Five Amazing Celebrity Performers Whose Art Is So Good That Their Problematic Histories with Women Are Often Overlooked

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Five Amazing Celebrity Performers Whose Art Is So Good That Their Problematic Histories with Women Are Often Overlooked

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | March 27, 2014 | Comments ()


I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan, and if you’re an Atlanta Braves fan, Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox is as revered as Greg Maddux, Dale Murphy, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. I think Cox is one of the greatest (regular season) managers of all time, and yet, I always remember this disturbing incident in the back of my brain in 1995 where his wife called the cops because he punched her and called her a bitch.

That incident made headlines for about 18 hours, and then Bobby Cox said that it’d all been blown out of proportion, his wife dropped the charges, and no one really ever mentioned it again. Why? Because he was an amazing goddamn baseball manager, and we don’t like to think about the things that knock our heroes off their pedestals. We gloss over it, repress it, and we try to hold these men with high regard despite their troubling pasts, even if — as in Cox’s case — it was only an isolated incident (at least that we know of).

Likewise, we love Ben Affleck. He’s a two-time Oscar winner, great director, is a wonderful father, a great husband, he advocates for great causes, and he’s going to be Batman, for God’s sake. But still, whenever I think about Affleck the person, there’s that nagging moment I always remember, even while he’s speaking gracefully about Americna foreign policy on Bill Maher’s show. Granted, Affleck was very drunk in this interview, it came during a period in which he was drinking heavily, and he was younger, less mature, and making bad movies like Jersey Girl. But damn, he really could be kind of a slimy, drunken sleazeball, as this mostly forgotten interview from a decade ago attest.

Again, he was drunk, and even a little bit charming beneath all the sleaziness, but if nearly any other actor had tried to pull this, his PR people would’ve been all over it, he’d have ended up in rehab the next morning, and there would’ve been so many apologies.

David Letterman is my childhood idol. He’s from Indiana. He’s progressive, but he still has some of those Midwestern values. I looked up to no one more than I looked up to Letterman growing up, so it was devastating to find out that he’d been cheating on the mother of his child with multiple women, including two interns, at least, one of which was still a student at NYU.

In most workplaces, that will get you fired, but Worldwide Pants, Letterman’s own production company, did not prohibit sexual relationships between employees, not even subordinates. There was a big stink for a few weeks, we forgave him, and we mostly forgot about it. Letterman, while not the most popular in the ratings, is once again the most revered host in late night. We overlook the artist because of the art.

Ben Folds is one of my all-time favorite musicians, but the man is a hounddog. He’s been married four times (and he’s currently in a relationship with Alicia Witt, who plays Wendy Crowe on Justified). There’s nothing technically wrong with that, of course. Lots of people have a troubling history of marital problems, but the disturbing thing that always stuck with me about Folds is an interview he gave several years where spoke about writing Way to Normal about his divorce (that album, by the way, includes the song, “Bitch Went Nutz”) and the euphoria he felt when his divorce had finally freed him from this woman who gave birth to his two children, who he adores, who he has written songs about. He also said that several songs on his previous album had been inspired by problems with his then wife. Go back and listen to “Landed,” and you’ll understand why it was such a mean thing for him to say. And the thing about Folds is that, he’s such an amazing, talented, thoughtful, and introspective artist, that he often gets a pass for his casual sexism.

And then there’s Bill Murray, the most famous man on the Internet. We talk about how much we love his movies. We talk about his Zen-like philosophy. We talk about how awesome it was that he fired his agent (never mind that she was the one who connected him with Wes Anderson and got him the role in Lost in Translation, and gave him the second career that allowed him to be in a position to fire his agent), and we flip out whenever he randomly shows up at some college kid’s party. What do we not talk about? The reason why he and Harold Ramis had a falling out. The reason why Richard Dreyfuss despises Bill Murray. His reputation for being difficult. Or how horrible he was to Lucy Liu on the set of Charlie’s Angels. And we never talk about his ex-wife’s allegations in their divorce papers of Murray’s “adultery, addiction to marijuana and alcohol, abusive behavior, physical abuse, sexual addictions and frequent abandonment.” Or the fact that he allegedly threatened to kill his wife.

Why? Because he’s Bill f**king Murray, that’s why. He was in Stripes and Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters, so we let it go. We let the art elevate the man, and chalk it all up to the heat of the moment, right?

But here’s the most troubling one for me, if only because my knowledge of it is so recent (yesterday, in fact). I love Louis C.K. He’s the greatest stand-up comedian of our generation. There’s definitely a vocal minority that has issues with him and thinks that some of his stand-up bits are troubling. But I think they’re mostly funny, and wise, and thoughtful, and very frequently, they are astoundingly progressive. He’s got this recent bit that I love about how “there is no greater threat to women than men” that I thought was both insightful and hilarious, although a certain kind of feminist can read into a negative implication that’s not exactly woman-friendly. I’m not that person, but I get it.

But then I stumbled upon this old interview on the Opie and Anthony Show from several years ago, while Louis was still married. My guess is that his divorce came soon after this interview, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it played a role in it.

This is not a bit. This is not a “Oh, women are so crazy!” joke This is personal. And it is fucking cruel, and harsh, and there’s no way to listen to it without thinking that what he’s saying is incredibly shitty, and if you want to know what kind of environment this kind of conversation fosters, read the comments.

If you can’t watch, here’s a taste.

