I like to think I’m a man of conviction. The kind of man who acts swiftly to right a wrong, who won’t tolerate an injustice, nor support or enable morally questionable behavior. For example, a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine alerted me that somebody had posted a racist sentiment on my Facebook wall. My justice was swift and decisive: I deleted the post and unfriended the person who posted it, despite the fact that we were former coworkers who had been friends for 20 years. My buddy who had alerted me was surprised by the speed and severity of my response. “Damn,” he observed, “KC doesn’t mess around.” I’ll admit, seeing his reaction made me feel kind of good – and maybe a little smug. Nope, I thought, KC does NOT mess around.
But here’s the thing.
Actually, the first sentence in my opening paragraph was carefully worded. And the key phrase in it is “like to think.” Because as much as I may want to pat myself on the back, the truth is that quashing a racist sentiment on social media is not a very hard thing to justify, nor is it particularly praiseworthy. I suspect most decent people wouldn’t tolerate racist language on their Facebook walls. But what about something a little less directly impactful?
I mean, this was a racist statement, and it was posted on MY wall. Clearly that was not to be tolerated. But what do I do when I find out – after the fact – that the person who wrote a song I like is a racist? Or that an actor I admire has a history of spousal abuse? Or that a novelist I enjoy actually murdered somebody? Where do I draw the line?
It’s a question that’s coming up more and more these days. In the past year, we’ve begun to see a flood of bad behavior by popular artists – particularly male artists – being exposed. The #MeToo movement is shedding some much-needed light on a long history of indefensibly bad behavior by powerful males in the arts, who have been using sex, gender and power to dominate and/or manipulate – and in some cases, flat-out ruin – careers and lives.
One by one we’re seeing artistic icons being toppled. Louis CK. Bill Cosby. Harvey Turdstein (okay, I might have gotten the spelling wrong on that one). Many of us are relishing the experience of witnessing this sea change. It’s high time, we think, as we watch Roman Polanksi ousted from the Oscars academy. Good riddance, we think, as Kevin Spacey is dropped from his TV series. Yes, it feels kind of good, a rare glimpse of karma in action.
But it also leaves each of us with a challenge. Specifically, once we’ve identified an artist as being a not-so-good person, what do we do about that artist’s body of work? [Read more…]