Beth and I watched last week’s episode of Real Time with Bill Maher last night. I sometimes think we should just skip them if we miss them, since they’re related to current events, but Beth likes to be caught up and I generally enjoy watching them. Anyway, he had on a comedian named Jerrod Carmichael who, in addition to using the N-word (and yes, he was black), brought up the issue of enjoying a person’s work when the person has done something terrible. It’s a topic I’ve thought about myself pretty often, and my general conclusion is that I don’t have to LIKE a person to enjoy their work, but it’s more challenging when that person is, say, a rapist or a murderer. I don’t know where to draw the line. The example the guest gave was Bill Cosby, and Maher said he never liked Cosby and had heard at least one horror story about his treatment of women back in the early eighties. He did, however, say that Roman Polanski made good movies even after he committed statutory rape. I know he’s elsewhere said there isn’t enough proof of Woody Allen being a molester, and I know he called Sean Penn a friend when I’ve heard he probably abused Madonna. Cosby does have an additional issue in that he’s always put himself on a moral high horse, which I’m pretty sure none of those others have ever done.
Anyway, I tied this to the recent not guilty verdict for Jian Ghomeshi, who back in the nineties was in a band I quite liked.
There was a lot of fandom overlap between Moxy Früvous and my favorite band, They Might Be Giants. In fact, there was a period when some people on the TMBG e-mail list were insisting Früvous was a better band, particularly in terms of their live shows. It mostly had to do with more setlist changes and better showmanship, which I can probably agree with. Except at special shows, TMBG tends to keep a lot of the same stuff in their set for long periods of time. And while I’ve been to TMBG concerts where the Johns were chatty and funny, I’ve also been to some where they just seemed to be going through the motions. What I wonder is why people who felt the TMBG live shows were stale kept attending them. But anyway, it wasn’t long after this that Früvous broke up, and then we heard about Jian being abusive. Because of this, even though I still think their music is good, I can’t bring myself to listen to it. It just seems disturbing, you know? Is that not fair, particularly to the other three members who haven’t been accused of sexual assault? I’ll probably be okay with it again after Jian dies. That apparently worked for Michael Jackson. What I do find interesting is that I didn’t notice any Früvous fans on the Internet jumping to Jian’s defense. I know that doesn’t mean anything in terms of actually getting at the truth, but it’s kind of telling in its own way, if even his fans don’t find him trustworthy. The guy must have been a master at image-crafting, though, because he always made a point of promoting feminism and non-violence. He was probably one of those guys who says they support women just so he can get in their pants, but still. The man who wrote a song about refusing to fight another boy when he was a kid turns out to be incredibly violent toward people weaker than he is?
I have to wonder if part of the reason Jian was found not guilty has to do with differences between the criminal justice systems in the United States and Canada. I took a criminal law class in college, and I remember the professor saying that you couldn’t legally consent to being hurt. If you tell someone they can punch you and they do, you can still press charges.This article suggests that it’s much the same in Canada, although it might be a little more lax. From what I’ve heard, Jian never denied he was violent toward women; he just insisted it was always consensual. And what I’ve heard of verdict suggests it was because the victims couldn’t prove that they didn’t consent, and in some cases continued to date Jian after he injured them. I’m really not sure why that should matter.
I think it also has to do with how only one particular case out of a whole lot of accusations can make it to court, and not all the evidence will be considered relevant to that one case. To get back to Michael Jackson, remember when a woman who had a history of lawsuits sued him, and he was found not guilty? From my non-expert opinion, Jackson definitely came across as someone who didn’t respect boundaries, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he molested kids. That doesn’t mean it happened in that particular case, though. Court cases have to relate to a particular instance of wrong-doing, not just someone generally being a scumbag. And I’m not sure what can be done about that. I want justice for the victims, but perhaps in some ways Jian losing his job and being generally disgraced is a more fitting punishment than jail time. Of course, that brings up the issue of how that could happen to someone who actually DIDN’T do anything. In general, I think it’s much less common for someone to file false rape or abuse charges than it is for people who actually WERE sexually assaulted not to come forward, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. As I said, though, I don’t think it was ever a question whether Jian abused women, just whether there could be any legal ramifications.