What are we supposed to do when our idols disappoint us?

Actor James Franco / Shutterstock

 

It’s a sad day when you’re disappointed by your idols. Upon reading Jack Kerouac’s biography, Desolate Angel (1979), my stomach began to hurt. The “King of the Beats” is by far my favourite writer — wonderful and passionate and witty and full of glee and despair. I see him exactly as the title depicts: desolate and angelic, all mixed up, drunken and confused. Yet on page 227, Dennis McNally, the author of the bio, tells of Kerouac & co. (consisting of fellow Beats, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky among others) visiting a brothel in Mexico City, where Kerouac “chose a fourteen-year-old child.” This is where despite my hope and adoration, my stomach turned and I began to feel anger and disappointment all the same for my beloved Kerouac. A fourteen year old, young enough to be his daughter at that time, who was most likely forced into sex work. A disgusting act by a man who I have loved as an artist. I’ve felt this way before and I have known this disappointment. It is  ever present today, with the likes of James Franco and Louis C.K., and all of the others who have recently been accused.

Both Franco and C.K. were accused of sexual misconduct in early 2018 and late 2017, respectively. Franco claims some allegations aren’t totally accurate, while C.K. admitted to his horrendous masturbatory behaviour. Like Kerouac, these are two men I adore as artists, and even respect as men or rather, respected.

Now I’m confused about what I should do. I believe the women and what they say. In the case of C.K.,  he admitted to it. With Franco, the stories of this accusers have been disputed by the actor. With all the other allegations of sexual misconduct, assault and rape, the entertainment industry and it’s followers have condemned those responsible, cancelling shows, movies, and ostracizing the accused from the industry they once sat atop of. And that’s good. They should be removed from projects, they should be pushed to the far margins of the pages of Hollywood. But the question remains for us mere viewers: What now?

What do we do now? I’m not quite sure. Are we supposed to push the movies, shows and stand up acts of Franco and C.K. to the back of our movie-cabinets never to look at them again? Or do we burn said materials? It is a serious question — are we allowed to enjoy what these people created? — with a murky answer. With the Kerouac-issue, I don’t know if I could ever remove his books from my life, or box them up and exile them to the land of extra dusty closet storage space. Am I not allowed to read his works again? To revel in his tragic up-and-down life of glee and despair?

I’m not sympathizing with assaulters or rapists or men who jerk off in front of women without permission or any of those men. They don’t need my sympathy and they’ll be punished for their crimes in due course. My concern is what we do now with respect to what some of these men have created. How far does it go? Are we allowed to watch movies Harvey Weinstein produced? Are we allowed to watch movies and shows that Kevin Spacey acted in?, Or the ones that Franco acted in or directed, or watch C.K.’s stand up?, or read the works of a man who raped a child?

Many will have definite answers. No, you can’t support that monster ever again. Some  though, may have different views, like that the art can be a separate entity from the artist.  It’s a touchy topic  that is subject of much debate. And that’s okay, we should be allowed to talk about it, to have discussion.

One thing the discussion should not be is the shutting down of discourse.  We should not shut down voices or create a feeling of shame in those who may have different opinions. I’m not saying one opinion is better than another, but we should do our best to hear them out. We are all still asking the same question: What now?

-Theodore Kountourogiannis, Contributor 

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