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One Song Glory: A Cautionary Tale
What a progressive work affords a regressive man.
Shortly after the exposure of abuse endured by Rihanna at the hands of Chris Brown in 2009, Randy Jackson of American Idol fame was asked, given his prescience for musical trends, if he thought Brown stood a chance of redemption. In a response almost too quick and confident for comfort, Jackson replied, "It only takes one song." Eight years and many songs later, Brown has mostly exhumed his commercial viability, if not his reputation, from opprobrium and tours those songs around the world, a catalog that includes two duets recorded with the Bajan pop-princess herself.
Though the sheer and increasing amount of sexually abusive and violent men we mistook for civil has shocked many of us, the flimsy myth of what type of man would leverage his influence in favor of predation has been gradually dispelled for decades. At least half of the population has always experienced that he isn't only the under-educated outcast, lurking around stairwells and social peripheries, but the aesthete, the executive and the legislator as well. He can be charming, worldly and urbane; an insatiable idol who, despite the inherent power already imbued in his station, requires human sacrifices as both ongoing evidence of that power and fuel.
Historically for public men who commit indefensible crimes against women, whether formally charged in court or not, they tend to pay in fixed sentences of social sanctions and endorsement exile. Inevitably they're paroled by the boredom of the public or by a more vile act by a more powerful man. Now, definitively rid of the veil of ignorance, a luxury item never afforded to females, it's time we well-meaning enablers investigate our part in the inadvertent uplifting of nefarious men. Surely, the smallest apologetic gesture a decent man can make amidst this circus is to expand the parameters of his solidarity.
Dangerous, Crimes and Misdemeanors and The Usual Suspects are works by Michael Jackson, Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey, respectively; entertainers accused of assault on either men, women or children. These titles once seemed innocuous in the context of our iPod shuffles and Netflix queues but now leave us wondering how revelatory these current accusations actually are. Louis C.K.'s admission of guilt was hiding in plain sight throughout his stand-up for years but was muted by our own laughter. Perhaps the veil of ignorance wasn't a complimentary token of deflection from our captors, but an accessory we fastened to ourselves. This postmortem may do little to appease survivors with no shot of judicial justice under the statute of limitations, but may be the necessary work of advocates, determined to do better as a result of knowing better.
No one is irredeemable, yet somehow in the euphony of valiant, victimized voices, no longer silenced by the burden of secrecy but amplified by the contagion of bravery, it feels anathema to quiet them now by romanticizing a movie or forgetting with a song. Our works are contributions to humankind, not grants of asylum from our improprieties.
Stephen Colbert referred only briefly to the allegations of sexual misconduct against Louis C.K. on Thursday’s “Late Show.”