Friday, 1 March 2019

When someone you like does something you don't - or vice versa.

I'm reading a highly entertaining book at the moment called 'The Book of Bad Virtues'. It's a collection of anecdotes, poems, and mini-essays extolling the, well, virtues, of disobedience, greed, slacking and so on. It's a book that can be dipped into, or read cover to cover, and is good for reading short extracts out loud.

It's also very clever.

I was so struck by the intellectual humour that I googled the author. His pedigree is strong, starting off in the Cambridge Footlights, being an early writer for Spitting Image, and then departing to the US where he continued to write, act and produce.

But his career seems to have ground to a halt more recently, round about the time an allegation was printed in a major US newspaper regarding sexual impropriety and one of his children.

If the allegations are true, then he has a very seamy side. He would not be the kind of person that one would want to support, and I'm a tiny bit relieved that the book was passed on to me for free and that no further money went in the author's direction.

But in the light of other stories about, for example, Ryan Adams and fans wanting refunds on their tickets (and today it was announced that he has scrapped his UK tour) following unsavoury rumours in the press, it is something that is very relevant.

It can be very difficult to separate out a person's skill from their personal behaviour. We have enough difficulty distinguishing between actors and the characters they play, or their public persona from their private selves, so that is hardly surprising.

But does it matter? If someone has a history of being, say, a sex offender, should we support their artistic endeavours, thus putting money in their pockets? If only the accused were involved, it would be an easier decision. But that is not always the case, and therein lies a problem.

There is a boycott being proposed in the theatre world in the US over the licensing of differing versions of 'To Kill a Mockingbird', in which the lawyers of a more recent one have forced the closure of a number of community theatre productions rather than face legal action. Who is harmed by such a boycott? Certainly, the name at the centre of the legal controversy is harmed, but so too are the employees of the Broadway theatre, the cast of the play, and a whole load of other people associated with the production but completely uninvolved in the threatened lawsuits.

At what point does our moral outrage at the behaviour of one individual outweigh the need to support the livelihoods of totally different people? And all this, of course, assumes that the one individual is in fact guilty of whatever the behaviour is that has caused such offence. A potentially big assumption....

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