Bad Deeds Don’t Ruin Great Art

Via: Tuned In

In Salon today, Daniel D’Addario wrote about how disappointing it was that Michael Douglas, who delivered such a moving performance as Liberace in Behind the Candelabra, has accepted his awards for that role with such cringeworthy gay jokes. Last fall, he accepted at the Emmys with a string of quips about gay sex; last night at the Golden Globes, he said that being offered the role made him worried that his self-presentation was “mincing.” Douglas’ jokes made him seem nervous and self-conscious about being identified with a gay character, the opposite of the empathetic spirit he brought to the role. But D’Addario goes beyond that to say that the speech “calls the quality of his work into question.” Does it? Does a moving portrayal of the passions, flaws and loves of a celebrity in a gilded closet become retroactively worse because the vessel for it shows his flaws? Is the power of Steven Soderbergh’s movie invalidated? I doubt that. You might even argue that Douglas’ apparent self-consciousness about playing a gay man adds to the accomplishment of the performance. Maybe this is something that great art can do–empower people to find an empathy, an ability to transcend their internal wiring in a way they can’t in front of, say, an audience in the Beverly Hilton ballroom. I mean, I know it’s not completely that simple. Is there nothing Michael Douglas could say that woud change the way I saw his Liberace, if I watched it again? Or that would affect my view of a gay character he played in the future? That would be silly to claim, and yet: his performance is his performance. It doesn’t simply become worse because it needs to, as a punishment for subsequent offenses. The quality of his accomplishment is not tethered to the quality of his character. It’s possible for people to do good work and bad things. That’s an eternally hard problem around artists, though, whether you’re talking Ezra Pound or R. Kelly, and it came up again at the Golden Globes with

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