Monday, 21 March 2011
Should talent be boycotted in favour of morality? Here’s lookin’ at you, Galliano.
The uproar over John Galliano’s recent anti-Semitic comments has been quite all-encompassing, and rightly so – anti-Semitism, racism, and really any kind of discrimination have no place in our society. I, for one, have been quite harsh in my judgment on the events, condemning Galliano for his behaviour and his peers for maintaining a stay of execution. I thoroughly believe, contrary to Galliano’s lawyer (who claimed that ‘it can happen to any one of us’), that there are some things you just do not say, no matter how intoxicated, with alcohol or other substances. Galliano’s comments were abhorrent and hopefully the incident will never be repeated.
However, upon reading that Saks Fifth Avenue had pulled Galliano’s eponymous line from the floor of the flagship Manhattan store (general manager Suzanne Johnson had no qualms about manning the guillotine, stating: “We have values like I hope everyone else has. What happened was not right, and we would not want to carry [Galliano's] merchandise”), I got to thinking. While I absolutely decry Galliano’s behaviour, I found myself wondering: just because someone does something morally abhorrent, does that mean we should boycott their professional offerings to the world, particularly if they happen to be quite good?
After all, one might argue that the professional and personal spheres are worlds apart, especially in arenas such as fashion. It is easy to judge celebrities by their actions, for example, and to afford them credit and loyalty (or not) as a result, because in some way they are selling themselves to the tabloids – their personalities. Therefore, if Lindsay Lohan goes on a drug-whoring Page Six-splash bonanza, it is more expected, more logically justifiable, that we might condemn her and decide never to watch her show again, or listen to her music, or condone whatever the hell it is she does, anyway.
But it isn’t quite the same story with someone who sells their work to the world. At the end of the day, the thing that actually has a price tag dangling from it – the ultimate sign that something is worth attention and judgment – is something that has been created, a separate entity from its creator. Hence, the professional and personal worlds are separated. After all, no one, not even in his own time when such actions were considered scandalous, stopped reading Oscar Wilde’s works simply because they disliked his flamboyant behaviour. It is a matter of judging the creator versus judging the creations. And shouldn’t we judge that which is responsible for the offense, rather than deflecting the attention elsewhere?
On the flip side of the coin, however, is the question of punishment. Whether or not someone believes that in fact a professional creation is not as separate as it may seem (don’t many authors refer to their books as parts of themselves, for example?), especially when the creator personally profits from it, the fact is that when we wish, as a society, to express displeasure towards the action of a publically visible figure, the only thing we can do in the way of ‘punishment’ (though this is really a misnomer: what we are really trying to do is establish natural justice and distinguish ourselves from the abhorrent actions of this champion of society, this celebrated figure who is supposed to represent the approval of thousands if not millions of people) is to boycott that figure’s ‘professional’ offerings. In this case, this equals not buying or wearing Galliano’s clothes as a consumer, or pulling his creations from the floor of a store as an enabler.
When all is said and done, I believe that the question of whether or not we should be boycotting Galliano’s clothes is a personal one. Each person will make up their own mind as to whether they will continue to sport John Galliano, and the decision will be the right one for each individual person. In case you’re interested, my decision is thus: I will not be boycotting Galliano’s clothes, as I believe that the court case and trial, subsequent punishment, and the condemnation of peers and public alike is appropriate punishment. Note that I said appropriate, not adequate. It may well not be adequate – only time will tell. Nonetheless, I will not be boycotting something beautiful just to make a point of refuting something ugly.
What do you think? Do you support the idea of boycotting Galliano’s clothes, or do you think that decision would be pointless? Sound off.