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I don’t like protests. I mean, if a group of hundreds or more people come together to protest, I can see the validity in that. People in that quantity can send a message. But that isn’t the norm. Most of the protests I see are a handful of people speaking out against an idea, action, or business. We see religious protesters all the time from the Westboro Baptist Church to just the small groups of people who gathered this past weekend in Cincinnati to protest the Gay Pride Parade and Festival. Or we see a few people outside a business with “Shame On You” signs, expressing their disdain for the actions of said business. Or even the people outside of abortion clinics. For the most part, I feel that protesting is annoying and useless at best, and harmful and damaging at worst. At least when it’s in small numbers. And yet, I find myself protesting privately, or withdrawing my patronage from business based on their actions.

chicWhen the controversy surrounding Chic-Fil-A emerged last year, I decided I would no longer eat there. It was a pretty easy decision to make. I do enjoy their food, but I only ate there maybe once or twice a year. And it wasn’t their religion I took issue with. It was what they did with their money, and in a sense, what they did with any money I gave to them. I don’t believe in pray-the-gay-away programs. They have been proven to be damaging to participants, and Chic-Fil-A had been giving money directly to those causes. We all saw the news, made our own assessments, and honestly, that’s not what this blog is about. My point with mentioning it is simply that I refrained from eating at Chic-Fil-A after this made the news. No protest needed – although many went that route. I was happy simply not supporting them. And last I checked, they are still doing fine, and I am not participating. Coexistence.

The X-Men movie franchise is enormous. It’s seventh installment, X-Men: Days Of Future Past was just released, shortly after allegations surfaced about the director, Bryan Singer. Singer had been accused of drugging and raping a male actor and model at a party in Hawaii in the late 90s. Just this past May, Singer’s attorney proved that neither Singer or the plaintiff were in Hawaii on the dates given. Then, another case was opened against the director, stating that he and X-Men producer Gary Goddard met a man for sex when he was a minor. This plaintiff in the particular case has remained anonymous. And even if this case is also proven to be false accusations, Bryan Singer was still accused in 1997 of asking minors to film a nude shower scene for one of his movies. This case was thrown out due to insufficient evidence. xmen

While working with AVFTI, I have learned the absolute importance of believing the victim. Believing a false story is, in the long run, far better than the devastation you can cause a victim by not believing their true story. And based on reported cases, stories end up being falsely reported only 2-8 percent of the time. That said, when a story like this tends to come to light, I tend to believe it. At least when it comes to sexual abuse cases. When I learned about the allegations toward Bryan Singer, it was easy for me to not see the new X-Men movie. I have never see any of the other ones, so why would I start with #7? But my friends saw it. In fact, almost everyone I knew saw it. This somewhat angered me…were people really okay with him drugging and raping a minor? I felt as if they were saying “as long as he is producing awesome effects with some of my favorite superheroes played by some of my favorite actors, he can do what he wants.” This, of course, isn’t what people were thinking. Some people maybe didn’t even know of the news of the director. Or maybe some people didn’t even associate the allegations with the movie. Or, I even had people tell me that they saw the movie because not everyone in it was involved. In fact, most weren’t. And if they are a fan Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, or any other of the countless names in that movie, shouldn’t they be able to enjoy them in a new movie?

I don’t know how to come to an answer about this, but I think it’s worth discussing. If I give this franchise my money, am I really contributing to the potential harm he did? Sometimes I think no. He didn’t need money to perform these acts, if in fact he did. At the same time, I could hear the argument that these attacks couldn’t have happened were it not for the lifestyle of a movie director.

jacksonSo what are we to do about the space where our own tastes and preferences in the media come to an impasse with the inexcusable behavior of the people who create them? To be fair, while I haven’t seen the X-Men movies, one of my favorite movies is The Usual Suspects. Guess who the director is? If you guessed Bryan Singer, you’d be correct. And I saw that before I knew who director was or knew anything about him. In fact, I just learned that he directed that movie while researching this blog. And I grew up on Michael Jackson’s music. I love it. To this day, pop in Thriller or Bad, and I will sing along with every word. I have extremely fond memories of listening to these albums with my mom and best friend growing up. Should I desert those memories because of the allegations toward him when I was an adult? Should fans of Woody Allen’s movies stop seeing them because of the accusations that he had an inappropriate relationship with his adopted stepdaughter before she was an adult? And what about Roman Polanski? He admitted to raping a 13 year old girl more than 30 years ago, and he even fled the country before his sentencing. Yet he still makes movies, and people still see them.

