Two weeks before Doctor Who star Noel Clarke was set to receive a BAFTA for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema, the organization received multiple anonymous tips from women alleging to have been sexually harassed and assaulted by him in a variety of different ways in professional settings. Allegations have only continued to come out since then, with Doctor Who crew members now among those who say the actor has a history of such behavior.
The Guardian’s initial report came from the stories of 20 different women who say their experiences with Clarke include him groping and bullying them between 2004 and 2019, and in one case secretly taping an actress’ nude audition without her consent. Today, another Guardian piece adds alleged incidents both on the set of Doctor Who and at a promotional event for the long-running British sci-fi series. In most instances, the individuals and other witnesses described the actor becoming “aggressive” if his advances weren’t returned. BBC has not replied to a request for comment.
Clarke has denied all allegations minus one according to the article—“he once made inappropriate comments about one woman, for which he later apologized, but denying the rest of her complaints”—initially telling the Guardian, “In a 20-year career, I have put inclusivity and diversity at the forefront of my work and never had a complaint made against me. If anyone who has worked with me has ever felt uncomfortable or disrespected, I sincerely apologize. I vehemently deny any sexual misconduct or wrongdoing and intend to defend myself against these false allegations.” Just a day later he released another statement repeating his denial but adding, “Recent reports however have made it clear to me that some of my actions have affected people in ways I did not intend or realize. To those individuals, I am deeply sorry. I will be seeking professional help to educate myself and change for the better.”
The original report confirmed that BAFTA were aware of the allegations prior to bestowing an award on him recently. The organization said it did not act on them due to a lack of evidence to prompt its own investigation. BAFTA subsequently suspended Clarke and took back the award—with the Guardian adding a new statement from the charity to their piece “In light of the Guardian’s piece, which for BAFTA provided for the first time detailed accounts outlining serious allegations regarding Noel Clarke’s conduct, we have immediately suspended the award and Noel Clarke’s membership of BAFTA until further notice.” Additionally, ITV decided to hold back the final episode of Viewpoint, a series the actor stars on, and Sky announced its intentions to no longer work with him.
The backlash following allegations against Clarke has been swift, but the latest chorus of voices speaking out against him is also calling for everyone to look at the bigger picture. This week, 800 people working within the U.K.’s entertainment industry signed an open letter explaining how the sort of behavior Clarke’s accused of is part of what creates toxic work environments that ultimately harm everyone involved. “We just want to do our jobs,” the open letter states. “But we end up having to manage and navigate these situations. We don’t want to be seen as ‘killjoys’ and we don’t want to anger the men into violence. It is a constant, terrifying tightrope. We are exhausted and we are angry.”
The letter spells out clearly how the prevalence of sexual harassment in the industry and the culture of punishing those who speak out against it actively harms women in particular, who bear the brunt of the burden, danger, and consequences in these situations. “All of this contributes to us being undervalued in TV,” it also reads. “Many men won’t recognize or notice sexist micro-aggressions—the low level hum of sexism—and many women will accept it as part of the culture. It has been normalized, but it is not normal.”
Though the level of accountability Clarke is being held to is what many have been pushing to see more of in cases of alleged sexual misconduct, the open letter’s message about the danger of complicity’s important to bear in mind, because it gets at the real heart of the issue. For example, the current attention being paid to Clarke has brought further scrutiny to allegations of fellow Doctor Who franchise veteran John Barrowman repeatedly exposing his genitals to people while working on set of that series and its spinoff Torchwood. “Contacted by the Guardian, Barrowman admitted to ‘tomfoolery’ that he now understood upset colleagues, but stressed it was never intended or interpreted as sexual in nature,” the piece says. While Barrowman’s actions were reported to the BBC as early as 2008, and he was reprimanded by the network, it says something that the actor’s reported habit of exposing himself to people was an open secret that was allowed to continue for as long as it did.
It’s unclear what will become of Clark’s projects in progress that have been hamstrung by the reports involving him, and it’s also uncertain what all will come of this specific moment of reckoning in the long term.
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