Not All Scumbags Are the Same

As of late, it seems like every celebrity or politician is turning out to be creepy and abusive. I’m glad people are speaking up about it, but it just appears disturbingly common. I’m sure part of it is due to money, power, and fame making people think they can get away with anything (and often actually being able to), but that doesn’t explain why what they want to get away with is so cruel and disgusting. I think occasionally about Jared Fogle from the Subway commercials, who presumably didn’t grow up with celebrity privileges, but was just some more or less random guy who ate subs as part of his diet. You’d think the odds of someone like that being a pedophile would be practically nil, but I guess not. Is it a lot more common than I thought it was? It’s even more difficult when someone you actually admire, because you don’t want it to be true, but you want to believe the accusers as they’re inevitably less powerful and often unfairly criticized or threatened. Supporters will often try to frame it as a smear campaign or a way to get money, even when there’s corroborating evidence and coming forward can seriously hurt your career. That’s not to say there are never false charges; I mean, I’ve come across people who lied even when it wasn’t remotely in their best interest. Hey, I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Jackson really did engage in illegal activity with children, but I remember the last person who brought charges against him being quite litigious. Not that that necessarily means she was wrong, but I can see how it might seem suspicious. In some cases we’ve heard about recently, the abuser has been a rich jerk we want to see taken down a peg: Roy Moore, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, our esteemed President. I’d probably also put Harvey Weinstein in this category, even though Republicans tried to paint him as a typical Hollywood liberal. I don’t think people get attached to producers the way they do actors or directors, though (except maybe when they’re the same people); and they’re really more businesspeople than entertainers anyway. But when you have someone who seems likeable and positively influential, like Al Franken, George Takei, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, that’s much more difficult to process. I’m sure it’s not like that for the victims, though. By the way, I think Michael Jackson taught us that, once a problematic entertainer dies, it’s okay to enjoy their work again.

Not all sexual abuse charges are of men against women, but that seems to be the most prominent, and I’m sure a general hatred of women and desire to defend the patriarchy, even if it isn’t entirely conscious, plays a role. It’s disturbingly common for men to be angry at women in general because they can’t get any of them into bed, never considering that it might be at least partially their own fault. There’s a frequent narrative of the dorky but nice guy having a crush on an attractive popular girl who only dates scumbags, but I’m not entirely sure why these girls are supposed to be such a catch. If you think a girl is that shallow, though, why would you want to date her? It makes more sense if it’s just about sex, because it’s not at all uncommon to be sexually attracted to someone with a terrible personality, although I can’t say I understand what the biological rationale behind that is. But if that’s all it’s about, then maybe you’re not considering that you might also be a scumbag, just in a somewhat different way.

So what the self-styled Christians defending people like Trump and Moore, while still condemning others who have committed sex crimes? Trump recently attacked Franken, which pretty much everybody with a functioning brain realized was really hypocritical. Part of it is that so-called values voters don’t really put that much stock in their values, except maybe they value of upper-class tax cuts. But I’ve also come across references to how, among fundamentalist Christians especially, there’s a lot of false equivalency going on. I believe I’ve written before about how heinous I find the doctrine that all sin is equal before God; Jack Chick was a supporter of this, as was some guy on Lockup Beth still mentions sometimes who insisted stealing a cracker was as bad as murder. But does anyone really believe this? It seems pretty obvious that some things are worse than others, but I guess it’s a good way to excuse yourself while condemning others who have done committed less severely wrong actions. As far as sex goes, it’s apparently quite common in some circles (or should that be crosses?) to treat all sex outside marriage as pretty much equally bad. So yes, molesting a minor is sinful, but it would no worse than, say, having sex with your committed partner the night before you sign the marriage certificate, or basically anything with the same sex even if it’s fully consensual. Consent, which is the main factor in whether something is legal, becomes rather insignificant. The corollary of this is that, once you ARE married, your spouse isn’t allowed to refuse sex. I don’t believe in the concept of sin anyway, but I’d still say it’s a major theological stretch to go from “all people are sinful and have to be forgiven by Jesus” to “every sin is equally forgiveable.” But yeah, I think this can be a major contributing factor to holier-than-thou hypocrisy. It also doesn’t help that the same religious groups tend to support rigid gender roles, and the idea that if a man DOESN’T want to have sex with basically every woman he sees, there’s something wrong with him.

