In my travels through the world of self-help and support groups I met a lot of survivors, mostly survivors of incest. Hearing their stories was an eye-opener especially in terms of how unique each story was. And sometimes how very horrific. But today, one woman’s story stands out. She told us that her father was ideal in many ways: he made her sisters and her a great packed lunch each day, he walked them to and from school when they were little, he helped them with their homework, he provided well financially for his family and he spent every weekend taking them on interesting expeditions. In the daytime he was the perfect father. At night he visited them in their beds and sexually molested them. When she made the abuse public and demanded that the family come out of denial, her sisters had been upset with her. They felt his ‘illness’ was less important than everything else he was.
So what was he: the perfect dad or the pedophile? Does it have to be one or the other?
I was a huge fan of Woody Allen beginning with the first film I saw of his in the ‘70’s, Bananas. From then on every time a new Woody Allen film came out, I was the first in line at the cinema. And that was true until in the ‘90’s he began a relationship with Soon-Yi Previn while still living with his partner, and Soon-Yi’s adoptive mother, actress Mia Farrow . Even though Soon-Yi claimed she had never seen Woody as a father figure, this touched on a few of my own red button issues. I was disgusted with him. I stopped going to his films.
But this was a personal choice.
Can we hate the sin but love the sinner? Can we separate the person from his/her art? Do I want Woody Allen to stop making movies? No. I think he’s a cinematic genius (although a little past his prime now). But neither can we do the opposite. We can’t ignore the sin but we have to remember that people are more than the bad things they do.
On Monday, March 4th, the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland was being discussed on my favourite CBC morning news show, with Heather Hiscox. The idea was raised of whether or not one can still be a fan of someone who has been seriously accused of sexual abuse. Some radio stations had decided to stop playing his music. The cynic in me wonders if they are doing this because of pressure from advertisers or are they truly taking an ethical stance. As for me, I do not want to tread into the delicate world of censorship. All I can do is take a personal stance: don’t go to that movie; turn off the radio.
Is Michael Jackson any less of a musical genius now that we are finally accepting something we’ve actually known about for a few decades? This is not new information: we just chose to be in denial. Does his ‘illness’, which has been suggested is a family trait, make his musical legacy any less important?
People can be many things: brilliant writer and pitiable drunk misogynist; trend setting artist and hopeless/hapless womanizer; respected world leader and mendacious adulterer; crown prince and Nazi. Does the one negate the other? I don’t have an answer. All I know is that anyone who has contact with children needs to be above suspicion. Any one who has control over a child’s welfare needs to be veted.
And I will always reserve the right to not read, not listen to, not vote for those who do not meet my personal standards. This is everyone’s right.