As the #MeToo movement spread, I began reacting in a similar way to each account of sexual assault or harassment. On social media, many people that I just barely knew began briefly explaining their stories or posting a hashtag, declaring that they were victims of some form of sexual harassment.
My reaction was disgust, helplessness, and — and I hated that I felt this way — doubt. How was it possible that so many could have experienced some form of sexual assault? Surely some were exaggerating. How could I not have known?
When one of my friends shared his fully detailed story for all to see, however, I just felt sickened. It is not up to me to decide what constitutes harassment for someone else. My friend had clearly been on the receiving end of something I would never wish upon anyone else. Why would he share the story, if not to help others realize they are not alone?
I felt nothing for the media men whose names were revealed. Disappointment, anger, sure. But none of these men meant anything to me. The sheer number of the accused desensitized me. It felt like a guessing game: Who would be accused next? I kept myself updated, assumed them all guilty.
But then Danny Masterson was accused. Danny Masterson, who played Steven Hyde in That ‘70s Show. Not the most high-profile actor, but I knew who he was. And I had always liked him.
I remember watching my first episode of That ‘70s Show. I was about 11. A friend turned on Nick at Nite, and I was instantly hooked. Here was a show with characters I already knew — yet one character stood out to me.
Steven Hyde was a jolting difference from my suburban New Jersey lifestyle. He wore sunglasses indoors, he believed in government conspiracies, he smoked. I loved watching him onscreen. He was funny, he was different. I dedicated myself to watching when the show was on and reading about it — and Masterson — when it was not.
Eight years later, That ‘70s Show remains a guilty pleasure of mine. When I need to unwind, it often wins on my Netflix account. Though the jokes are not as fresh as they were to my middle school self, the nostalgia keeps me laughing. Hyde remains a favorite character from any show that I’ve ever seen. When Masterson began The Ranch in 2016, I knew I would have to watch.
But now, allegations of rape against Masterson — first published in March — are being taken seriously. Netflix fired him from The Ranch on Dec. 5, and Masterson has spoken out. Unlike with the other accused men, I listened to him. He called the allegations “outrageous.” He explained that he had been investigated for the same crimes 15 years ago, ultimately with no charges against him. He said “it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused.”
I listened because I wanted him to be right. I listened because I wanted to believe in the good of the Hyde I remembered. But I knew that if it was anyone else accused, I would not have listened.
I then watched an episode of That ‘70s Show.
But I could not watch the episode and enjoy the mindless entertainment, as usual. Seeing Masterson smiling and joking at others’ expenses, as Hyde always does, made me shiver. I am hoping that Masterson is being honest, that the women, three of whom say they were pressured by the Church of Scientology to keep silent, are lying. But with anyone else, I would not be hoping, because I would not doubt the claims.
When my friend posted his story, it was not for publicity. It was because he had gone through horror, wanted others to know that they aren’t alone, and he wanted to reduce the number of perpetrators who are willing to prey by showing that their crimes won’t be ignored.
The accused in Hollywood are finally being held accountable for their actions. The world is admitting that it is wrong to question an account because of who is being accused. Masterson is right in pointing out that it is wrong to assume guilt rather than innocence based on nothing but a testimony. But when there are four women accusing a non-A-list actor for crimes from years before, it should not be ignored. If he is innocent, hopefully justice will be served.
But if Masterson, like so many others, is just now receiving the punishment he should have received years ago, he, like so many others, absolutely deserves it.
Ariella Shua is a freshman Writing Seminars and psychology major from Livingston, N.J.