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Looking Beyond Black and White

“Most consequential choices involve shades of gray, and some fog is often useful in getting things done.”
-Timothy Geithner

Even though this post is going to have NOTHING to do with this comment, I have to say….I have spent more time trying to customize and lay out this new WordPress site this week… It’s making me feel stupid that I can’t get things to show up the way I want them to (Oh, Blogger, how I miss you and may come running back…)

Anyway, I digress. While my blog-customization efforts have taken away from any actual writing this week, here I am actually writing. My post today is going to be about something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and was talking to a friend about last night. The times we are living in right now are strange ones, for many, many reasons. One thing, though, that has defined recent years is outrage at a lot of things. The world has become very politically-correct, and celebrities (or even normal people) who mis-speak or are too candid about something that is viewed as inappropriate are quick to be attacked.

Here’s the thing: I think being careful about what you say, and being mindful of how the things you say will affect others is important. I just think sometimes we take it to an extreme. And I will be the first to admit that I’m guilty of feeling very strongly about inappropriate comments some celebrities make (as an example), while rolling my eyes at other celebrities getting attacked for something that seems pretty harmless. I recognize I am not always consistent, and my opinions tend to be both strong and loud. I’ve tried to  more conscious of this recently, though I am grateful I am NOT famous because I’m sure I would have had to issue all sorts of public apologies…

I’ve digressed again (shocking!). I actually had a couple of specific things that have been tumbling through my mind lately, and essentially I think what it comes down to is not looking at everything in terms of black and white, good and bad — I think there are so many shades of gray that often get overlooked in the era of easily outraged social media interaction.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the controversy surrounding Casey Affleck and his performance/nomination for Manchester by the Sea. If you happen to be reading this and don’t know the controversy of which I speak, here’s the short version: Back in 2010, when Affleck was working on I’m Still Here, the “documentary” detailing Joaquin Phoenix’s “rapping career,” two women involved in the film filed sexual harrassment claims against him (Google can tell you more). A lot of people feel that he should not be getting the attention he is for his performance in Manchester by the Sea because they believe that it is wrong to reward someone after they have (supposedly) participated in such reprehensible behavior. It’s another example of men not just getting away with bad behavior, but that behavior getting ignored as they are celebrated for other achievements.

I get that. I do. And I absolutely recognize that men in Hollywood in particular get away with a lot of bad behavior, while women fight tooth and nail for respect and advancement that comes much harder. It’s not right, and it’s not fair, and it needs to change.

But…I saw Manchester by the Sea. And it is an absolutely beautiful, heartbreaking, wonderful movie. Of the season’s award-nominated films that I have seen, it is by far my favorite so far. It is amazing, and Affleck is brilliant in it. So are Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams. It’s an emotionally affecting story that is wonderfully told, with both heartache and humor very present. In my mind, it is absolutely deserving of any nominations that it gets, and I won’t lie about being happy that Affleck won at the Golden Globes. He deserved it.

I recognize saying that might be controversial. And I have been very outspoken in my hatred of Chris Brown, another celebrity who has done some pretty reprehensible stuff and who I refuse to support. But here’s the thing – as a friend and I were talking about last night, Chris Brown is himself. Sure, maybe him as an “artist” is a persona that he puts on that isn’t totally him, but if I choose not to support him, I’m doing just that — not supporting him. If I chose to boycott Manchester by the Sea because of Casey Affleck’s past transgressions, I’m punishing everyone involved in that movie (also, please don’t get the impression that I, personally, by myself make a difference in either of these scenarios. I don’t, I know). I’m saying that Michelle Williams should also be punished, just for signing on to do a movie with Casey Affleck. No matter how worthy that movie is of having been made, or how amazing she was in that movie. Also, Casey Affleck as a person? I don’t know him. Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler? Was affecting and human and flawed and made me really feel something. If he truly is deserving of the top award in Hollywood, should that really be ignored because of something he did 7 years ago? I honestly don’t know. I think the matter is more complicated than a simple black and white answer wherein the only options are “he did a bad thing, he’s evil and should disappear” or “who cares what he did, it doesn’t matter at all.” I think what he did does matter, and surely him settling those lawsuits out of court indicates some sort of culpability on his part, at least as far as public perception is concerned. I just also think that his performance is worthy of recognition and celebration.

Changing the subject a little (but still sticking to awards season), as my inner monologue in regards to Affleck and Manchester battled back and forth, I sat down to watch the Golden Globes a few weeks ago. And during the Globes, Meryl Streep was awarded the Cecille B. DeMille Award, and gave a speech. A speech that I happened to love, that was very clearly about Trump, though he was never mentioned by name. I applauded her, it made me love her more. Trump, obviously, did not love it, and tweeted so before long.

Image result for meryl streep

As I thought about this the next day, though, I thought about how I would have felt if a celebrity had stood up there and given a pro-Trump speech, or used the same platform to speak out against Obama. I most certainly would not have loved that, and would probably have reacted similar to those that criticized her. I’m not going to make this overly political (if you follow me on facebook or have spoken to me in real life, you likely know where I fall on the political spectrum and how I feel about the current administration), but I do think trying to see the other side of things made me look at her speech a bit differently. And made me think of the pro-Trump celebrities who have spoken out and pissed me off. I still stand my Meryl and her message, but I found myself thinking more about those who might not have than I normally would when her speech was over.

“There are infinite shades of grey. Writing often appears so black and white.”
-Rebecca Solnit

I think it’s so easy to villainize people — both celebrities and regular people — for being different, or doing things we don’t agree with. I also think that things are rarely that simple. People who do bad things aren’t necessarily evil or irredeemable. And good people can still make mistakes — which doesn’t automatically make them bad people when they do either.

In closing this out, I recognize there are plenty of people who surely won’t agree with me, or feel differently. And that’s fine — I’m not looking for an argument. Just sharing some of the conflicting thoughts bouncing around in my own, crazy brain 🙂

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