My last post was about separating artist from art. Weinstein was a topical case study of course, but my intention was to ask whether we could still enjoy art created by problematic people. Y’know, the Hitchcocks of the world.
During all the discussions regarding problematic directors and producers, I never felt personally affected, except to put trust in the victims and decry the actions of those who abused their power.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In 2001, Smallville premiered. The TV series that showed Clark Kent’s journey to become Superman quickly became my favorite. Show runners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, in addition to bringing in a number of classic characters of the Superman mythos, also introduced a couple original characters. One such character was brave and smart. She stopped at nothing to expose the truth, help her friends and make a better world in her own way.
I’m talking about Chloe Sullivan, played by Allison Mack. She was the nascent reporter turned pseudo-Justice League Watchtower. She was my favorite character besides Clark.
Last year I saw someone share an article that didn’t look legit. It stated that Allison Mack had been found to victimize girls and prostitute them for cult leader Keith Raniere. Pimp Mack, they called her. I was sure this article wasn’t true.
This week Mack was arrested. The story was real.
Mack co-founded Nxivm with Keith Raniere. The organization operated under the guise of a mentorship program for young women. The company website states: “NXIVM is a company whose mission is to raise human awareness, foster an ethical humanitarian civilization, and celebrate what it means to be human.”
No. It’s a pyramid scheme meant to trap women, self-branded as a form of self help and entrepreneurial endeavor.
Apparently Kristin Kreuk, the actress who played Lana Lang on Smallville, recruited Mack before eventually getting out of it herself. Kreuk shared in a statement on Twitter that she had joined the group to help with her shyness, assuming it was simply a self help workshop. She closed her statement with how she is “deeply disturbed” and thanked the women who came forward about the violent inner workings of Nxivm.
Mack continued in the group, leveling up to Raniere’s inner circle by luring girls into the pyramid scheme turned sex trafficking ring. Women were encouraged to recruit other women in order to become masters instead of slaves. Girls were branded and made to starve themselves to fit Raniere’s sexual fantasies. These were impressionable women who were seeking to better their careers through what they thought was mentorship.
Emil: Chloe, I couldn’t help but notice that you practically jumped out of your chair when I came in here. I’d prefer that if there were no secrets between us.
Chloe: Then you’re in the wrong business.
Smallville Season 9, Episode 6: Rabid
I usually use this blog to teach about film, but sometimes those teachable moments are less about technique and more about the seedy underbelly of the entertainment industry.
It upsets me to my core that this case has brought to light the dirty laundry of an actress I thought I could admire. It upsets me that it was an actress at all who lured women into this trap.
I look back at her most famous role, that of the dynamic and strong Chloe Sullivan. I feel betrayed by a person I never met who doesn’t know I exist. She doesn’t owe me an explanation. An actor is not their character. This much is definitely clear here. We must out predators wherever and whomever they are.
We must not throw judgment on the young women who were sucked into this world. Like with any cult, it probably didn’t seem so bad until they were in deeper than they could escape. Maybe that’s even how Mack’s involvement began.
“I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the people who are the worst at taking care of themselves are the ones the world actually needs the most.” — Chloe Sullivan, Smallville
I hope that young women will take note from this case, and be very careful who they put their faith in for mentorship opportunities and career advancement. Not all who say they are there to help you have your best interests at heart.
Hopefully this will be a teachable moment for Allison Mack too. She could have taken many lessons on doing the right thing from the character she portrayed for ten years. Instead she, like the Weinstein-like men before her, must face consequences for her actions.