“I came home and I showed [my wife] all these offers, and you guys [Anthony and Opie, who were sponsoring his stand-up tour] are paying really good money, and like it’s, I don’t have a TV job right now, so that’s my income. And I showed it to her and she’s like [sarcastically], “Yeah, great. So, you’re going out of town, leaving me with the kids?” I’m like, fuck you, How much money do you make? Would you rather starve to death and let the kids get skinny, you ungrateful c*nt?” … The point is, is that I enjoy my job. She wishes I was doing a miserable job, and then she’d be proud of me for debasing myself for putting a roof over our head. But because of women’s liberation, because women have careers, we’re not allowed to say we’re ‘providers’ anymore, if you’re a man. But the fact is, my wife lives off my fucking work and doesn’t do shit … the fact is, she just eats food that I buy for her, and I’m not allowed to point that out or I’m a male chauvinist. I’m a pig.”

There’s more to it in the interview, and if you listen to it, it’s impossible to chalk up as a bit. Or a joke. Or in jest. It could’ve been that he was going through marital problems, and he just took out his frustrations on this radio show, but he did it in such a way that, well, it stung. It soured me on Louis C.K. a little.

But nobody remembers that interview. Nobody talks about it, because he wasn’t as famous at the time. It was the past (not that far in the past), so we forgive him. We love Louis C.K. because he has a brilliant sitcom. Because he was good on Saturday Night Live (where he’ll be hosting again this weekend). Or because he’s basically written commandments with which we can all live by. He’s Louis C.K., and the world is gonna give his blatant sexism a free pass.

Hell, I’m personally not going to stop enjoying the comedy of Louis C.K., but I’m sure that that interview, like the Affleck interview, like Murray’s domestic violence charges, and like Ben Folds’ writing cruel songs about his ex-wife, is going to stick with me in the back of my mind and color everything I hear from him from now on.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • whatiswrongwithyoulolz

    I love this article because it hits so close to home. I live in Los Angeles and in a relationship with someone that is "in the business." The reality of Hollywood is that it's full of narcissists with huge egos that although they are beloved by the public, they treat the people in their personal lives like crap, like they are disposable objects that live to serve them. I see it all the time. There's a magic in entertaining other people. Watching someone that is good at their craft is almost hypnotizing, it makes you feel good. What the general public doesn't know is that the comedian they just paid to see that made them laugh for an hour is going to go home, get wasted and scream at their wife or girlfriend until the sun comes up. The more power you have, the less consequences you have to face.

  • duckandcover

    No one remembers Jim Carrey cheating on his wife with Dumb & Dumber co-star Lauren Holly, who he married in 1996 when he divorced in 1995.

    There's also Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, and Roman Polanski, all mentioned in the comments below.

  • Barry

    Echoing another comment, anyone who didn't observe Ben Folds to be a smug, self-satisfied douchebag simply wasn't paying attention.

  • mairimba

    The only bad thing I see about the Louis CK situation is that is was public. I have seen this happen on both sides from non-famous people plenty of times. When you're mad and frustrated at someone it can get the worst out of you. We've all gone through similar situations.

  • HelloLongBeach

    Louis C.K. is like a reverse Lena Dunham? Thank goodness for the picture of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory with Nic Cage's face photoshopped in for Johnny Depp in the Around the Webb portion of this page or I might just think about this more.

  • Guest

    This list could be so much longer, contain so many more performers that everyone adores. Even if it's just an allegation and never verified, I tend to find that when this stuff comes out, I withdraw from that celebrity. It's a shame. I wish less people where assholes to each other, and it makes the pool of people I adore and want to meet smaller each time.

    Mark Wahlberg, lets not forget, blinded a man. And when asked about it he said he had forgiven himself. He also used to throw rocks and racially abuse African American children.

    But, you know, softly spoken nice guy, so lets forgive him, right? I don't give a shit if he was a young, angry man with drug problems.

    His words on the matter of that guy he partially blinded, an elderly homeless man

    "He said the right thing to do would be to try to find the blinded man and make amends, and admitted he has not done so, but added that he was no longer burdened by guilt: "You have to go and ask for forgiveness and it wasn't until I really started doing good and doing right by other people, as well as myself, that I really started to feel that guilt go away. So I don't have a problem going to sleep at night. I feel good when I wake up in the morning."

  • manting

    You are forgetting that Marky Mark said if he was on the 9/11 flight from Boston he would have stopped the terrorists. That's right a 5 foot nothing actor with no formal training in weapons or hand to hand combat, who had to use prosthetics to make his dick look big says he would have fucked up 4 terrorists.

  • Maddy

    Wow. I love Louis CK, but that interview was troubling. Especially since his comedy seems so progressive and feminist. I guess people say horrible shit they don't mean when they're getting divorced? My brain hurts

  • Ben

    Apart from the Bill Murray story wich... seriously ouch... and the baseball one, but I'd never heard of him before this article so eh.
    These just seem like it makes them look like actual people.
    Who hasn't said shitty things about an ex, or got drunk and acted like an idiot. That's how people are? You can't expect people that make the art you like to be flawless perfect human beings. People go through rough times and do shitty things. Weather it's a famous commedian/song writer or just a friend getting drunk going through a break up saying his ex was a fucking bitch faced whore.
    If anyone can say that you could go back through everything they've done in their life and not find anything mean, offensive or stupid that they've done their a god damm liar. We just luckily don't have our lives and past experiences disected by media.

    As far as I'm concerned unless they've either done some stuff that actually seriously hurt people,(Mathew Broderick, Polanski) or have just continued to be irredeemable unrepenting arseholes.(Alec Baldwin, Mel Gibson) Then shit I'm not going to let someone saying some shitty things while going through a break up or while they were drunk a decade ago sour me on a person. That's just them being flawed humans.

