Gawker recently posted an article that literally dug up a list of Bill Cosby’s acts of alleged sexual perversion and molestation towards women and I do not know how to digest it. And now more women are starting to come forward, accusing one of our most beloved TV fathers of sexual assault. In the light of Woody Allen being publicly accused of sexual assault on his adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow spreading from news outlets to blogs all over the internet and R. Kelly’s past child molestation claims recently making headlines again after being swept under the rug 15 years ago, I’m left wondering–in the social media age, where we know way too much information about celebrities–how do we process their very public indiscretions and skewed morals?
We live in a instant gratification kind of world now and everyday the internet slaps you in the face with eye popping photos and headlines that are salacious enough to distract you from work. Celebrities who used to be mystified and almost untouchable by the average person are now right at our fingertips, every single day. Even if they don’t “@” us directly or RT our 140-character brilliance, we still feel connected to them as if we could assess them when we saw fit. There was a time where your only interaction with celebrities was by writing in to the fan club, seeing the snapshots of them by the paparazzi, or on their shows, at their concerts–but there was never a way to touch these people the way we can now with Instagram, Twitter, etc.
Feeling more connected to these celebrities, it’s easier to be more judgmental on their morals, or on the questionable things that they have allegedly done before social media became a huge part of our culture. That’s why it’s easier to sweep things that happened before the social media age under the rug. Bill Cosby’s alleged sexual assaults were a shock to me. I admittedly had no idea. The Gawker article claimed, “With shocking speed, it [Cosby’s alleged sexual assault] was effectively forgotten. When the subject came up today, more than half the Gawker staff had no memory of any sexual allegations against Bill Cosby.”
What Woody Allen, R. Kelly and Bill Cosby have in common is that their alleged sexual assaults took place prior to the microwave social media culture that is Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We’ve become conditioned in the last couple of years to receiving updates on everyone who is a part of our lives, right on the spot. And most times, we’re “following” celebrities and know about their scandals before they even admit to it.
I think the media wants to sensationalize these celebrities’ inner turmoils for entertaining purposes. We pick and choose who we want to crucify and for how long. Chris Brown’s act of violence against Rihanna in 2009 will never go away–as it shouldn’t, but instead of starting a much-needed conversation about domestic violence and its effect on young men and women, we’ve created entertainment around it. I could search the hashtag #ChrisBrown or #Rihanna and I guarantee you a meme would show up that’s meant to cause laughter and not conversations. We may not know every single little detail in celebrity scandals, but we fill in the blanks with our own judgments and the mystery subsides.
I could hear mom’s voice right now. As God’s right-hand woman, she says, “No sin is weighed the same.” A lot of people, myself included, could argue that this biblical statement is incorrect. In my mind, murder weighs a bit more than stealing. But here’s the thing–my judgment of absolutely anyone doesn’t matter. Celebrities are human beings just like you and me, but with shinier toys. We don’t reserve the right to pass judgment on them. Yes, they placed themselves in the spotlight but that doesn’t make judgment ok. Being an entertainer is the job they chose and just like any job, there’s amazing perks and sucky disadvantages. One of their sucky parts is having their lives judged by the world.
When journalists feel the need to dig deep within the indiscretions of a celebrity’s past, judgment ensues. And I think the point of the digging it to rally support in this judgment. But I can think of another cliche that applies here–“Only God can judge me.” Who are we to sit and place a celebrated individual’s “sins” on a list where we get to rank them how we see fit? We are just as imperfect as these celebrities. There are people in the world who consume celebrity culture who may have killed, stolen, gambled, or sexually assaulted someone themselves, but when the celebrities do it–we weigh their indiscretions heavier because we think just because they have volunteered for the spotlight, we’re allowed to judge them.
I’m not trying to dismiss the bad things that court records proved R. Kelly did. I’d never say that I don’t believe Dylan Farrow’s claims against Woody Allen. And if Bill Cosby did what these women claimed, my heart goes out to those women and I would regard him as a predator. But what I am supposed to do going forward? There’s nothing about my life that says I support Cosby other than watching reruns of “The Cosby Show.” He’s an actor who was paid to play a role and he played that role well. This is his artistry. What he may have done to those women was his personal life. And no, I am not disregarding the women who have been victims to any of these celebrities accused of sexual assault. My heart goes out to them.
But am I wrong for watching “The Cosby Show” reruns because Cosby was accused of being a sexual predator? Should I feel guilty when “Your Body’s Calling,” which was released in the midst of R. Kelly’s accused sexual assault, pops up on my iTunes shuffle? Am I a hypocrite for abhorring Woody Allen’s alleged abuse of his adoptive daughter, but I’m watching “Midnight In Paris” on Netflix?
I know–or maybe I think I know way too much about these celebrities and while I don’t subscribe to their choices in their private lives, I still enjoy their artistry. What, am I not supposed to?