What do we, as critics, viewers, listeners, readers, and fellow creators do when bad people make good art? Here’s an interesting attempt at an answer to the age old question.
by Jessica Mason
Yesterday, photos were released of Brandon Routh as Kingdom Come-era Superman in Crisis on Infinite Earths. After I got over how awesome he looked, I got to thinking about how great Routh was in the red and blue in Superman Returns…and how I don’t know if I’m comfortable ever watching that movie again, because of the allegations against both Kevin Spacey (who played Lex Luthor) and director Bryan Singer. It’s a tough spot, because Superman Returns is a really interesting transition point in comic book movies, but it would take some effort to watch without thinking of Spacey and Singer’s bad acts. This isn’t an isolated problem: Increasingly nowadays, as MeToo and cultural reckonings dominate the discourse, we have to consider what to do when the art we love is made by horrible people.
There are a lot of artists we could discuss here, sadly, many of them geek favorites. Joss Whedon was subject to allegations years back, which has shadowed how I look at Buffy. We’ve mentioned Singer already and his taint carries to so many important film. But I don’t think anyone who has been subject to a cultural turn has had as much influence, at least to my own pop pursuits, as Johnny Depp. Depp has been subject to serious allegation from his ex-wife, Amber Heard, though he has not been convicted of any crimes and sued for defamation, in a legal proceeding that is still on-going.
I was a Johnny Depp hipster. I loved him before he hit it big, in Edward Scissorhands and Benny And Joon and Sleepy Hollow. When he exploded, I was so happy the greater culture was getting to enjoy him…and then he got weird and his movies weren’t as good. He became a parody of himself, but could still turn in performances what were at least interesting. But then the abuse allegations came out and, for a lot of people, that was enough to finally drop him.
But it’s been hard for me to break up with Johnny Depp….