  • googergieger

    Man, you'd expect some riddles thrown in to go along with this level of trolling.

  • Tim

    Maybe this isn't the right site to include him, but, Kobe Bryant.

  • emmettdigger

    This is one of the many problems with celebrity worship. People we like, people we love or that we identify with, say and do fucked up shit. I bet some of the things I've said - if publicized - would make me look like a complete asshole, but the stuff I say isn't publicized. I really don't think this matters. I like most of the artists/actors discussed above and if I stopped liking/listening/watching them b/c of their fucked up politics, I wouldn't have anything to do. You can't throw a stone in this world and not find someone who's said or done something stupid/racist/sexist/heteronormative etc.

  • amanda

    Clearly Louis C.K. had marital problems. This we know. And I'm sure there was a lot more to it than just where the money was coming from. LCK said some shitty things, so I'm not crazy about defending him, but hear me out. My fiance is a civilian mariner and he's often gone to sea for months at a time. I'm currently unemployed and he's supporting me, and he's gone right now, and it sucks. But he's supporting me, you know? Getting pissed off at someone when he's willingly supporting's not cool. And I'm sure it would suck even more if we had kids. I mean, I fucking hate his job as it is, so kids would really make it tough...on BOTH of us. But, you know...this is what I signed up for, when I agreed to be with him. I knew what he did for a living. I didn't know how hard it would be, though, back then. And some people in that situation can't handle it, and I don't blame them one bit. I don't blame Louis C.K.'s wife for being pissed off and frustrated. But does he have a point about her being a twat about it? Yeah, I think he absolutely does. The one who has to leave and go work does NOT have it easy. I have to remind myself of that all the time- that it sucks for him, that it sucks being out to sea and away from home. And if we had kids, it would be so much harder for him to be away from them. And LCK loves the shit out of his kids, we all know that. I don't think he should have aired that dirty laundry the way he did, but it's a shitty situation to be in and I don't really blame him for getting heated about it.

  • John G.

    Dustin, I bet you've said some shit you wish you could take back, but luckily you didn't spend 30 years going on radio shows where you can find audio of it on the internet today, or we'd probably have some shit to shove in your face.

    I don't forgive Louis because of his art, but because it's not a pattern with him. He's not a saint. He's a comedian. Most male comedians hate women as a full time job. This was a basically good dude who said some shitty things while in a bad place. And Opie and Anthony is a haven for angry dudes who hate women. I'm just sad he went on there and continues to go on there today, but he's loyal.

  • Lloyd_The_Bartender

    Ben Folds is a no-talent 5th rate Billy Joel and there's no fucking way I'd ever regard what he does as "art". Futhermore, given his penchant for the sensitive-singer-songwriter-with-a-piano bullshit schtick, it surprises me not in the least that the dude is a slimy player in real life.
    As for Louis CK - he was married to a louse. Plain and simple. His ranting about it on stage and interviews is part of what he does, like it or not. He does not sugar coat the shit. You may be too squeamish for it, but calling "blatant sexism" is just whiny hyperbole.
    Also, Bill Murray is GOD. And he's right about Lucy Liu.. bitch cannot act...

  • e jerry powell

    Watching Louis's material from before his divorce, I don't get the impression that his married life was ever that great. He never had ridiculously nice things to say about his wife's career (she is an artist), and he was clearly -- if humorously -- dissatisfied with their sex life. In fact, I think it was the "Oh My God" show, which was like his second or third set after his divorce, where his material kind of went on an upswing, decidedly less of an angry or morose undercurrent.

    Perhaps he's a comedian who spends a little too much time mining his own psyche for material, or maybe his outlook broadened a bit for some other reason.

    I've never been as uncomfortable with him as some other people have, though.

  • Wrestling Fan

    The only difference between Louis and other guys going through a divorce is that when other guys say the exact same things to their friends, venting, pouring their hearts out, letting the pain and anger overrule their judgement, it's not on the air for millions to hear, nor is it saved in perpetuity for people to hear on demand. If it had been Opie, Ant, and Louis sitting in a grimy bar having the exact same conversation, nobody would have cared.

  • kali yuga

    Opie and Anthony are garbage. The fact that Louis CK is participating in their garbage, rather than ridiculing them, is telling.

  • solafidex

    Curious to know what's the line or is there a line that an artist can't cross?

  • I'm plagiarizing my own Facebook Feed:

    Prolly gonna start working on an essay called "So You Wanna Rape a Baby?: On the challenges and responsibility of reprehensible fiction."

    Because there are a LOT of bleak things happening in fiction right now. And I think reprehensible actions in fiction -- or, even, in culture/art -- are too often used in lieu of psychological insight. The excuses used are, "I'm documenting life," or, "This is how it is," or "Are you saying these things don't happen?"

    Jessica Crispin at Bookslut: "God, why is this an interesting story to tell? And why do we tell it over and over again? Which is not to say it doesn't happen, God knows I know that it happens. But without any psychological insight, without any momentum, without any interest in even writing a character, why tell that story again?"

    If you are going to share a worldview with an audience -- if you're going to rape a baby in your fiction, if you're going to be misogynistic in your comedy, if you're going to bathe in violence in your film, if you're going to exploit gratuitousness in service of your art -- you can't simply be a window. You can't just show it. We don't need you to simply be a spotlight. You have a responsibility and art has a responsibility and I think maybe what I'm saying is your reason can't simply be "because" any more.

