Bad Words Vs. Bad People: The Forgiveness Double Standard
Paula Deen used the n-word a whole bunch and it’s cost her an empire.
I hear that and I think, good. You can’t use that word. You can’t do that to people. It’s not OK. Send the message that it’s not okay. I agree with Dustin that Deen exhibits a common and toxic kind of ignorance that, while seemingly benign, isn’t. And it has profoundly affected my opinion of her and her image.
Elvis Costello called Ray Charles and James Brown the n-word, referring to them respectively as a “blind, ignorant n****r” and a “jive-ass n****r.”
And I still like Elvis Costello. It has not at any point affected my opinion of him.
I consider this as people make comparisons between Deen’s saga and the recent latest Alec Baldwin outburst, where he referred to a reporter as a “toxic little queen.” Deen’s career is over (at least, for now) whereas, with Baldwin, this is just another Tuesday.
There is clearly a number of differences between the two situations, not limited to the choice of word. Baldwin’s was a random outburst; Deen’s was an entire lifestyle, a way of managing a business, and, now her entire image, which is her business has been impacted to a catastrophic degree.
Again, this is fine. When a person becomes a brand, when that person’s image is their entire business, it is just the same as when you or I mess up at work—you lose your job. Deen is not a victim of censorship, a martyr to politically correct lib’rul eleetists. She fucked up, so they fired her from her various jobs.
What confuses me is, why doesn’t this happen for everyone?
Because, like Costello, I don’t think any differently of Baldwin now, either. I barely think of the infamous voicemail where he referred to his own flesh and blood as a “rude thoughtless little pig.” Being a dick is just part of his whole persona, so that stuff seems almost okay, eliciting little more than an “Oh Alec” and a hair ruffle.
Is it favoritism? Picking and choosing who we like and revising the standards for human decency from person to person? Is it a level of severity? Is there a line, and, when a public figure crosses it, there is no going back?
Then how does one explain Charlie Sheen? Or Chris Brown, for that matter? Sure, in most sane circles, he’s done for, but not for his fans and not for the music industry. There are those whose opinions of Brown never wavered, yet I now think ill of Mary J. Blige because she seems to be fine with him. I think something must be wrong with Jodie Foster because she’s friends with Mel Gibson. But I don’t do that with everyone.
I guess it’s easier to give up on someone about whom you never had a strong opinion. Or, someone who was supposed to be nice and turned out not nice. Sheen shoots women, hits hookers and is generally terrible and evil, and he will be famous and make money for a million years, because he’s the crack Highlander and he will never die. He says that word, he’s recorded calling Denise Richards that word. He also makes the workplace a generally unbearable place for all involved.
Does Paula Deen deserve everything that’s happened? Absolutely. Do others probably deserve it, too? Possibly. I don’t know. I still like Elvis Costello.