Hollywood’s Male #MeToo Stigma and the Fear of Coming Forward: “It’s Looked Upon as a Weakness”

The Hollywood Reporter

by Rebecca Keegan June 26, 2020, 6:15am PDT

More than two years into the movement, male victims grapple with consequences after speaking out, from mockery to job offers drying up: “I’ve never been so vulnerable in my life.”

Last fall, Johnathon Schaech was running out of options. After making a living as an actor for 30 years — 1996’s That Thing You Do! was his breakout — he was in danger of losing his SAG health insurance from lack of work, and he and his wife were trying to have a baby. Schaech, 50, had become something of an unwitting spokesman for male #MeToo victims in 2018 after he said Italian director Franco Zeffirelli had sexually assaulted him on the set of the movie Sparrow in 1993. (Before Zeffirelli died in June 2019, his son, Pippo, denied the allegations in People magazine.) In the aftermath of that disclosure, Schaech found his acting opportunities drying up, and he parted with his agency, APA, and manager, Risa Shapiro.

“I’ve never been so vulnerable in my life,” Schaech says. “Like, whoa, wait a minute. What did I just do?” Schaech was unsure if his newfound vulnerability was hurting his confidence as an actor or if he was being blacklisted for speaking out. “People were taking one side of the #MeToo movement or the other, like a friend of theirs was called out or a friend of theirs was affected,” he says. “They didn’t necessarily hear my story. They heard their story.” Schaech began reaching out to friends for help and secured a meeting with showrunner Greg Berlanti, for whom he had worked on The CW show Legends of Tomorrow. They spoke about parallels between the way gay people in Hollywood had historically been shunned after they came out and the way Schaech worried the industry might be treating him now. Berlanti re-hired Schaech, allowing the actor to retain his health insurance.

It was a small act of kindness during what has been a turbulent time for Schaech and for many men like him who were inspired by the mostly female-driven #MeToo movement. For entertainment industry men, as with women, sexual assaults and harassment have often come from powerful agents, executives and directors. But male accusers have often faced a different set of stigmas and questions than their female peers: Couldn’t a “real man” fend off another man? What does their experience say about their sexuality? Are they being homophobic or outing someone by going public? “If this happens to you as a man, it’s looked upon as a weakness,” Schaech says.

Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage; Brian To/FilmMagic; Arnaldo Magnani/Getty ImagesFrom left: Spacey, Venit and Zeffirelli

Among the first Hollywood men to counter that narrative was Brooklyn Nine-Nine star and former NFL player Terry Crews, who reached a settlement with WME in 2018 after alleging that Adam Venit, then head of the agency’s motion picture department, repeatedly grabbed his genitals at a 2016 industry party. In a string of tweets posted days after The New York Times and The New Yorker first ran stories on Harvey Weinstein’s abusive behavior, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Crews detailed his alleged sexual assault. Venit apologized, was suspended and stripped of his title at WME and ultimately retired. Crews would go on to endure mockery, including from 50 Cent, who posted on Instagram that had he been the man assaulted, “they would have had to take me to jail.” Crews, who declined to comment for this piece, also was heralded for speaking out, including being named one of Time‘s 2017 people of the year (as part of a group of “silence breakers”). And he has continued to work steadily, including serving as a host on America’s Got Talent and keeping his role as a lieutenant on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is set to shoot its eighth season.

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