Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ben & Jerry's, Bob Dylan, Bill Cosby

My opinion on celebrities being involved in politics (or anything else) is that their work on the field, or on stage, or on screen, or in the recording studio, is absolutely independent of the celebrity in question. I absolutely love folk music, and Bob Dylan, and groups like Coldplay and The Decemberists, but they're all liberals and some have actively campaigned for the Democrat party. I don't care... I will listen to them anyway, even sing (in Peter Paul and Mary's case) anti-war songs and songs about peace and brotherhood and all that, because the work of art is separate from the often current political arena. (There are a couple of exceptions, those that gush politics. I loved John Mayer's first mainstream album, but then his album quality went downhill and his third was almost exclusively anti-Bush, so....)

But that doesn't apply just to singers. I've had people tell me they won't eat Ben & Jerry's ice cream because they believe in Gay rights. Good... more for me to eat. If the product they make is superior in quality (not to mention delicious), they could fornicate with goats and I wouldn't care.

Case in point... Consider Bill Cosby. Let's assume that everything that all these women have said are true about him, and he has an uncontrollable desire to sexually assault drugged dates. And obviously he hasn't handled it well, and he should retire and get out of the limelight. Now, go back and watch episodes of the Cosby Show, or his stand up routines. Hilarious! Insightful! Masterful work! To me, his art is separate from him as a person. And years from now, after he dies and everything is forgiven (which usually happens), the issues he faces now will be an asterisk (although a damning one) on his life, but people will still gush about how he has changed their lives.

Because in the end, I don't care about the politics, about who is married to whom and who voted for Obama and who didn't.  I really don't even care about the actions that people did in the past (although it doesn't speak well for the people involved, and it does hurt their effect on people.)  Imagine all the young people who, in the 1960's and 70's, aspired to be a running back just like O.J. Simpson.  How many running backs, some of whom are now probably hold records at colleges and maybe in Halls of Fame someplace, looked up to Simpson as a role model and emulated his style of play on the field? The fact that O.J. (probably) killed his ex-wife and is now in jail for robbery doesn't detract from the positive effect his football career had on other people.  We watch the Naked Gun movie with Leslie Neilsen and laugh, even though Simpson is the comedy sidekick.

It's what effects me that I care about.  It's the times when we sat in the living room of our Oklahoma City house and watched Bill Cosby Himself on HBO and laughed so hard that we couldn't eat the dinners on the television trays.  It's about the time when, alone at Georgia College, the music of Peter Paul and Mary spoke to me, even though they were liberal activists (and I going to meetings of the College Republicans), and in past years Peter Yarrow was convicted of making sexual advanced toward a then 14 year old girl (he didn't know it at the time and was later pardoned by Carter).  It's about the amazing taste of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, especially the caramel core flavor with the rich caramel cream right through the center.... so good!!

I understand the idea behind not buying something because you don't believe in the same things as the maker, to underscore some point by affecting them financially.  I guess to me it's more about my happiness (short term or otherwise) than some statement I might make by not buying something. I enjoy the ice cream, I have cravings for Chick-fil-a's Milkshakes (usually on a Sunday), I find music that I like, even though their political beliefs are different... it doesn't matter to me.  Would we have the Mona Lisa torn down and destroyed because of Leonardo da Vinci's supposed erotic relationships with his male students?  Do we decry the works of Lewis Carroll because his known attraction to little girls? Of course, these examples are in the past.  Something tells me that, years from now, when Bill Cosby is years deceased, and the accusations have long been silenced with money, someone will find his comedic works languishing on Youtube, and they will laugh, and he will be treasured once again.  Is it right? I don't know.  But I do know that his performances are worth keeping, outside of whatever he himself has done.  Let us praise the work, even while the artist is punished.  Let us see the beauty in a song or a painting, even if we don't agree with those that made it.

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