All our faves are problematic. A saying that is now almost fact. Every day, we learn new things about the people that we admire and idolise that make them potentially shitty people. But I feel something needs to be said further on this matter.
Having read through various articles, blogs and posts following the announcement of Stan Lee’s passing, I have felt both saddened and annoyed. Not even a day after his death, his name was made worse because of accusations of sexual assault. Members of the public have protested this because hey, the man has literally just died, and was a legend, and there’s just no need to mention these accusations at this time, whilst people are mourning. He played a huge part in most of our lives, and he was also an advocate for equality, especially in racial inclusion so he can’t have been a bad person, and we don’t know all the details of these accusations anyway…
STOP. LISTEN. TAKE NOTE.
Most people have done things that are problematic in their pasts. Many learn and grow from that, making apologies and improving themselves and their actions. But learning and growing doesn’t cancel out the hurt and damage they may have done previously. And not acknowledging the past and learning from it (by both perpetrator and observer) minimises the experience and hurt of others.
But this is where there appears to be some confusion. If someone has displayed problematic behaviour, can we still like them? And the answer here is… kinda.
It is entirely okay to appreciate the work of someone, and mourn that loss, even when that person is problematic. And someone taking that brave stand to point/call out where a person is problematic is not the problem. Whether that person is alive or dead, or amazing in some ways whilst problematic in others, being educated as to traits of that person does not make the educator the enemy. And excusing areas of behaviour because of who that person is and/or potential circumstances as to why they may have done the actions that they did makes you an apologist.
Where celebrities and those in the public eye are concerned, it can honestly be devastating to learn that someone that you look up to has done bad things. But your feelings about that, whilst valid, do not excuse what they may have done, and should not stop the education of their behaviour. And this where you can step back and learn to differentiate between appreciating a person and appreciating their work.
For example, let’s look at Donald Glover Jr (a.k.a. Childish Gambino); he has recently hit the media spotlight for his stance in black oppression and gun violence, using the tool of music activism. He raised some very shattering truths that left most of us feeling conscience-stricken by the current pains and prejudices felt by people of colour, not just in America, but around the world. This is 100% what we need to be seeing to make us think, and encourage action and change.
HOWEVER, as amazing as Donald’s message is, he also repeatedly uses rape jokes and ableist slurs in his comedy works, with no apology for the upset that he causes. Another example – from a slightly different angle – is the band LostProphets, who have produced music that many of my generation grew up and teen-angsted with; the news of the atrocities carried out by Ian Watkins threw fans into turmoil, destroying CDs and merchandise. Given his actions, the reaction is somewhat understandable, however, there are more members of the band than Ian Watkins alone, who have had to suffer as a fallout. Even the Horrible Histories television series, well-loved by many, uses examples of blackface throughout. And there’s more…
The list is becoming endless, growing every single day, but these are all examples of people that produce/have produced fantastic work or done amazing things, and have still been a POS. Acknowledging this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to instantly hate that person and boycott everything that they do though (I mean, you can if you want, but you don’t have to), but it does mean that you should take note of the education. Don’t shoot the messenger – they’ve given you the information, but it’s up to you how you process that.
Lea Marie is a single mama who spends her time trying to play her part in raising the future, whether that be at home or at the school in which she works. She loves a good book, a glass of wine, and a hint or two of social activism. Her friends and loved ones would ‘lovingly’ describe her as a grumpy cow.