Noel Clarke: Toxic masculinity in the entertainment industry
There is still a lack of clarity on the authority held by figures in the entertainment industry and their ability to mute victims of abuse. The case of actor and film-maker Noel Clarke is one which fits this recurring pattern. Clarke recently appeared on stage to receive the prize for ‘Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema’ at the British Academy of Film and Television Art awards. His uncomfortable presence at the ceremony was noted by viewers who mistook it for general nerves. However, their observation of his anxiety was right, as days later he would be exposed to the world as a ‘sexual predator’.
As revealed by The Guardian, Clarke was the target of an investigation into the history of “verbal abuse, bullying and sexual harassment” he allegedly reined against the women in the industry. Thirteen days before he had received his award, Bafta were notified of the existing allegations made against Clarke but dismissed the ‘anonymous emails and reports’ due to insufficient evidence. The actor denied the allegations and stepped onto the stage with a speech covering the ethnic disparities in the industry, gratitude to his fellow creatives and shared his award with the underrepresented.
Gina Powell, Jahannah James, Synne Seltveit, Anna Avramenko and Jing Lusi are just a few names of the twenty listed by The Guardian who have experienced Clarke’s misogynist behaviour on set. Powell has accused Clarke of explicit comments made towards her, as well as storing graphic photos and videos of naked auditions on his hard drive.
Fellow actress, Jahannah James was told by Clarke her naked audition “was not going to be on camera” and was “purely to check [if] she could do the scene and wasn’t going to ‘bottle it’ on the day”. A casting director who was present at James’s audition, claimed Clarke was a “good guy”, and that there was “absolutely no way” he could have covertly filmed the audition without her being aware of it. Clarke’s lawyers have said the actor does not possess a hard drive containing such photographs and videos and has denied covertly filming naked auditions.
In 2015, Norwegian film producer, Synne Seltveit was invited by Clarke to a UFC mixed martial arts fight. Seltveit claims she was unexpectedly “smacked on her buttocks” and was left feeling horrified. During the time, however, she went on to express her thanks for the invitation, in an email to Clarke. The communication soon turned unpleasant when he allegedly sent her a Snapchat of his genitalia. Clarke and his lawyers have denied the claims.
Thirteen years prior, Anna Avramenko, an intern overseeing the making of the film Doghouse, stated that Clarke had tried “three to five times…maybe more” to kiss her in front of the entire team and refused to stop even after telling him she had a boyfriend. Clarke, as predicted, denies the allegations.
In 2018, actor and screenwriter Jing Lusi was invited by Clarke for dinner when working together on the film SAS: Red Notice in Budapest. During their meal, Clarke was allegedly behaving hastily, asking for the bill before Lusi had finished eating. According to Lusi, Clarke told her he wanted them to go to his place to have sex. After Lusi denied his advances, she claims his demeanour had altered and Clarke said: “don’t tell anyone about this, yeah? Cause if you do, it will get back to me, I will find out”.
After receiving a text message the next morning by Clarke of an emoji with a finger to their lips, Lusi felt repulsed and opened up to her friends about what had happened. When asked why she took action, Lusi said: “I told everyone at the time, because I didn’t want Noel to think he could do that to me, or anyone else”. She added, “You can’t just harass someone and silence them. I couldn’t do something about being sexually harassed, but he couldn’t stop me speaking out about it.” Clarke’s lawyers have commented on the events of the dinner as “consensual flirting” and the emoji that was sent by Clarke was in respect of Lusi not wanting people to know about their dining.
Adam Deacon who rose to fame starring in the 2006 film Kidulthood, recently revealed he had also been a victim of Clarke, spanning over fifteen years. Clarke directed the winning Hood trilogy, which received critical acclaim over its raw depiction of teenagers living in inner West London.
Deacon expressed his pain over a statement which said: “ My career was continually sabotaged, and the gas lighting became so severe that it led to the complete breakdown of my mental health.
As you will know, I have spoken out regarding this man’s sociopathic behaviour on multiple occasions, but my claims were always dismissed. People dealing with mental health may at times explain things differently, but they should still be believed.”
In response to the report published by The Guardian, Clarke said: “I vehemently deny any sexual misconduct or criminal wrongdoing.
Recent reports however have made it clear to me that some of my actions have affected people in ways I did not intend or realise.
To those individuals, I am deeply sorry. I will be seeking professional help to educate myself and change for the better.”
Since the allegations made against Clarke were publicised, an open letter written by freelance producer Meriel Beale has been shared, stating it was “time to put an end to this culture that turns a blind eye to predators and harassers operating in plain sight”. The letter has influenced over 800 people to make their pledge to the matter.
Moving forward, society needs to break the barriers preventing men and women from voicing their experiences of abuse and harassment. Demonstrating ignorance, due to “lack of evidence”, is not an acceptable conclusion until a thorough investigation is undertaken. Instead of rewarding predators, it is time to serve them with rehabilitation, so victims no longer have to live in silence.