    Before you set out to be provocative, I think it's absolutely appropriate to ask, "Should I?" It's entirely okay to self-edit. Because the world may actually not need another story where violence takes the place of character development. Or where misogyny is used unthinkingly. Or where a middle-aged man works through his sexual complications with a 19-year-old one magical summer and also he thinks the Beatles were important.

    I am not saying that there is no place in the cultural conversation for reprehensible art. What I am saying is that it is a tremendous responsiblity on the artist, and takes someone incredibly skilled, and "gritty" is not a synonym for "accomplished."

    Now. Who wants to catch me up on "True Detective"?

  • Cree83

    An artist can cross any line he wants, just like any other human being, but he's going to face judgment and consequences for doing so, just like any other human being. If a random dude did or said some of these things, he'd probably alienate and upset his friends and family. If a celebrity does it, he'll probably alienate his friends, family, and fans.

  • I'm considering creating something like 19 other accounts so I can come back with each one and up-vote this. It's perfect.

  • NateMan

    You can love women and still hate a woman. And it's entirely possible to get so pissed off at a woman that you start to sound a little misogynistic. Long story short, I'll never hold what someone says about their spouse just before, during, or after a divorce against them . Unless they say it in front of the kids.

    There are limits, obviously. False accusations of rape, abuse, or molestation never get a pass. And I'm sure there are others I'm not thinking of.

  • "You can love Passover Seder and still hate Shel Rosenthal. And it's entirely possible to get so pissed off at Shel Rosenthal that you start to sound a little antisemitic. Long story short, I'll never hold what someone says about their rabbi just before, during, or after a bat mitzvah against them. Unless they say it in front of the kids."

  • NateMan

    While... Interesting... I'm not really sure how your rewrite applies. I mean, I'm agnostic so I admittedly don't know much about the Jewish faith, but do most people in the faith have strong romantic and sexual connections to their rabbis and religious observations? Do they share rent, mortgages, car payments, childcare, debts, and sundry other stresses that make it make it hard to deal with them rationally?

  • It was a passive-aggressive piss-taking because I think one actually CAN'T get so pissed at one person -- a lady in your example -- that you sound misogynistic. When I'm mad at someone, and that someone's a lady, I think I'm pretty good at keeping the anger directed at that person. So, I'll say, "GAH. Again with this--" "this" being, maybe, I don't know: fucking up a client email or calling me on my bullshit. What I *won't* say is, "GAH. Again with this? All women are bitches."

  • NateMan

    Well, I suppose that's a matter of opinion. I personally don't think there's a way to refer to a woman as a four letter word that refers to her genitalia, for example, without sounding misogynistic, but it doesn't stop me from calling one woman of my acquaintance by that word regularly, if only in my head. No other word I can think of properly portrays my contempt and utter loathing for her. Every other insult I can come up with just feels like an attempt at funny rather than the profound hate she has instilled in me.

    And I don't LIKE using the word while referring to any female. Even if said female shares only a biological connection to womanhood or even humanity, as she's really a ghoul who rips off her skin in the dark of every new moon and creeps bloodily through bedroom windows to consume the souls of innocent children. But it's the word, the only word, that fits.

  • Dumily

    Is her name Deloris? Because I think I know her.

    But on a serious note, I think it's actually problematic that the names we call women are inherently sexist. Because sometimes I want to call a woman a bad name, and the best ones are all sexist. I don't want to say "what an asshole." I want to say "what a fucking c%^$." If we could create a new class of names that were gender neutral, we could avoid all of the sexist history. For instance, I would feel way more comfortable describing a truly detestable woman as a "real Chris Brown" or "My boss was being a total Coulter." And a Beiber. Beiber should be a swear word.

  • Palandt

    Can't tell if you're being serious…so even when you want to insult someone you're afraid of being sexist?
    Jesus Christ, PC absurdities like these make me think twice before identifying as a liberal.

  • Dumily

    If I want to insult someone, it's because I find something they've personally done offensive. I want to be specific about their specific action. Using vague, historically sexist terms doesn't help me convey the individual offense.

  • Palandt

    Maybe, but it doesn't make you sexist, either.

  • Dumily

    It might not make me sexist, but the word itself is pretty sexist.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Since we call men "dicks" and "pricks" all the time, it's not problematic to me to refer to evil women as "bitches" or "c*nts" (which I asterisk to your preferences, and not because the word is too wrong to type. And also just in case my office computer tracks keystrokes)

  • NateMan

    I don't think Disqus allows the word typed out, which is why I don't do it. I can't stand using terms like n-word and c-word, because I think it gives the actual words more power over our minds than they deserve, but ya do what you have to.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    (it just requires approval. we'll see how long it takes my other comment to be approved.)

  • Dumily


  • Dumily

    I thought the same thing about c&^%. I'm actually pretty fond of the word, but I've got a mouth that's made soldiers blush. That is a 100% true statement. I said c&$# in front of my mother at the dinner table on Mother's Day. But I know it's still pretty rough.

    I was thinking about "dick" and "pricks" and "balls" as I was writing my post. We definitely refer to men as their genitalia in pejorative ways, but I'm not sure if it comes with the same baggage as referring to women as their genitals. We historically haven't denigrated penises in the same way that we have vagina. We don't have special sprays for stinky balls, despite the arguable need for it. When someone is being weak we call them a "pussy", not a scrotum And we haven't oppressed men in the same way reducing their value to their genitals. I still love the word, I just wish it weren't wrapped up with so much other shit.

  • chartreusan

    Can I just say that I am totally going to start calling people scrotums? I just tried it out loud and I like it. "Sack up, you f$%#ing scrotum!"

