It’s a sad reality that, even looking back through the ages to writers and painters and musicians of centuries past, far too many great artists and entertainers have turned out to be not-so-great people in real life. With the Bill Cosby scandal still in the news and seemingly getting worse by the day, this week’s Roundtable will examine other celebrities whose work we may enjoy even as we lament the way they’ve behaved or the things they’ve done off-camera.
This week’s topic is sort of a corollary to one we ran a few months ago, called “You’re Dead to Me.” The difference is that, in these new examples, we have decided that we can separate the artists as people from the work they’ve created, rather than writing them off completely.
My pick for this topic is Mel Gibson. While it’s hard these days to separate the work from the person, I have to confess still enjoy the heck out of the ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘Mad Max’ movies. Gibson was also developing into a heck of a great director when his personal issues started to implode his career. Is Gibson beyond redemption? I hope not, because I’d love to see Mel get his act together and find a way to atone for his mistakes.
M. Enois Duarte
Perhaps his crime is not as bad as others, but Paul Reubens‘ arrest is probably one of the most embarrassing. Famous for portraying the man-child Pee-wee Herman, the comedian and star of a popular Saturday morning kids’ program was publicly humiliated for essentially being a normal man with certain needs doing a very normal, and healthy I might add, activity. Sadly, pleasing one’s self inside a movie theater was probably not the best place for it. Even sadder, Reubens once again made headlines in 2002 when he turned himself in to the LAPD and was charged with possession of obscene material that he claimed belonged to Rob Lowe.
Maybe it’s because I’ve recently been rewatching the very fun ‘I Love the 80s’ series, but it’s pretty fascinating to not only see all the people, movies , music and so forth from the 1980s, but also the early-2000s commentary on them. As such, plenty of candidates that have produced quality entertainment but been very weird in making news cross my mind now.
In the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, Michael Jackson went from an extreme talent to extremely freaky, and there seemed to be no limit to how bizarre his actions and the events around him were. Even after he died, the oddity continued. Fortunately, it’s been long enough now that it’s easier to recall just how talented and popular he and his music were.
Have you ever overreacted to such an exceptionally high degree that, no matter whether you felt it was justified or not, the next day you looked back and thought to yourself, “Man, that was dumb”? Mel Gibson has had several tarnishing events in his time in the public eye, but I have a feeling that those angry recordings are one of those instances that he reflects on and says, “I certainly could have handled that better.”
Combine those bad moments with his racial outbursts and you’ll see exactly why the man’s career is basically gone now. Fully aware of his issues, I still love what he achieved in his work life. Not only is he a great actor (I particularly love him in ‘Conspiracy Theory’, ‘Signs’ and ‘Payback’), but he’s a wonderful director too. ‘Braveheart’ is the obvious title to reference here, but you can’t dismiss ‘Apocalypto’ or ‘The Passion of Christ’. If only he wasn’t such a dick…
I’m going with Joan Crawford. I knew of her as a bad person long before I knew her as a good actress. My first experiences were the ‘Mommy Dearest’ movie about her with the “NO WIRE HANGERS EVER” craziness. Then I saw ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’, and even though she’s the nice one in that movie, I still saw her as crazy by association. It wasn’t until I came across early movies like ‘Dancing Daughters’ that I realized what an absolutely stunning beauty she was. Then in her later films like ‘Mildred Pierce’, I saw the depth of talent she had.
Crawford struggled with alcoholism, had multiple failed marriages, and may have abused her children, and I can accept that as part of who she was, but I’m also glad to have gotten to know her for the parts she showed us on the silver screen.
I don’t know whether Bill Cosby is really a serial rapist or not. Some of the allegations against him are so outrageous as to defy credibility (and some of the accusers less than reliable sources… ahem, Janice Dickinson), but the sheer volume of accusations is getting to be basically impossible to dismiss at this point. Even before this scandal broke, I’d often find Cosby to come across as off-putting, pretentious and condescending in interviews – and that coldness (in such stark contrast to the warm and fuzzy characters he’s played as an actor) has made it pretty easy to believe what people are saying about him now.
I think Michael Che had the best line about this scandal in the Weekend Update segment on ‘SNL’ a couple weeks ago when he said, “While I may never forgive Bill Cosby, I hope maybe someday I can forgive Dr. Huxtable.”
Up until and even a little after the recent flare-up of these rape accusations (and these were not the first time he’d ever been accused of this), the TVLand network had been running marathons of ‘The Coby Show’ on the weekends, and I’d caught a bunch of episodes, which reminded me of just how genuinely great a TV show it was. Not only was it a terrific family comedy with endearing, relatable characters, ‘The Cosby Show’ was a breakthrough in the way that African Americans were presented and portrayed on television, and (ironically) created numerous strong roles for women. It was an important, landmark series, and it would pain me greatly if it were pulled from the air forever and never shown again.
If Bill Cosby really is a rapist, history should judge him harshly. But I really believe that future generations, my own kids included, deserve the opportunity to get to know Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable. Bill Cosby may not be a good man, but Cliff Huxtable was a great one.
What celebrities have forced you to separate the artist from his or her art? Tell us about them in the Comments below.