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6 Responses to Not All Scumbags Are the Same

  1. marbpl2 says:

    “By the way, I think Michael Jackson taught us that, once a problematic entertainer dies, it’s okay to enjoy their work again.”

    How and why?

    • Nathan says:

      That was intended as at least somewhat sarcastic, but it really does seem like talk of Jackson’s harassment allegations declined considerably when he died, and his music was played more often. That doesn’t make what he did okay (even if he didn’t do anything illegal, he definitely had some issues), but it seems like people tend to forgive the dead more readily.

      • marbpl2 says:

        I recall that Jackson was on the verge of a comeback in 2003 from his decade old first scandal when the second one broke.

        And even today, it is rare for Israeli orchestras to play the ant-semitic Richard Wagner’s music.

  2. rocketdave says:

    It is pretty crazy to see the ways some people have been bending over backwards to defend Roy Moore’s pedophilia recently. It just goes to show the moral bankruptcy of the right.

    I think it’s good that there’s less tolerance of “scummy” behavior lately, but this type of thing definitely is difficult to process when it’s someone I like and/or admire. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a prime example, though I have to say, I’m far from convinced that he did anything- I’ve seen some people poke holes in his accuser’s story. It’s tough… I don’t want to seem like I’m in any way allying myself with those “red pill” creeps who seem to think most rape accusations are fake, but there is such a thing as innocent until proven guilty. I do think the majority of people who come forward with stories of sexual harassment or assault are being truthful, but you can’t say with absolute certainty 100% are telling the truth when there obviously have been exceptions. It doesn’t seem fair to automatically take the alleged victim’s side every single time unless the accused can somehow prove them wrong. I see Woody Allen often mentioned among lists of sexual predators, and I don’t know if he is or isn’t, but it’s never been demonstrated that he did anything. I hate to seem like I’m just looking for excuses to dismiss disturbing allegations made against people whose work I’ve enjoyed. I mean, in the case of Bill Cosby, it’s painful to accept that he’s a rapist – I remember my kneejerk reaction was to not want to believe it – but it’s impossible to ignore, given the ample evidence, not to mention his own admission. It’s just,when I don’t know what the truth is, I’m not sure why I’m expected to assume the worst every time. And if a person is a creep, does that invalidate everything they’ve ever done? I can’t bring myself to listen to Cosby’s comedy anymore, yet I just ended up rewatching a Roman Polanski movie last night, and I don’t know if it’s okay for me to say that I still like it. Well, those are some thoughts I’ve been grappling with.

    • Nathan says:

      While there’s no straightforward answer, I have heard it suggested that how much of a person is in their work is significant. With Louis C.K., for instance, his comedy was personal, and the actions he was accused of fit with his ongoing theme of humiliation. Woody Allen had a lot of movies that involved old men getting together with young women, or just infidelity in general. Doesn’t mean he necessarily did anything, but the accusations make viewers see that stuff in a different light. I’m not sure that really fits with Polanski, but I think the only thing I’ve seen directed by him was Rosemary’s Baby, and there’s nothing in that about pedophilia. (There’s rape, but since it’s by the straight-up Devil, it can hardly be seen as normal.) The severity is also relevant. But in many cases, I think all of us pick and choose somewhat arbitrarily.

      • rocketdave says:

        Yeah, something like Woody Allen’s Manhattan, which has a middle aged Woody dating a seventeen year old Mariel Hemingway, already feels a bit creepy by itself, and that type of thing sure doesn’t help his image overall. I once estimated I’d seen half of Allen’s oeuvre. I’ve seen far fewer of Polanski’s films, but I have watched Repulsion and Death and the Maiden, which both happen to be about women dealing with past sexual trauma. The one I watched the other night, however, was The Ninth Gate, which, like Rosemary’s Baby, is a Satanic thriller of sorts, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. It’s an interesting film. Anyway, maybe I’m a bit more sympathetic towards Polanski because of the tragedy in his life, not that that in any way excuses what he did.

        Somebody once recommended the William H. Macy-directed movie Rudderless to me. It partly deals with whether or not it’s possible to separate the art from the artist, though I guess it ultimately leaves it up to the viewer to make up their own mind.

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