Does art transcend action?

When you hear Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” what do you think of? Do you think about Jackson’s legacy as King of Pop, or do you think of the allegations of sexual assault brought against him? It’s hard to forget the accusations against Jackson, even if you believe they’re false, and he’s almost impossible to forget and push aside. But can the two be mutually exclusive? Can you remember Michael Jackson for the talented musician he was while simultaneously remembering the pervert he might have been? I’m wondering not only if it’s possible, but if it’s right.

Let’s consider Woody Allen, critically acclaimed director, who is married to Soon-Yi Previn. Allen had dated Previn’s mother during her childhood and had never been considered a father figure. While there is speculation as to when the relationship began, it was determined that it was lawful. They married in 1997, a few years before Previn turned 30. 

However, the law often doesn’t govern morality, and vice-a-versa. Meaning that if Allen did engage in a sexual relationship with Previn within the letter of the law, it doesn’t mean that it’s right. Despite this, Allen is still regarded as an excellent filmmaker. And as far as we know, he never did anything illegal. But what about those who haven’t followed the law. What happens to their work?

Bill Cosby, once viewed as a lovable and laughable family man, was convicted as a sexually violent predator. For the past decade or so, Cosby has lost all his moral footing and is subject to rot, and quite possibly, die in a jail cell. His work is purposefully forgotten, and every episode of “The Cosby Show” has been stored away for good measure. If he lives through his prison sentence, he’ll never walk as a free person again. 

Another person to consider is Kevin Spacey. The “House of Cards” star similarly had his stardom rightfully ripped from him after sexual allegations in the mid-2010’s. After he was replaced in the show, he lost all prospects of work, and his reputation has since been ruined. He didn’t go to jail like Cosby, but he faces the same world that Cosby will face when he gets out of prison.

It goes without saying that there is something wrong with these four men, and nothing in the world could convince me that they deserve any sympathy. Personally, I’ve never seen a Woody Allen film, and have never cared to see one, and I could never bring myself to watch “The Cosby Show” or any of Spacey’s work without feeling a little bit sick to my stomach.

But for some strange reason, I can listen to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and put the allegations out of my mind. He is somehow still the King of Pop. And I have to wonder if it’s because he passed away before I learned of any of the allegations? If he were still alive, would his music still be played? And, finally, if Cosby or Spacey had died before the allegations came to light would people still watch them on television?