Boycotting Bad People [FB/BT/WMQ]
July 16th, 2010 by Dan

Voici mon chouchou : Mel Gibson.

Just last week it happened again. A high-profile celebrity revealed what a dirtbag he was in the most public way possible and it brings up the same question it always does. Am I supporting his/her ideologies by supporting their art? Am I a bad person by proxy?

Back around when The Passion of the Christ was released, Mel Gibson’s previous scandal arose out of him blaming Jewish people for all the woes of the world. Most everyone dismissed it as loony, drunk talk and his career wasn’t ruined, but I found myself cooled toward the actor and I started trying to avoid Mel Gibson’s work. When Apocalyptico came out, I purposely avoided it on principle.

Now Gibson is in the news again for racism, homophobia, and domestic violence and I’ve found myself repeating my vows to not consume his media. With Mel Gibson it’s easy. I have no real desire to watch his movies, old or new, so it’s kind of an empty decision of mine. It’s so empty that it actually forced me to confront the relationship I had with other “bad people” and the inconsistencies with how I’ve dealt with them.

The most prominent of these would be the author of one of my favorite book series, Orson Scott Card. In OSC’s case, I ignore his homophobia and strict, right-wing tendencies because I love his work and rationalize that it’s ok to enjoy his art without enjoying him. In other words, I’m a giant hypocrite.

It puts me in a tricky situation. Do I refuse to watch Roman Polanski movies because he raped a thirteen-year-old? I dislike Barry Bonds because he used steroids and he’s an all-around asshole, but shouldn’t I also give Hanley Ramirez a harder time for also being an asshole whose insufferable actions have embarrassed my team and caused them to lose a game here or there?

What do you readers think? Do any of you boycott people for one thing, but don’t boycott other similarly bad people? Is there a sliding scale of morality and acceptance?

6 Responses  
  • Min writes:
    July 16th, 201011:06at

    Interesting. I think this is related to a classic logical fallacy that shows up a lot in debate called “Ad hominem”

    Where people would try to discredit an argument by attacking the author of the evidence.

    It’s not exactly applicable though, because you’re talking more about art and supporting his work monetarily, which has other ramifications. I.e. Does supporting his non-racist work help finance his racist work?

    But personally, I believe art and other works should stand by their own merits. If I am not oppose to the work itself, then I don’t see why the author’s personal opinion should matter. I find this especially true for Ender’s Game and it’s sequels, where tolerance of those that are different and xenophobia is pretty big theme.

    • Dan writes:
      July 16th, 201011:35at

      In Orson Scott Card’s case, financing the Ender books does allow him to also write his Mormon-themed literature. I’m not saying it’s a perfect example, I mean, OSC does his best to express how open-minded he is and, despite his beliefs, he seems to be supportive of dissenting views. It’s tough.

      Consider Wagner, great German composer whose anti-Semitic work has been linked to Nazi ideology. It’s a huge deal in Israel to perform it there. It’s not banned, but the man, who was dead long before the Nazis ever existed, was cited as influential to people like Hitler. Is this unreasonable? (I know I just Godwin’s Law-ed this, but stick with me here)

      Where do I draw the line on my hypocrisy? OSC believes things I truly don’t agree with, but I’m giving him a pass because his art doesn’t reflect it and I like his work. I remember giving my mom a hard time about not liking Clinton because he cheated on his wife, stating that his political skill should supersede his personal life, but here I am making similar judgment calls about actors, authors, and athletes. In a perfect world I’d simply consume objectively based on merit, not ideology, but, as you and I talked about with Kai recently, shouldn’t it be my responsibility, if I truly support an idea, not to support a man or woman who stands for and encourages things I don’t agree with? I might not be putting out racist messages myself, like Gibson, but buying tickets to see his movies enables him to remain famous and espouse his terrible ideas that many decry, but some derive justification from. It’s complicated!

      • Min writes:
        July 16th, 201016:53at

        Right, it becomes very messy once it becomes an issue of actually supporting the person physically, and it’s hard to say for sure what I’d do. For example if the KKK started selling delicious cookies, I definitely wouldn’t buy them purely out of principle. But how much different is that than paying to watch one of Crazy Mel’s movies?

      • klaygenie writes:
        July 16th, 201018:53at

        Oh jeez. I was going to write how art should totally be separate from the artist. But then you just had to tie it into that other argument I made. And now it’s going to sound hypocritical.

        But I still believe the separation – in most cases – is valid. Card’s opinions that I don’t agree with aren’t in his books that I like/buy and I don’t buy his literature that I disagree with. So while you could see any purchase of his art as supporting his questionable opinions, you can also see it as positive reinforcement for him to write more like Ender’s Game and not like his less popular stuff. Same goes for Gibson and Polanski.

        It gets much trickier when the “art” is the person – in cases of athletes on steroids or politicians and scandals. Since steroids would impact an athlete’s performance, it’s too hard to separate what’s the drugs from what’s the person. Same with politicians – it seems somewhat reasonable to assume that bad moral decisions in your personal life could easily translate to questionable decisions in other areas.

        side note: These were my thoughts on Polanski, which links to an article on separating artists from the art:

  • Eric Mesa writes:
    July 21st, 201022:36at

    Your karma is balanced if you watch the South Park episodes featuring Gibson.

    • Dan writes:
      July 22nd, 20107:53at

      Satire is best for a clear conscience.

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