HOL­LY­WOOD’S FALL­ING STARS LEAVE MANY FANS BEREFT OF FAN­TASY

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY CHRIS­TIAN TOTO

An­other week, an­other Hol­ly­wood ti­tan falls from grace.

ABC canned Roseanne Barr’s epony­mous sit­com af­ter she tweeted a racially charged in­sult about for­mer Obama White House ad­viser Va­lerie Jar­rett. Hulu, Paramount Net­work, TV Land, CMT and Laff fol­lowed suit, yank­ing “Roseanne” re­runs from their pro­gram­ming line­ups.

What’s a pop cul­ture con­sumer to do when a star re­veals a far less-thanflat­ter­ing side of them­selves? It’s be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly com­mon prob­lem. Os­car win­ner Morgan Free­man suf­fered a se­ri­ous blow to his im­age late last month when CNN re­ported on eight women who said the “Shaw­shank Redemp­tion” star sex­u­ally ha­rassed them.

Be­fore Mr. Free­man’s fall, we wit­nessed those of Harvey We­in­stein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Jef­frey Tam­bor, Al Franken, di­rec­tor Brett Rat­ner and other celebri­ties caught up in the grow­ing #MeToo move­ment. Of course, not all crimes are cre­ated equal. Mr. We­in­stein is ac­cused of trans­gres­sions that in­clude rape, while Mr. Free­man’s ac­cusers say his be­hav­ior never ap­proached that level.

It still leaves fans in an awk­ward po­si­tion: Love the work, hate the acts … or sim­ply tune out both?

Derek Hunter, au­thor of the up­com­ing book “Out­rage, Inc.,” said con­ser­va­tives know this drill by heart.

“Con­ser­va­tives have to sep­a­rate the art from the artist all the time, or our op­tions for en­ter­tain­ment would be lim­ited to pup­pet shows and our own singing in the shower,” said Mr. Hunter, whose June 19 re­lease ex­am­ines pro­gres­sives who dom­i­nate Hol­ly­wood, academia and the sci­en­tific realm.

“Some of his­tory’s great­est artists were al­co­holics, misog­y­nists, racists or oth­er­wise aw­ful peo­ple,” Mr. Hunter said. “Never in­vest your emo­tions in some­one who doesn’t know, and doesn’t care, that you ex­ist. … [J]ust en­joy their work.”

Deb­o­rah Wilker, a vet­eran en­ter­tain­ment jour­nal­ist who con­trib­utes to Bill­board and The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter, says some fallen stars can come back on their own terms.

Take Louis C.K., the ground­break­ing comic who ad­mit­ted to sex­u­ally sat­is­fy­ing him­self in front of sev­eral fe­male comics. Ms. Wilker said the comic rou­tinely over­saw his own con­tent dis­tri­bu­tion be­fore the scan­dal broke. That means he could “come back” at any time he pleases without re­quir­ing an ex­ist­ing chan­nel wary of his im­age.

“He doesn’t need a huge com­mer­cial plat­form to re­turn,” Ms. Wilker said. “We may never see him again in a main­stream, big-city venue, but if he wanted to sell tick­ets and show up in a field in a mid­dle of a state some­where, who’s to stop him? The mar­ket­place will de­cide.

“Con­sumers will vote. They al­ways do,” she said.

Time cer­tainly can pro­vide a balm in some sce­nar­ios. Mel Gib­son’s ca­reer sank af­ter he shouted anti-Semitic slurs dur­ing a 2006 DUI ar­rest. The “Lethal Weapon” star re­treated from pub­lic life and even­tu­ally ap­peared in a num­ber of low-bud­get films to re­assert his tal­ent.

He fi­nally earned back enough in­dus­try clout to helm his 2016 World War II film “Hack­saw Ridge.” The movie snared six Os­car nominations, in­clud­ing a best di­rec­tor nod for Mr. Gib­son.

Still, some for­mer fans won’t sup­port him no mat­ter how much time passes, Ms. Wilker said. It cer­tainly helped Mr. Gib­son that his in­fa­mous rant oc­curred be­fore so­cial me­dia ex­ploded as a cul­tural force. Had his melt­down taken place to­day, the com­bi­na­tion of #MeToo and Twit­ter could have de­railed his ca­reer per­ma­nently, she said.

Alok Trivedi, a psy­cho­log­i­cal per­for­mance coach and au­thor of “Chas­ing Suc­cess,” sug­gests that so­cial me­dia didn’t nec­es­sar­ily sway ABC’s de­ci­sion re­gard­ing the end of “Roseanne” — even if the mes­sage in ques­tion be­gan on Twit­ter.

“The pub­lic, many of her fans in­cluded, re­sponded ex­actly as they should have, de­mand­ing her show be can­celed,” Mr. Trivedi said.

To the star’s credit, Miss Barr even­tu­ally apol­o­gized to her col­leagues and Ms. Jar­rett di­rectly, even if she sug­gested that tak­ing the drug Am­bien fac­tored into her poor judg­ment. That is not al­ways the norm in such high-pro­file cases, Mr. Trivedi said.

“Too many times we see peo­ple and com­pa­nies ei­ther try to bury their mis­takes or lie about them, and that just adds even more fuel to the fire,” he said.

That could make her im­age re­cov­ery hap­pen sooner than later, in the­ory.

Jef­frey McCall, pro­fes­sor of me­dia stud­ies at DePauw Univer­sity in Green­cas­tle, In­di­ana, said our ob­ses­sion with celebri­ties is com­ing back to haunt us. Stars aren’t more evolved than the rest of us, Mr. McCall said, de­spite the pedestal we place them on.

“In fact, ac­tors and singers and ath­letes might even be more flawed as hu­man be­ings be­cause of the pres­sures and al­ter­nate re­al­i­ties they face in the fast lane,” Mr. McCall said.

In Hol­ly­wood’s Golden Age, the stu­dio sys­tem ag­gres­sively man­aged a star’s ca­reer, keep­ing un­sa­vory el­e­ments out of the head­lines. That is no longer the case, a sit­u­a­tion ex­ac­er­bated by so­cial me­dia. Just ask Miss Barr. “Let’s just en­joy celebri­ties for how they en­ter­tain us and stop pro­ject­ing onto them su­per­hu­man qual­i­ties or traits that they just don’t pos­sess,” Mr. McCall said. “That will save us all from dis­ap­point­ment in the fu­ture.”

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