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Separating good work from a bad person

Originally published September 10, 2010

During a typically boring summer day in Arkansas, Sue (my mom) and I were shuffling through my John Mayer playlist (Yes, I have a whole playlist dedicated to him).

As soon as the guitar chords for “No Such Thing” started playing, I could see Sue roll her eyes before commenting, “Do we have to listen to this? He’s such a tool.”

While I’ve never listened to Mayer’s music for his winning personality (I’m a sucker for poppy singer-songwriters), I easily get lost in the cheesy, romantic lyrics and can separate his womanizing, seedy persona from whatever he sings.

Sometimes, though, being a douchebag is the least of a musician or actor’s worries.

This summer saw the explosion of Mel Gibson’s already-shaky persona, a train wreck so mystifyingly horrible that it wasn’t even fun to watch.

If Gibson only ran his mouth a little too much to the press about his sex life, it might be easier to separate Gibson the person from Gibson the actor.

Instead, no matter what kind of blackmail his ex-girlfriend planned, the racist and misogynistic words that overflowed from his mouth seemed to erase any good film he ever had a part in creating.

Throughout his career, Gibson has hit some critical highs, such as “Braveheart” and “The Patriot,” followed by standard, expected lows.

None of those lows are anywhere near the personal rock bottom he has reached as of late.

To watch a movie of his now is painful, especially when it’s a romantic role, as those becomes cringe-worthy.

I find it hard to believe the loving words coming out of his mouth after hearing all the filth that came from the same place.

Amy Winehouse and Chris Brown are two other infamous members of this morally bankrupt group.

Each brings talent to their respected fields, but their popularity becomes a hot topic every time either releases anything new. 

It was difficult to admit to my friends, and myself, that I liked Chris Brown’s new music more than Rihanna’s, as if my support for his songs subsequently defended his unforgivable actions.

Legally and/or morally, what these people did is wrong.

There’s no arguing against that.

Artistically though, what they have done is good, maybe even great. While I will never defend what these people did, I have a hard time swearing off any of their future works because of who they are.

After the 2008 Grammys, many were calling for Winehouse to return her award for her coked out, crazy antics and generally destructive attitude.

Miss Manners doesn’t hand out the awards, though. And shouldn’t her musical talent be enough to earn the win?

Should you feel guilty for liking the work of these people?

If you have even some semblance of a conscious, you probably do.

Appreciating the art and respecting the person are two different things, and drawing a line between them is a challenge. If that line is skillfully drawn, however, the outcome just might be worth the risk. 

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