The Internet is terrible and wonderful and necessary and a complete waste of time and life. It’s the KFC buffet of pastimes. And I want to talk about an important aspect of it, but to talk about it, I need to talk about something else first.
Drive around Internet Town for a little while and you may hear about Dead Pools. Not the red Ryan Reynolds guy, I mean the idea of betting year-to-year about which celebrities aren’t going to make it. It’s sad. It’s dark. But it’s real.
And I’m terrible at it. 2016 was the year we lost David Bowie and Prince and Alan Rickman and NONE of these were on my list. 2016 is also another year where Guy Fieri gets to Guy Fieri around despite being on my list for five years. But I’m here to talk about an even more important list of celebrity fate. I call it the Oh No Not Them List. Let me explain.
We know so much now. Thanks to the internet I can learn how many helium balloons it takes to lift a chicken (it’s 90, Google it) and I now believe that anyone claiming to have seen Bigfoot has actually seen a bear with mange (Google that!). But the way the internet has affected investigative journalism and the way it can make everything immediately knowable, that’s pure magic, y’know? But it means we have to learn things. Uncomfortable things. Awful things. And we have to learn them about our heroes.
Bill Cosby’s entire career has been changed, his entire cultural definition changed from Father Figure to pudding pop monster. David Bowie dies and we learn about his fling with an underaged girl, and his legacy as a musician can’t in good conscience stay the same. Woody Allen comes out with a new movie and we hear, not for the first time but perhaps the loudest, about Dylan Farrow, and every discussion about him and his films is tinged with a darkness, and some (including me) think it’s warranted. Mark Wahlberg applies for a liquor license and the assaults and racist, violent antics of his young adulthood come swarming up all over. Even recently, Birth of a Nation promises to finally bring an American hero’s story to the big screen and we learn about Nate Parker’s collegiate rape charges and his alleged victim’s subsequent suicide.
This is ugly information, but it comes out and we can’t sweep it off our Facebook feeds, let alone under the rug anymore. Any celebrity’s shame can go viral at any moment. It’s uncomfortable, it’s nasty, but it’s a fact and it’s necessary. It’s exciting to know that a celebrity’s image isn’t entirely under their control anymore and things we, as the public, should know can be accessed.
So, friends and neighbors, to prepare for this new trend where the closet door can swing open and a bony marching band of skeletons can come filing out playing the most embarrassing song in a celebrity’s Spotify, where someone’s Wikipedia picture can go from professional headshot to that one sleepy angry photo every tabloid seems to have on
(this is a side note but I’m serious about those pictures. What intern’s job is it to find these things? When the Cosby allegations broke open they found the nastiest gray sweatpants sleepy angry old man picture in the world, and in record time! Like that Cosby picture is bananas. It’s like in Harry Potter, the Boggart? The monster that shapeshifts into your worst fear? If your worst fear was Bill Cosby, your Boggart would come out like that dead eyed 4AM face. If I ever end up on the wrong end of the press, I can sleep tight knowing that there’s a mussed hair shirtless photo of me covered in cheetoh dust cooling in a TMZ hard drive somewhere. Anyway, back to the piece.)
I say make a list. A top 5 list of your special celebrities you hope never to see under this kind of light. Five famous people you believe to mean something not only artistically, but morally. Five names you’d hear on the news and say “Oh no…not them.”
Here’s my list (I’m sure there’ll be posts a-plenty about each of these folks to come, but here they are for our purposes):
Mr. Rogers: this sweatered old man was a huge part of my childhood. I wanted a stoplight in my bed room because he had one and he, believe it or not, as the coolest.
Bobby McFerrin: This Don’t Worry Be Happy genius right here…google Wizard of Oz on Ice and find out why he’s on here. Pure magic.
Bruce Lee: He fought hundreds. He taught millions. He was a beacon of peace and understanding in the art of conflict. In the martial arts world, he’s always the given name in the Number One slot.
Denzel Washington: the paragon of compassionate, sensitive, positive masculinity.
Patton Oswalt: I have enough of his material to listen to him for twenty-four consecutive hours and I could listen to more the next day. He’s changed comedy. He’s changed my life.
If any bad shit came out about any of these 5 dudes (and it is dudes, more often than not, lest we forget), I’d lose my mind. They mean a lot to me, and their work has helped to shape me and the way I see the world. But if anything did come to light, I have my list. I’m ready. I am now prepared to let them go and know that they are not Gods, they’re humans capable of the greatness and wickedness we’re all capable of. Find your favorites, enjoy them and their work, but make a list, be ready. It’s an ugly truth, but one we need to be able to hear if we want to hold celebrities and normals alike accountable for whatever they do.
Make a list of your heroes, so when the time comes and it’s either support them or their victims (alleged or not), you can set an example when celebrities don’t.