frank Underwood was a villainous narcissist who would often do terrible things which the viewers would see and then watch him tell the viewers that they will love him and watch him anyway. Kevin Spacey is doing the exact same thing in this message. By responding as Frank Underwood and giving the same message Frank Underwood would give, he's claiming that he is a bad guy but doesn't need to change in order to make a comeback.
And by doing that, he's just like Loki. And most of us.
Marvel's Thor movies have always been about how to change to be a better person. Thor and Loki were both brothers and princes of a powerful alien race who were powerful and respected themselves but sort of enabled by their father to be jerks because they never paid for their destructive behavior. They really believed they were better than others and they're experiences backed that up. Both of them were then humiliated and decided to respond in different ways. Thor lost his powers and get his butt handed to him by everyone on earth, and he responded by realizing he was a jerk and changing to be better. Loki came to earth to conquer it and then got his butt handed to him by everyone on earth (resulting in one of the greatest scenes in movie history). But Loki responded by doubling down on his bad behaviors and beliefs that got him into that mess. The result is constant humiliation at he hands of Thor who is able to get wise to Loki's tricks, and, finally (SPOILERS) death at the hands of Thanos. (SPOILERS) In a funny example of life imitating art, the Thor movies themselves changed from the least liked Marvel franchise to one of the most liked when they took fan reaction to the first movie and then made one of the most beloved Marvel movies, Thor Ragnarok.
Most of us won't change bad behavior until it stops working for us. And why should we? If being the bad boy gets us the girl, if we cheat on our taxes and are never caught, if we binge drink every night and can still get up every day and go to work, and everyone arounds us overlooks or rewards and encourages our behavior, who can blame us for not changing? If our lives back up or narcissistic worldview then it makes sense to believe it.
That's why Thor teaches us that it's not what we do before we know better that makes us a hero or villain, it's what we do once we do know better. We become a hero or villain because of what we choose once we are confronted with who we really are, and we decide either to change or double down. When we are confronted by new facts, do we change our beliefs, or do we ignore them and keep charging ahead? Of course, sometimes there are understandable reasons people don't admit they're wrong. Sometimes it's because, well, they aren't wrong. In those cases refusing to back down is the right thing to do. But other times it's because people know that people if they admit they're wrong and change people won't actually forgive them--and will instead hold it over them as a permanent power move. (This is different from paying the crime and doing the time. We all have to do that when our evil deeds get really bad. But you can pay for your actions and still be forgiven.) Loki had no excuse because Thor was always ready and willing to forgive his brother. But even Thor never forgave Loki, Loki still would have been better off if he had learned humility from his humiliation than where he ended up. Because he would have been a hero for real, regardless of how others treated him. My hope for Kevin Spacey and all those exposed in the wake of the #MeToo movement is the same thing I hope for myself: that we would be Thor and not Loki. I pray that I would take moments where I and my worldview are knocked on our backs as times to grow and become better and not times to ignore the truth and double down. And I pray like Thor that I would be the kind of person who makes changing an easy thing for the Lokis of this world to do. Even if they don't accept it.