So where do you stand? How much can one protest on their own? Should we let go of all art that is created by people that end up being sexual assailants (or any other sort of criminal for that matter)? Or are they mutually exclusive? Can you accept the creation someone makes while at the same time feeling that their actions are inexcusable? What do you think?

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  1. Becky

    It occurs to me, too, that these celebrities and businesses and their abusive actions/practices are the ones we KNOW about. It’s like when people obsess over sex offender registry lists… not that it’s a bad idea to keep track of folks on those lists, but since sexual assault/abuse is the most unreported crime out there, these lists represent the very tip of the iceberg. I think the same could be said of celebrities and other “high profile” folks. If we always boycott every business or person’s art that we take issue with, we many unknowingly be supporting another business or person who is doing truly awful stuff outside public knowledge or view. And watching a TV show or listening to a song is not in itself endorsing a particular person or their actions. For example, I can turn on the Cosby Show and be able to enjoy it with my daughter without worrying that she’s going to see or hear something she shouldn’t. I don’t see anything wrong with that. And it could actually be a “teachable moment” (ugh, I hate that phrase!), as in I could reinforce to my daughter (or anyone), “It just goes to show you that a person’s TRUE character and the roles that they play on TV or in life can be VERY different.”

  2. pinky

    As you know, Jamie, I’m very wishy washy when it comes to this subject. I don’t WANT to support Chicfilas anti-gay practices, but my god, that chicken is delicious. And even if I boycott Chickfila, as you said, we sing Michael Jackson songs as a family on a regular basis. So then I feel like a hypocrit. Because then I feel like I’m saying that Michael Jackson’s victims don’t mean as much to me as Chicfila’s. I also have a serious issue with Chris Brown on account of being a woman beater, as well as Rhianna for letting him get away with it, but I will sing along to Tina Turner songs louder than anyone in the room. I have gone back and forth on this. Sometime I try to silently protest, but then a Cosby rerun comes on and I watch it while happily laughing along. And sometimes, even when you THINK you’re taking a stand, where does it end? If I boycott Woody Allen, do I also need to boycott Diane Keaton, who so has blatantly said that her friendship with him is more important than the possibility that he molested a child? Do I boycott Scarlett Johanson and all of the actresses who are still happy to star in his films despite knowing that he may have forced sex on his 4 year old daughter? The only real stand that I have personally found the will power to take is with my contributions to organizations. Because the donations that I give out mean a lot to me, I don’t take them lightly. I try to give as much as I can only to the organizations that I whole heartedly agree with. By refusing to donate to charities that engage in outdated practices, I have more money left to give to the charities that I fully support. But unfortunately as far as sexual scandals in the entertainment world go, I’m still what can only be described as a sock in the wind.

  3. Becky

    VERY interesting topic, indeed. I’ve encountered this numerous times myself, most recently when learning that Bill Cosby was apparently sexually abusive toward female staff in show biz over the years. The Cosby Show is one of my favorites that I grew up watching, but now it’s hard to watch reruns. The content and quality of the show are unchanged, but my knowledge of the man behind the show is changed. I guess in a lot of ways, choosing not to consume/watch/listen to a person’s art or business is akin to being an active bystander (or an “up-stander”). It doesn’t mean I don’t like the art or food in question. But it does mean I’m choosing not to support that which promotes the person’s livelihood and freedom to continue being violence/abusive. It’s definitely not a loud or obvious form of protest, but in many ways, it’s MORE powerful…