They’re on TV and in the papers—giving statements to magazines and joining the twitter storm. Scratch that—they’re MAKING the twitter storm. It seems as if every day someone else is standing up and taking back their power and their dignity. Their lives. Which is absolutely as it should be. But, it seems to me, there are others who have been victimized by this very process of justice and catharsis.
I first made note of it when I heard a story on NPR about exceptional films that didn’t stand a chance of receiving an Academy Award nomination—let alone an Oscar—because Harvey Weinstein had been involved in their production. I thought, “Well, that’s a shame.” How frustrating to be an actor, director or crew member who’s put in so much time, and effort, and heart to create something—only to have its prospects evaporate because of someone else’s bad behavior.
And then came Louis C.K. Now, I’m a big fan of the Pamela Adlon series Better Things—co-written by Louis C.K. When news broke about his alleged misconduct, the Fx network severed all ties—leaving me to wonder about the fate of one of my favorite shows. Again, so unfair for everyone involved in that production to be tainted by someone else’s actions. And why should I, as a viewer, suffer for something I had no involvement in? Luckily, it looks as if Better Things will go on without C.K…but it got me thinking…
In our haste to denounce anyone having anything to do with this sordid, unacceptable behavior, are we punishing innocent people?
Yes, I think we are. And nothing brought that point home to me more clearly than when conductor James Levine’s 40+ year tenure with the Metropolitan Opera came to an abrupt end amidst sexual misconduct allegations. Poof! Just like that, a lifetime’s work up in smoke. Then, right on the heels of the Levine scandal came Charles Dutoit—another fine conductor who found himself in the unwelcome glare of scandal. One of the reason these charges, in particular, made an impact on me is because both conductors immediately vanished from the playlists of some of the radio stations I work for. And I get that—no one wants to glorify someone who’s done something so disgraceful. And, certainly no entertainment outlet—including television networks, film studios and radio stations—wants to attract the ire of consumers and sponsors by appearing to tacitly support one of these people.
Okay, so this is where you lose me. Much like a movie or a television series, there are a lot of people involved in the making of a classical music recording. Most notably, the orchestra itself. Approximately a hundred people working long hours, honing their craft, practicing and performing. If you’re talking about an operatic recording, then you can throw in vocal soloists and a chorus as well. And suddenly people like me aren’t playing their music. Because one person has been accused of acting criminally. As deplorable as his actions may be, the truth is still this:
The musicians—presumably—had nothing to do with those events. Now, their livelihoods and reputations are suffering because of one individual’s actions. That’s a pretty broad brush to be painting with, no? I feel as if, in trying to be respectful of victims, we have created a whole other class of them: the victims of the backlash against the sexual abusers. How is it that their efforts—their product—can be so thoroughly and completely tainted as to be rendered disposable? Would we be having this conversation if Joe Schmo, the second Kazoo player in the Podunk Symphony were accused of misconduct? Would people be calling radio stations demanding that they pull recordings made by the Podunk Symphony? I dare say…no. It’s only the high-profile folks who warrant that kind of attention. The ones who,very often, make the big bucks. Still, the “worker bees” are penalized with a loss of exposure and revenue.
I offer this alternative: Scrub the credits.
It’s that simple. Don’t credit the offending conductor, the director of the film, the producer of the TV series. Make them and their contributions irrelevant. And how fitting is that punishment? If the reports are to be believed, these guys have spent years throwing around their power, lording it over those who only wanted a fair shake. Yeah, irrelevance sounds about right to me.
So, for the performers at the Met—your Boheme rocks, baby! Musicians of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra? Your Planets will always be the gold standard in my book! You actors, writers, directors and crew members associated with Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Louis C.K. and others, let me say on behalf of your devoted fans, your work was not been in vain. The writing is great, the jokes are still funny. Your performance was hilarious/heartbreaking/poignant. Your sound design, lighting, casting, food service and titles were outstanding.
You were not diminished by this thing that guy did.
You know, the irrelevant guy.
What’s his name again?