The whole thing with liking problematic artists is something I generally don’t go into, because it’s a bog that can be easy to get completely mired in with no way out. The first problem is even bringing it up, because there is a contingent that will attack if you are not openly 100% against whichever people they don’t like. If you try to bring any balance or perspective into the equation, you are now and forever a horrible person and a rape apologist. Okay, so those lulus are easy enough to ignore.
But then you get into the deeper questions; what exactly makes someone “problematic”? Actions? Words? Both? How many? For how long? Do apologies or changes in character matter? Ever? How far does it go–is an actor who even appears in a film made by a director who is later found to have assaulted someone now tainted as well? See how utterly ridiculous and totally off the rails this can go? And where in ANY of it is there any real help or support for the victims of real abuse? Is there even any?
I know there are obvious examples but this whole thing has unraveled into finer and finer tendrils that are starting to poke in everywhere. I’m a pragmatist at heart and I fully accept that human beings as a whole are pretty awful creatures. We’re greedy, violent apes who use and abuse pretty much anything and anyone we come in contact with at one time or another while being capable of enormous compassion, generosity, kindness, and love towards one another. We seem to yaw from one extreme to another without much in the way of reason or rhyme, and still haven’t figured ourselves out.
So given that; actors, musicians, artists are all people too. They should not be expected to be some perfect model of humanity at all times, never ever making a single human mistake along the way. And yes, some of them are going to do awful things because humans are frequently awful creatures and some of them happen to be in the entertainment industry. But determining the level of awful, the qualities and weight, and then balancing that against what joy their work brings is a horribly difficult set of calculus to do if you have some kind of Purity Standard that must be met before you can watch a show or a movie or listen to a song.
I can hear the objection already, so let me address it:
Well then you’re saying that it doesn’t matter what someone’s done, you’ll still support them?
Stupid on its face, to be sure. No, it does matter. But the measurements have to be present and clear. Let’s give a concrete example. Harvey Weinstein. Will I throw out any movie I own that he had a hand in making? Fuck no. Will I go to see any new films of his? Doubtful. Will I do anything knowingly to enrich him in any way ever again? Absolutely not.
See, this is the kind of thing that has to be taken on a case-by-case basis, by each individual, based on his or her own judgment. I still own a DVD copy of Bill Cosby: Himself. It’s one of the funniest fucking things I ever saw, I still know the routines by heart, and though I haven’t thrown it out, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to watch it again. I think I keep it around as a barometer, to judge where my line is. I will, naturally, never purchase anything by Mr. Cosby ever again, or do anything to knowingly enrich him. That’s also where my line is.
But the thing is–I can still enjoy the work of someone who isn’t a perfect person, or perhaps is even a bad person. I will admit to still enjoying Mel Gibson’s earlier work, before he went off the rails, and I don’t believe that doing so means anything more than “Hey, I love the Lethal Weapon movies.” My enjoyment of something of which he is a part is not some kind of blanket approval of his entire existence, nor should it be. I can think of many authors and musicians and actors I probably wouldn’t get along with but whose work I love. I even like one of Ted Nugent’s songs (Stranglehold, if you must know) and I LOATHE that man. I can even look at the watercolor painting Hitler did and say that it’s not half-bad.
And again, more and more I see more obvious cases like Cosby, Weinstein, Woody Allen, and Roman Polanski yielding to much more specious “problematics”; people who make jokes, who are merely accused of something, or who are guilty by the court of public opinion based on rumors or lies. Things get blown out of proportion and swept up by the hysterical masses and suddenly someone who makes an off-color joke is on the same level as Weinstein. That’s what I have a problem with, and why I refuse to just jettison all my entertainment because someone else thinks I should.