    Also, I too love the seaward. Maybe it started with the Vagina Monologues, maybe it was hanging out with too many British people, but I'm just not one to gasp when someone brings it out. But I do try to gauge my audience before I do just in case.

  • Dumily

    Giving credit where credit's due, I stole it from Dan Savages' podcast. But I do personally love calling people scrotum because both the thing and the name sound particularly gross. Like your individual/ partner's individual scrotum might be fine, but by and large no one wants to think about ball skin.

  • havalina

    Just gonna leave this here. For fun-sies.

  • "I was thinking about 'dick' and 'pricks' and 'balls.'"

    Me too. All the time. Even now.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I see that. I feel like some of the weight is weight we put on it ourselves - plenty of women are ok with referring to each other as bitches without taking offense. I think the more casual use of the words becomes, the more inured to them we'll be. It's not on an n-word level for me, personally, though I suppose I'm in a safe enough position for it not to be.

    I thought Axe was invented for stinky balls.

  • NateMan

    I totally agree it's problematic. And I really wish there was another word that fit. I do quite like your 'Coulter' suggestion. It's the closest one appropriate. But she's more the kind that hides her evil, rather than proudly displaying it. So it isn't quite right. Still a good approximation!

  • Dumily

    So this acquaintance of yours, she's evil but not openly so? Manipulative behind the scenes type evil? Does she try to ruin/ take away everything you care about? And can someone find me the name of NBC's programming director?

  • NateMan

    I am in such heterosexual love with you, dude.

  • Dumily

    My vagina will be thrilled to hear that.

  • Agreed. Nobody can get under a person's skin better than someone close to them. They would say anything in order to excise the pain for a while, and make the other person hurt. And the thing is, we don't hear his wife talking about him. She probably had similar sentiments.

    He sounds like, if anything, divorce really was the best thing to happen to him. Maybe if he tried to stay, he really would have become a sexist douche. But instead, he got out of a bad relationship that was taking him down a dark road, and gave him insights he probably wouldn't have had. And really, considering the utter turnaround he had over the years, is it really fair to hold his dark time against him, even for a little?

    I would say the same would apply to Affleck as well.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Likewise you can love a woman and still hate women.

  • NateMan

    Yep, it works both ways for any gender, ethnic group, whatever. And that's what makes it important to clarify the difference between personality conflicts and actual intolerance. It's why I love the Key & Peele sketch detailing the difference between homophobia and a gay person being an asshole.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    that was a fantastic skit.

  • the blackest knight

    If these guys were black or brown nobody would forgive their transgressions.

  • NateMan

    Right. Because Michael Vick, Mike Tyson, Kobe Bryant, Ray Charles, Clarence Thomas, and Bill Cosby never worked again after their scandals.

    Come on, dude. I'm as willing as the next well-educated liberal guy to admit the existence of white male privilege, but you're ignoring that fame and wealth trump scandal at least as much as skin color.

  • the blackest knight

    The difference is that folks seem to overlook or forget the transgressions when a white guy does it but always like to remind folks when its a black guy. Even the author of this article suggested that he can overlook what Louis CK did.

  • And actually, there is also Steve Harvey. He didn't start shaving his head just for the look. And let's be honest, HIM writing a book on relationships is pretty goddamn laughable, and it was waaaaay more sexist than Louis CK. But hey, it sold like hotcakes and turned into a movie, so he's...vindicated?

  • NateMan

    And the same author raked Polanski over the coals. Can you point to a black entertainer who went as far as CK did, ie calling his wife an ungrateful word-that-rhymes-with-bunt but without any indication of spousal abuse, who suffered lasting harm to his or her career?

    I'm not saying it didn't happen, I'm just looking for an example.

  • Don't forget Chris Brown in that list. It doesn't matter what Rhianna said or did, the fact that he became MORE popular after beating a woman is utter bullshit.

  • ZombieMrsSmith

    I would totally add Bill Maher to this list. He's so progressive on every issue—except women. He totally skeeves me out when he so blithely makes anti-woman statements in his stand-up routines, on his show and on Twitter. He's one of those who just has an insidious and on-going negative stance about women in general and I find it so distasteful. A couple of weeks ago he threw out a very negative comment about the Dylan Farrow/WoodyAllen letter and I seriously thought about not watching Real Time ever again.

  • rio

    that man is a closeted libertarian, also know as a hipster republican, I don't give a shit if he pretends to be liberal, you don't pick and choose the groups you wanna be liberal about and he's Islamophobe and a misogynist and a preachy preacher so he can kindly go fuck himself.

  • chrisahl

    I wonder what your lives would be like if you only consumed the art of those whom meet your ridiculous standards of acceptability. Be careful what you wish for.

  • I'm not arguing that we should only consume art by those of impeccable moral standards.

    I am arguing that you can't RetCon the artist's behavior in order to continue liking him. Your artist did a shitty thing. Own it. Don't apologize it away (or underplay it). Continue liking your artist for as long as you want.

  • Cree83

    Is it really a ridiculous standard to expect a man not to beat, denigrate, or publicly humiliate the women in his life? This does not seem like a particularly high bar.

  • Dumily

    Beat and denigrate are easy "no's", but the publicly humiliate might actually be difficult. I'm sure Jen Aniston felt humiliated at some point, but I'm not sure if that means I won't ever watch "Fight Club" again.

  • Cree83

    Yes, but the ones discussed in this article seem pretty intentional. I've never heard Brad Pitt go around calling public attention to what a bad wife Jennifer Aniston was, or make anything but completely vague references to the factors that ended his marriage.

