There are not enough words in the English language to fully comment on the recent developments surrounding actor Armie Hammer.
To provide context for readers who are unaware of the details of the "Call Me by Your Name" actor’s alleged depravity, a series of women came forward in January accusing Hammer of inappropriate, abusive, and outright bizarre behavior while they were in relationships with him. This started with leaked direct messages from an Instagram user under the username @houseofeffie who claimed to have been involved with Hammer between 2016 and 2020. Be warned that although we have included the link to her account, the content of her stories is extremely disturbing.
The messages between this Instagram account and Hammer detail some very dark fantasies, including Hammer’s desire to rape, mutilate, and eat women. In one particularly stomach-wrenching exchange, the woman even confronts Hammer, saying that he raped her during a sexual encounter. Aside from the messages, he apparently told one former girlfriend that he wanted to cook and eat one of her ribs, and mutilated another with the letter ‘A’ using a knife. These revelations are, of course, so strange that I can’t believe I just wrote the words, and pretty unsettling, which is why it has become the butt of countless Twitter jokes. News outlets and social media alike are describing the accusations against Hammer as everything from a “sex scandal,” to a “cannibalism controversy” and mostly avoiding calling it what it actually is: sexual assault.
Cannibalism sells. That is, while disgusting to think about, shock factor is a principle of journalism that goes all the way back to when we were telling stories around fires in the wilderness. Countless fairytales and legends have been filled with gruesome man-eating clans and monsters, and we’ve always been drawn to them as strongly as we were repulsed by them. In a more modern context, news outlets, especially ones that focus on popular culture, publish what they think is most exciting. The most riveting, most unexpected, most ridiculous stories are the ones we love the most, like a story about a popular actor with a fetish for cannibalism.
Who wants to hear about yet another powerful actor abusing women? We have heard that story, but the Lone Ranger saying he wants to eat women and carry their toes around as trophies? Now that is news.
Unfortunately, it also gives Hammer way too much cover for my comfort. The cannibalism that has been sensationalized in the public's view is only one aspect of the troubling conversation between the victim and Hammer. The real point of the exchange is the way Hammer manipulated her, pressured her to engage in sexual behavior she wasn’t comfortable with, and ultimately raped her. She details the trauma that she has been left with, the nightmares she has to this day, the harrowing stories of other women who started to come forward after she broke her silence. One of the actor’s ex-girlfriends, Courtney Vucekovich, described months of emotional abuse and controlling behavior that left her feeling scared and stated that she was “groomed". According to Vucekovich, Hammer “sucks out all the goodness you have left.”
Yet, if you hadn’t heard of these accusations and simply read the direct messages or logged onto Twitter, one would think this whole situation was about Hammer being into some seriously weird BDSM stuff. And that’s exactly what he wants. Jokes about him being a serial killer and unimaginative puns about cannibalism only serve to hide Hammer’s behavior behind the guise of a “weird kink,” when it’s really just abuse packaged in disturbing fantasies.
People have been talking about the “Armie Hammer story” on Twitter like it’s an episode of "Criminal Minds", instead of the very real horror story that it is. While the FBI isn’t going to find any bodies in Hammer's freezer because he (probably) isn’t a serial killer, Hammer is an abuser, which is scary because he probably won’t be going to jail. This isn’t a sensational news story about a deranged cannibal murderer with a successful acting career -- it’s the same old Hollywood tragedy, another case of a powerful men using his fame to hurt women. This pattern should be the topic of conversation. The fact that this is still happening long after Harvey Weinstein went to jail is as shocking, disgusting, and horrifying as any cannibal fantasy, and we have a responsibility to treat it that way.