Seeing someone we look up to behave badly isn't easy. In fact, it can even hurt, even when it's someone we don't personally know, like a celebrity. How should we deal with problematic celebrities we used to love?
1. Acknowledge the problematic behaviour.
Until quite recently, Louis CK was one of my favourite standup comedians. I'd watch every single one of his interviews on talk shows, binged his show as soon as each season dropped on Netflix, and at every chance I got, would insert poorly paraphrased versions of his stand-up into conversations.
Then came the rumours: A high-profile comic was sexually harassing up-and-coming (anonymous) female comedians, and much of the internet was speculating that it was Louis. I was distraught, and suddenly understood why so many people stood by Bill Cosby when the rape allegations first started to pour in. How could this comedian who seemed to espouse feminist values in his art treat women so badly?
When your fave turns out to be problematic, don't delude yourself by sugarcoating, making excuses, or simply sweeping the problematic behaviour under the rug. It happened. Your fave said or did something pretty bad, and pretending it didn't happen isn't going to make it go away.
2. Think to yourself: Is this something I can tolerate?
Even though I wasn't sure that it was him who did all those terrible things, I just couldn't enjoy Louis' comedy anymore. At the time, he was ignoring the rumours and hadn't admitted to anything yet, but based on the description of the women's harassers, I was convinced that it was Louis, and I just couldn't stomach it.
I stopped watching his comedy. I totally ignored his last Netflix special. And a couple of years later, his accusers finally came forward, and he finally owned up to forcing two women to watch him jerking off. Ugh.
Some questionable behaviours are obviously intolerable and unforgivable (e.g. Bill Cosby drugging and raping women), while other problematic celebrities are more in the grey areas (e.g. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn's questionable jokes from way back in 2007).
It's up to you to decide how much problematic behaviour you can tolerate, if at all. But stick to your guns. If you find something inexcusable, don't make excuses even for your most beloved problematic celebrities. Your standards and integrity are more important than any fandom.
3. Don't be so quick to cancel problematic celebrities.
When news broke out that the rumours about Louis CK were true, I was saddened, but also relieved. Why? Because I listened to my gut. I chose not to support him — not even watch his last Netflix special — even when all the internet had were suspicions. I had cancelled him, and that was that.
But here's the thing: while there are things that I can't forgive, I do believe that there is room for forgiveness and personal growth, even in today's call-out culture.
Why? None of us are perfect; we're all problematic. Those of you who believe you were brought into this world woke AF are seriously deluding yourselves. I still cringe over some things I've said back in my teens, and believe that in a few years, I'll cringe over the things I said in my 20s.
Does this mean that I'll be watching Louis' specials anytime soon, now that he's back in business and everything? Hell no. I still think Louis CK's behaviour was unforgivable and that he should be cancelled forever and ever.
But I'm still rooting for people who've demonstrated that they've changed and grown since their misstep (e.g. James Gunn), and I'm still going to abuse the replay button when Taytay's next single drops. (Does this make me a horrible person and a fake feminist? I'm sure some people think so, but may he without sin cast the first stone, etc.)
Our standards for celebrity behaviour have become insanely high. One scandal, one poorly phrased tweet, and one drunken night is sometimes all it takes to "cancel" a celebrity.
But even though these celebrities are in the public eye and have more power, and thus more responsibility, they also deserve our compassion. We should stop expecting perfection from imperfect beings. If we keep cancelling people for not being the Model Citizen at all times, then who will we have left?