  • Dumily

    Granted Louis CK made very blatant public statements naming his wife and calling her a lot of awful things. Hands down dick move. Ben Folds, on the other hand, wrote a bunch of highly personal songs about his relationships. He might not have name names, and, to the best of my knowledge, his lyrics don't include a line about how "my bitch wife Lauren forgot to pick up the dry cleaning that one time", but I'm guessing that there's enough in there for listeners to draw some conclusions. His exes might have been humiliated, but I can't really fault the guy. We know who "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" is about. I don't want to stop listening to it just because Dylan is such a massive asshole.

  • Cree83

    The issue with Ben Folds didn't seem to be that he wrote the songs, but that in later interviews/appearances, he specifically said that those songs were about his wife. That's the part that seems unnecessary and intentionally hurtful.

  • Dumily

    True, although without any direct quotations I can't say he was definitely being a dick. And we don't know if his wife was being an asshole. I'm just usually a little more forgiving about things said concerning a break up. It feels like a betrayal to expose these intimacies about your former partner, but it's also this huge, terrible thing that's just happened to you that you (or at least I) feel the need to discuss. Breaks up don't bring out the best in us.

  • Great talents are rarely great people. In fact, most of the truly gifted and talented people are immense assholes.

  • JJ

    Comedians, actors, politicians, singers, public figures, etc. It's guaranteed that basically every single one of them has done or said something that will offend or put us off. It's just a question of if we've found out about it yet. Because they're all people just like us, and each of us has at least one thing that we've done that would be horribly embarrassing or image-destroying if it came out. They are no different. This is in no way a justification for those actions, but in these types of examples I can't help but consider all the things about our favorite artists that we DON'T know. Ignorance is (hypocritical) bliss.

  • Yossarian

    Like many others are pointing out, there is a HUGE difference between someone who is physically or emotionally abusive to women and someone who simply expresses their frustration and resentment and pain over the end of a relationship in a harsh way that makes you feel uncomfortable.

    Now there may be some overlap there and people who harbor an unhealthy amount of resentment and anger may also express that in abusive ways in addition to creative ways, and if these guys were expressing anger in their creative works and smacking their wives around or committing sexual assault because they disrespect women that would be a completely different story. But the problem with your line of thinking here is that you are faulting CK and Folds for being human beings and expressing themselves as artists.
    Are they not allowed to feel frustrated and resentful and petty, the way virtually every human being feels when they are in a failing marriage or long term relationship? Or do you just want them to not talk about it publicly so that you don't have to be uncomfortable or conflicted as a spectator/consumer? Are they bad people for having those feelings?

    It's ridiculous. They are complicated, flawed, frustrated human beings trying to be honest. They're not hurting anyone, at least not any more or less then we all are constantly hurting ourselves and others mashing into each other, forming connections, searching for meaning, and quite frequently failing.

    You have to set the bar a little lower than "not completely pure in thought and action, always" if you want to start making lists of people with problematic behavior patterns or else you render the whole distinction meaningless. I doubt many of us would be exempt either.

  • Cree83

    Artists should be able to vent their frustrations in their work, but there is a line that you can't cross without coming across as an asshole. Making the movie 500 Days of Summer: okay. Making the movie 500 Days of Summer and including a snarky author's note: "The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead are purely coincidental. Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch." That crosses the line into being pretty asshole-ish. I'm not saying it crosses the line into deep misogyny or anything the way abuse does, but it's still petty behavior, it does not endear me to the artist, and I'm not inclined to enjoy the works of people who pull this kind shit.

  • Yossarian

    See, and that was a great bit in 500 Days because, like much of the movie (and other movies like High Fidelity) the point they were making wasn't that Jenny Beckman was a bitch, the point they were making was that they were wounded and scarred by that experience and they weren't able to get over it and they were being petty and childish. The point of including that line is that it is petty and asshole-ish. That is what they are portraying. That we are dumb and self destructive and we can't get out of our own way and let go of the stuff that holds us back.

    Louis was a little less self-aware in his interview, but we can still do some critical thinking and see that it's petty and asshole-ish and, if you asked him about it I sincerely doubt he would be proud of that statement or that interview. But I think he might just tell you to fuck off for trying to shame him into not expressing himself.

  • Cree83

    It's a funny, self-aware joke if Jenny Beckman is not actually a real person (which she's probably not? I'm guessing?), but all the people referenced on this list were talking about their actual wives, who were probably not in on the joke. It comes off as extraordinarily entitled. No one should feel like they have the right to drag another person down in public, just because they feel bad. We've all had our hearts broken, we've all had bad break ups, but some of us manage to be decent and only vent to close friends and family, while others don't seem to have the courtesy. Those people are jerks, famous or not.

  • Yossarian

    Or if Jenny Beckman is a real person who gets the joke and signed a release.

    The rest of your argument kind of gets to the deeper part of my problem with this line of thinking. Yeah, on the one hand it feels unfair for one side to have access to this larger public forum to air their grievances. But I also don't think it's fair for us to hold them to this impossible standard of never being able to be uncharismatic and petty in how they express themselves.

    The fact that they're famous means it's going to be on Youtube or twitter or TMZ forever. When we complain about our relationships or our friends complain about theirs it doesn't become public record. If I said something shitty about my ex several years ago my friend Dustin isn't going to stumble upon it years later out of context and think less of me.

