Looking Up to People With Flawed Characters

Joe Navarro, in his Spycatcher blog, asks an important question about all the Woody Allen talk. Can we really separate someone’s art, or talent, from their character. Certainly, it seems like we go to great pains to do that, but should we?

Consider this section of Joe’s article:

The second concern that has not been talked about in the articles noted above is this. Is the accused or alleged perpetrator flawed of character? In other words, is this a person who has demonstrated a willingness to bend rules, push boundaries, break laws, do immoral or unethical acts?

When we allow someone to bend rules, and break boundaries because, as one person quoted in the article says, “it’s essential to separate the art from the artist not only for philosophical reasons but also for practical ones.” She further added, “…if we delved into the private lives of every single artist…we’d find plenty not to like… It’s possible we’d never see a movie, look at a work of art, or read a book again.” all we are really doing is sending the message that it’s ok for the “talented” to do whatever they want. They’re special, and they produce art, or athletic achievement that somehow makes up for whatever they may be doing to innocent children.

I don’t buy it.

So long as the famous artist, actor, athlete, entrepreneur, etc. is allowed to do whatever they please just because of their talent, we cannot pretend to be concerned about the character of the people we look up to. On one hand, that’s the danger of making people our heroes just because of their talent, or their performance, and not because of the content of their character. We may find out one day that the very same person we looked up to all this time, is actually deeply flawed. It may even be that they have harmed other people, even children. We can’t sit back and admire someone’s talent and convince ourselves that makes them good.

Lastly, as we have learned with the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case at Penn State and the hundreds of child abuse cases arising out of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal spanning decades, is that anyone, no matter how venerated, how high in social status, how nice they may seem, how rich, good-looking or talented is above suspicion. Predators are everywhere and they come masked and prepared to hide their evil deeds, and sometimes only the victims truly know these monsters for what they are. The world may see them one way when in fact they are sexual predators at the core – truly flawed of character.

In fact, the more we make heroes out of talented people and make excuses for their character flaws, the more we enable them to engage in truly flawed behavior. No one should be above the consequences of their actions, and if we have to live without some movies, music, athletic achievements and art to teach people that they cannot do whatever they like, then so be it. Not one of those things is more important than protecting children.

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