More and more, I’ve been challenged by those I once admired, the people I found talented and intelligent and provided me with entertainment. I don’t need everyone to agree with my personal opinions, but when their “opinions” prove to be problematic…when they are not so much about what they believe, but about human beings, about treating people like human beings, when their behavior shows me that they are not good people, it throws me into a whirlwind of emotions.
I always have trouble separating the hateful ways they speak and behave from their characters or their creations. For some actors I have completely written them off and I can’t watch anything of theirs. Kevin Spacey and Adam Baldwin are two that come to mind.
Recently we’ve learned things about others that have me in the same mind-frame. Gina Carano falls into this category for me. J.K. Rowling is another. And most recently, Joss Whedon. These last two were harder hitting for me, because they are not actors. They are not people who I can just say, they suck and I won’t watch their work anymore.
Because both have created worlds that stand without them now. Worlds that live inside me, if you know what I mean. While I was older than the target audience for Buffy, there was something about it that spoke to a deep need inside of me. It went beyond “girl power” or the teenage angst. It had to do with the personal relationships, the characters who were more than just caricatures of high school kids and the relationships built on shared experience.
There was something about watching the “kids” grow up, seeing friendships grow and change that felt real to me. To this day, I re-watch the entire show every few years.
To find out now about the way Joss treated women, despite his public stance about writing strong women, is heartbreaking. The same kind of heartbreak that came when Rowling started being anti-trans.
I could let that heartbreak tarnish the things they created, the things that comfort me and bring me joy. Or I can divorce them from those things. I can relegate them to the side of things where I no longer spend money on what they create, where I no longer interact with anything new they create, where I do my part to ensure that the people who might pay them for things know that their audience is reduced due to their behavior.
But what I won’t do? I won’t let them steal the things that Buffy or Harry Potter mean to me. They live on beyond the bad actions of those who created them. The characters, and the actors who embody them, live outside of that world now.
The problem with heroes is that all too often we forget that, like us, they are human beings. Fallible. Filled with contradictions. Capable of good and bad. And just because they do something that we like doesn’t mean that they are perfect or worthy of adulation.
It isn’t cancel culture to hold people accountable for the things that they do and the things that they say. In fact, I think that what it is, is a sign that society is maturing to a degree. We’ve learned. We’re changing for the better (I hope)…and that growth is not going to be easy, and we will have to keep fighting and keep the growth safe against the backlash of the dying society we want to leave behind and their death-flails.
We need to come to a place of true equality, and equity for all, without regard to their gender, their physical sex, their skin color, their religion or their sexuality. Part of getting there is necessarily letting those who won’t join the journey fall to the wayside.
Love what you love, Readers, and keep growing past those who hate and mistreat others.