    To me, the fact that you have to go looking for the dirt on Louis CK or Ben Folds means that they did have the courtesy to be mostly discreet and descent and only vent to close friends and family. But the fact that they are famous or that they channel some of that stuff into their art (which is a good thing) and a little bit then leaks out into the public (that we freak out and overreact and judge them for) does not mean that they are irresponsible or bad people- no worse than we are- it's just the fact that that they are famous and their privacy is invaded constantly by us.

    So who's the jerk? Us? Them? All the above?

  • Cree83

    But it's not like these people were talking to a friend and all the sudden TMZ got ahold of it and it got out because they were famous. They're giving interviews. They're choosing to make it public, knowing that they're famous and that it will be out there forever. It's not like you telling a friend. It's like you breaking up and deciding to badmouth the person to the entire school, purposely feeding the gossip machine (if we were all in high school, say). If these guys had made those comments to a friend and the friend turned around passed the quote along to a gossip magazine, I'd be more sympathetic because that's just an issue of placing your trust in the wrong person. But I don't think saying shitty things about your spouse on a radio show is particularly defensible.

  • Yossarian

    I think the celebrity experience is so different from normal experience that analogies are going to be problematic. It's a different reality. They don't have privacy because we don't give them privacy. We don't know them personally so we are judging superficially.

    So what we need to do is look at intention. Was Louis CK trying to hurt his ex wife and smear her reputation in this interview? (like your high school mean girls example). No. He was venting his inner frustration in a hyperbolic way at an informal radio interview where irreverence and vulgarity are encouraged. He's a comedian and part of what he does is work out his feelings in exaggerated ways, sometimes in a public forum, seeing what works and changing what doesn't. And in my opinion we need to be a little forgiving and accepting of that catharsis even if he sometimes sounds like an asshole sometimes. Just like we would forgive a normal person we were friends with if they said something similar in the heat of a breakup.

    And if it wasn't intended to be hurtful than why do we, the outside observers, ascribe all this negativity to it and make it follow him around forever? Why do we police when and how Louis CK gets to express himself, and what do we gain as a society by muzzling people and preventing them from sharing their feelings?

    Certainly it's possible to go too far in the other direction with that and a society where anyone can say whatever vile bullshit they want to say whenever they want is also not a good society for us to live in (Hey- it'd be like the internet comments). But I think the problem right now is the internet outrage and thought police that are always looking for an excuse to take someone down and project all this shame and objection onto them from minor transgressions in honest self expression.

    Louis CK, Ben Folds, Dan Harmon, Lena Dunham, these people have an ample body of work and a wealth of public statements and interviews in which they've expressed themselves and shown themselves to be good people trying to do good work. What do we gain by cherry-picking negative soundbites out of context and leaping to conclusions about what kind of people they are? So that a bunch of people on the internet who don't care about them as people can still have this knee-jerk reaction that they are an asshole because they read some blog post? What's wrong with us that we are compelled to do that? And how damaging is it to our culture to have this tyranny of superficial reactionary outrage coming down on people for stepping out of line?

    EDIT- and I don't think Dustin's the root of all evil here, either. He get's the benefit of the doubt, too. It's troubling to like someone an then encounter something you don't like about them. It can prompt your own cathartic creative outburst to try to reconcile those feelings. I just think that what you have to do is try to be understanding and give people the benefit of the doubt, not be reactionary and intolerant of good people being messy human beings falling short of impossible standards. And I think if we talk about it enough we can get there. Which, in the end, is better than if he had wrote nothing.

  • Cree83

    If a friend made a comment like Louie's to me in person in the heat of their break up, or if they made an insensitive comment about rape like Dan Harmon did, or if they made some casually racist comments about Japanese people or Muslim people like Lena Dunham has, I would probably call them out on it. That's not to say I would hold it against them forever, and assume they were horrible people, but I would say "hey, that's not cool." That doesn't mean I'm cherry picking their statements for flaws, it just means I'm reacting to an insensitive thing that they said. I don't see why I can't do the same with a celebrity's comments when they deliberately put their statements out there for the public to hear them.

  • Yossarian

    The problem is that it is taken out of context, and removed from the ability of the person to respond to it.

    If you had been in the room with Dan or Louie or Lena you probably wouldn't have said anything because you wouldn't have needed to because you would understand the context and you would know the person saying it.

    How many times in Pajiba reviews & comments has someone used rape or sexual violence to make a metaphor about how bad a movie is? And sometimes they cross the line but especially if it is someone we know by reputation to be basically a good person we don't even bat an eye.

    Something happens when media and internet attention latch on to something a famous person says or does that changes and distorts the context. You adding your two cents in the comments section of an internet article on something a celebrity said five or six years ago is nothing at all like you telling a buddy to chill out on the C-word. You don't know them or the context and you're not connected to the situation. You're not adding anything to the actual statement- that's for people actually involved.

    All you're doing is adding to this weird public reactionary discourse that isn't actually doing any good. It's not combating sexism or racism or misogyny because it's too unfocused mindlessly reactionary for that. The public outrage quickly blows through any constructive feedback that could have been accomplished and becomes just the awful drone of impotent rage and self-importance. Contributing to that just increases the toxicity.

    Empathy is important. Embracing complexity and trying to understand people and their actions is important. Registering your outrage on the internet is boring and bad.

  • Cree83

    We'll just have to disagree. I do not understand why it is boring or bad to have an objection to a person calling the mother of his children a nasty name in front of an audience.

