Last week, I spoke a bit about treating people like people and how hard that apparently is for some people.
I also touched a bit on the idea of separating the art from the artist. I want to talk about that a bit more.
Since last week, we’ve seen more accusations come out, some bigger than others, where some men just can’t keep it in their pants and keep their hands to themselves. Let’s take a look at one in particular for just a moment: Louis CK.
Now, rumors about CK have been floating around for a long time, and now that The New York Times has broken the story about him, he’s admitted to it. Now, I can’t claim to be a CK fan, but I did see the first few episodes of his FX show Louis, a show that was a cross between a sitcom and a sketch comedy show. In one episode, Louis is on a blind date from the looks of things. He’s overdressed, the woman doesn’t want much to do with him, he keeps flashing a creepy smile that she doesn’t like and he can’t stop, and in the end when he goes to kiss her, she dashes off and jumps onto a waiting helicopter to fly away from him.
Methinks I will not be rushing off to watch more of it.
Here’s the thing: CK was a popular comedian for a long time, the guy who had worked his way up to close to the top of his profession as a stand-up and who had scores of fans.
But he’s also a human being with flaws. It just so happens that his are pretty awful. Can someone like CK come back from something like this? Possibly.
Shouldn’t we be more concerned about his victims?
Now, as I said, I wasn’t a big fan of CK, but the question comes up: what happens when the accusation is made against someone you like?
Part of the problem there is, tribalism sets in. That’s the common human trait to excuse faults in people who are friends, allies, or just people we like but find those same faults unacceptable in people we don’t. It’s why Donald Trump can parade a bunch of women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual wrongdoing out after the Access Hollywood tape came out, and his own supporters see nothing wrong with that, just as Clinton’s own supporters looked the other way for his own serial philandering. It’s similar to how we feel when a celebrity we like dies: we don’t know these people, but feel like we do and they mean a lot to us, so maybe we overlook their shortcomings.
On a side note: considering Trump was running against Hilary Clinton, there’s a whole separate conversation to be had for laying at least some blame for a man’s cheating on his wife.
That’s a bit of where separating the art from the artist comes in, and everyone who’s interested needs to find their own personal line in the sand. For someone like CK, it’s probably impossible. His public identity is tied so much into his comedy career, he may never be able to make any sort of come back, and it’s not exactly rocket science to know what he did was wrong, so he has no one to blame for that but himself.
I suppose that a person so inclined would need to answer a few questions for themselves:
- What is the dealbreaker when it comes to bad behavior?
- What sort of penance makes up for wrongdoing?
- Can you still support the work of a person you know has done horrible things.
Part of me circles back to Kevin Spacey on this one. While I was more or less done with House of Cards anyway, Baby Driver was one of the best movies I saw this year, and Spacey was maybe the one cast member who got a real musical rhythm out of his dialogue. It was a good performance in a supporting role. And I can’t imagine anyone wanting to see much of House of Cards without Spacey. Robin Wright is a good actor in her own right, but that show was built around Spacey’s definitive style of over-the-top scene chewing. Wright’s a different kind of actor who probably can’t fill that role the same way, and I don’t know that people will continue to follow the show as a result.
That doesn’t make Spacey any less of a scumbag.
I don’t know if I will go to see any new Kevin Spacey movies any time soon (or, more accurately, if there will even be another “new Kevin Spacey movie” any time soon). Maybe if people like Spacey and CK owned their bad behavior, particularly before they were exposed, it wouldn’t be so bad.
And this may sound odd, but there was one actor not that long ago who did make what looked like a really sincere apology over something he shouldn’t have done.
What’s the story there? Well, on a discussion panel for Game of Thrones, Jason Mamoa made a rape joke. As near as I can make out, that’s his only offense, so if he is also guilty of more bad behavior, I don’t know of it yet. Someone found the footage and some outrage came out. How did Momoa react?
Here’s what he didn’t say: “I am sorry if you were offended.”
Here, paraphrased, is what he did say: “That was inexcusable, I should have never said that, and I am deeply sorry.”
Does that absolve him? I don’t know. That’s up to moviegoers. But I’ll tell you what: that’s a damn sight better than offering a conditional apology. He did something wrong. He admitted it was wrong. If he never does anything like this again, he’ll maybe be remembered as one of the good ones.
On the one hand, it’s a good thing that scumballs are being exposed.
On the other, it’s just sad that some people don’t know what to do with their pants around other people.