OPINION: How do we deal with fallen icons?


Photo credit/ Maci Roos

Alex Weidner, Managing Editor

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, a number of other male celebrities and figures have been accused of similar behavior. There’s no way to excuse or defend these people for those actions.

With that being said, how do we as fans deal with this news? It was one thing when Harvey Weinstein’s victims came forward in numbers. I had never heard of Weinstein, so the only opinion I was ever able to form of the man was that of disgust. All I’ve ever known is that this is a vile man for whom I can have no amount of respect.

The list of male celebrities and figures accused of sexual assault or harassment gains another name almost daily. There are some on the list with whom I was unfamiliar before now. But the list now includes Hollywood icons and household names like Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and Ben Affleck.

In no way should these men be forgiven for what they have or may have done. Some, like Hoffman and now C.K., have issued real apologies. But others like Spacey gave a non-apology response along the lines of ‘I’d sure be sorry if I did do it.’

Spacey’s statement ends with an admission to having romantic relations with men throughout his life, totally discounting the fact that some of them may have been non-consensual and even with minors.

There’s a saying about separating the artist from the art, but should we?

When watching a movie produced by Weinstein, it’s easy to forget that his name was ever attached. He doesn’t appear in the films; there isn’t a visual reminder of him in any frame. If you didn’t see his name in the credits, you probably wouldn’t even know he was involved with it.

What about the award-winning “House of Cards?” There’s no ignoring Kevin Spacey’s role in that, or almost any film he’s appeared in over the last 20-plus years. Perhaps it’s fitting that some of his more memorable roles have been villains, or less than morally-sound characters. Even then, it’s hard not to admire his ability as an actor.

It’s a difficult argument to make, that the work these men have created should still be enjoyed. I don’t sympathize with these men accused of harassment and assault, nor do I want to minimize the stress their victims might be going through and may continue to endure for the rest of their lives. I do feel it’s best to not allow them to keep their jobs and to halt current productions. Victims have every right to say existing work should be banned or boycotted, and I can absolutely see why someone would feel that way.

It’s not something new, either. Until now, award-winning director Roman Polanski has probably been Hollywood’s most notorious sex offender. In 1978, Polanski fled the U.S. for Europe, where he is avoiding prosecution for an act of sexual assault on a minor he committed in 1977. He admitted to the act prior to fleeing the country.

In 2014 Woody Allen was accused of sexual abuse by his adopted daughter. Anger towards the director dwindled over time. And his art? Still generally loved. “Annie Hall” still has an 8.1 out of 10 rating on IMDb and a whopping 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The Guardian even published a commemorative piece earlier this year about the film’s funniest moments.

So what are fans to do?

I wish I had an answer. Honestly, I do not know if I’m supposed to never watch anything starring any of these men again. In fact, “The Graduate” has been in my Netflix queue for as long as I can remember. I’m only on season two of “House of Cards.” Last month, I watched Louis C.K.’s most recent comedy special and laughed the entire time.

There’s a great chance some of these men might never produce any more movies or shows. There’s also the chance that “never” is only a year or so. We can promise not to watch any future projects, or hope there aren’t any. But do we forget their beloved past work ever existed?

Do fans have a moral obligation to boycott the movies, shows and music of their favorite actors and musicians? Though not as high profile as Hollywood celebrities, Brand New front man Jesse Lacey recently came forward to apologize for his past sexual misconduct. Fans of Brand New and those who actively despise the band could probably tell you they’ve always thought Lacey was a bit of a scumbag, but the band continued to be wildly popular in the alternative scene for almost 18 years now. I absolutely love Brand New’s music. I absolutely despise Jesse Lacey.

Am I morally obligated to distance myself from both the artist and the art? I will continue to enjoy the music and movies that awful people create, but always with a stinging reminder of who they really are.

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Twitter: @WeidnerTWW