    And I just don't believe that every time I share negative opinion on the internet, it must be some teaching moment in the service of greater justice in order to be valid. Sometimes you criticize something because you want to fight sexism or racism, and sometimes you criticize something just because you're pissed off, and you want to scream in frustration and call it bullshit when confronted with the countless upon countless upon countless examples in our culture of men making statements that portray women as joyless nagging bitches who hold men back, who ruin their lives, who trap them into unhappy marriages, etc. etc. etc. because that shit is everywhere you look.

  • wonkeythemonkey


  • Cree83

    Or at least, they are behaving like jerks when they act that way.

  • "Like many others are pointing out, there is a HUGE difference between someone who is physically or emotionally abusive to women and someone who simply expresses their frustration and resentment and pain over the end of a relationship in a harsh way that makes you feel uncomfortable."

    Okay -- but isn't there also a difference between being the guy with the microphone and being the person who doesn't have the same very public platform to work through her grief?

  • googergieger

    No there isn't. If you want to ask that black and white a question, anyways.

  • Yossarian

    Is it fair? No. But nothing is fair.

    Is there an extra responsibility when you have a bully pulpit to not say irresponsible or harmful things? Maybe. But it's not really something we can control or hold people too. People need to have some freedom to express themselves, even if they have thousands of twitter followers. As long as they aren't abusing that forum and persistently harassing the other person I think we have to accept an "amazing celebrity performer" blowing off some steam in the midst of a difficult personal ordeal and being candid and uncharismatic in an interview.

    I don't admire him for it, but people get to be assholes sometimes, human beings. otherwise it's an impossible standard and we burn a lot of people who are trying to be good for making mistakes, and that's no kind of world to live in. And I don't like it when internet commnenters are staking the pyre and fanning the flames.

  • It's interesting that you open with "nothing is fair" while suggesting that Louis C.K. deserves fairness, or at least "the benefit of the doubt."

    I don't know what his thoughts on women are, today. I do know in that moment he was shitty about women, and his wife in particular. He did that.

    Is Louis C.K. a misogynist? I don't know. Was he being misogynistic? I think so.

    (In full fairness: heaven help me if the Unedited Mike Bevel ever sees the light of day because I've said a TONNE of problematic things probably in the last fifteen minutes, if not the last 15 years. I'd have to own them as mine, though. And I'd expect to be held accountable while also being really irritated that I had to be held accountable.)

  • Dumily

    Yes, but does the lack of a platform for the artist's ex make the artist a worse person? Should the artist refrain from turning his pain into art because his ex doesn't have the same opportunity?

  • I don't think that's what I mean -- but I should sit for a bit with your question.

    As I said to the above poster, though: I don't know that I want, specifically, in this case, a comedian, to censor his work. But I guess I don't want that work whitewashed for him, nor do I think it gives him a "You're Not an Asshole!" card.

  • Dumily

    That I totally understand. I guess my point of view is "yeah, of course they're assholes." And I don't mind that they're assholes. If you craft a personality around being a sweet person, then you probably need to actually be nice (Paula Deen, I'm looking in your general direction). But I don't think most of these guys are going for the Dawson Leary boy next door thing. Letterman's kind of a dick. It's why I like him.

  • chrisahl

    What does this have to do with anything?

  • Oh, you know. Just practicing typing.


    To underline my point: I see something bullying in being the guy with the microphone on the stage telling half of a story when the other half of that story doesn't have the same leverage. I think there's something emotionally abusive in that. So, when Yossarian said that there's "a HUGE difference between someone who is physically or emotionally abusive to women and someone who simply expresses their frustration" -- I disagree, in this instance, because the example doesn't pay out.

    [Side note: What I'm NOT saying is, "Comedians can't mine their tragedy for material." What I'm NOT saying is, "Comedians should censor themselves." What I AM saying is, "If you're going to work that kind of material, you have to accept the responsibility of that material." And in this case, part of the responsibility is that you're kind of an asshole for talking about the breakdown of your relationship for jokes.]

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Makes me think of "Private Parts" and Stern dealing with his wife's miscarriage, and her freaked out reaction - which I understand on both sides of the equation (but MORE on hers.)

    There's a line between the private and the public, and comedians and musicians have to be aware of when they do private damage with a public performance.

  • Yossarian

    Yes. But also, grown adults who enter into relationships with artists/creatives, especially famous ones, are going to have some awareness and responsibility for what they are getting into. Maybe not for miscarriage jokes on drive time radio, but certainly for the Ben Folds love songs and the Ben Folds break up songs that will be penned in your honor.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I would definitely grant that for anyone dating a songwriter/screenwriter/novelist. Esp wives 2-4. Esp. if the artist HASN'T become famous yet, because they will definitely mine personal experience for artistic gain.

    Ben Folds is the artist I know the least among these.

  • chrisahl

    If I understand you correctly:

    Yossarian states there is a difference between expressing frustration and emotional or physical abuse, and you disagree. Thus they are the same?

    Granted, I give greater weight to the physical abuse in the original comment and perhaps your focus is on the emotional abuse, but I still can't see how the two are not hugely different.

    And as far as the asshole part, that's fine, and in fact fits nicely in my worldview that everyone is an asshole.

  • BlackRabbit

    I'd say "Everyone has the capacity and temptation to be an asshole and most times it's hard to resist."

  • chrisahl

    Here, hear.

  • BlackRabbit

    Tiny hijack: I thought it was "Hear, hear"? I'm honestly curious.

  • chrisahl

    You are correct, I was being "clever".

  • BlackRabbit

    Eh, I like yours better.

  • BlackRabbit

    Ok, cool. I like yours better.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Er, well, you can't forgive someone for things of which you were unaware. Which is probably most of this list.

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