Really, it’s no secret at all that in Hollywood, profits will trump ethics almost every single time. So, when a scandal occurs involving one celebrity or another, you can assume that how a studio responds to that scandal will be more dependent upon how much capital that celebrity generates than upon some moral decision, which is problematic for a number of reasons. There are writers, directors, producers, and actors who are thriving in Tinseltown despite being involved in some very shady goings-on. Others find their careers ended due to mere associations and rumours. Then there are those who are cut off from the entertainment community with good reason. Just this week Allison Mack, a leading actor from the hit WB/CW series Smallville, confessed to being involved with a sex cult/human trafficking group. This comes after the recent sex scandals surrounding Bryan Singer, Kevin Spacey, Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, and Harvey Weinstein. (Hollywood clearly has a real problem with sexual exploitation and abuse that needs to be addressed.) In almost all of these cases, the exception being Jackson, the people caught up in these scandals have had their careers virtually wiped out by their misdeeds. And rightfully so. But in all of these instances, the people involved had multiple accusations of actual abuse made against them, and that is simply not always the case. So, what is the right course of discipline for people who may have overstepped the boundaries of propriety, of what is currently socially acceptable, but have not outright harmed anyone beyond the initial controversy of their words and actions? These are important questions in an ongoing discussion about freedom of speech and accountability in the free market world of American entertainment.
Enter Walt Disney Pictures… and Marvel Studios. When Disney bought Marvel back in 2009, around a year after the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it was supposed early on that the family-friendly corporation might hold the reins to the comic book company a little too tightly. There were fears that they might even censor the more adult content of earlier comics and comic book-inspired films. So far, that has not been the case, and it’s largely been a pleasant surprise for fans. The MCU films have been a huge success. By “a huge success”, I mean a titanic, phenomenal, cosmic success. Since 2008, the MCU raked in a massive total of $19 billion, which is astonishing by any metric. No film franchise has come close to this level of financial success within a ten year period. It’s unprecedented. The films are making so much money that it puts Disney in an interesting and somewhat dualistic position. On the one hand, that level of success means that these films are highly visible, that there’s a built-in audience, and that they will pull a massive profit no matter what, and so there’s a certain freedom there to take risks and hire filmmakers to helm franchises that may not be immediately obvious. Or even safe choices. On the other hand, it also means that they may be overprotective of their investments, of what projects go forward, and how to ensure that those projects match up with the lucrative business of their previous films, which means that studio interference and control could be a potential problem. Either way it’s a lot of pressure for a studio president or executive to deal with.
So, what happens when a filmmaker, or even an actor, does something that doesn’t line up with the almighty studio’s plan, either in their personal life or in the process of making a film for Marvel? Well, the MCU‘s success might be unprecedented, but shakeups behind the scenes are not, and this is evident in who has been let go in those ten years. One might forget that both Disney and Marvel have a history of severing ties with talent when they feel that the studios’ overall vision doesn’t line up with the individual’s. Iron Man star Terence Howard‘s character James Rhodes/War Machine was recast with Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2. The original director of Ant-Man, Edgar Wright, was let go and replaced by Peyton Reed, who wound up directing both that film and its sequel. In the former situation, the actor was reportedly difficult to work with and made too many demands, and in the latter situation, the director’s creative vision didn’t align with that of the studio, so they were let go. But then there’s James Gunn. Gunn was apparently a charm to work with and he has been highly regarded by his cast and crew. Gunn’s vision for the Guardians of the Galaxy not only aligned with the studio’s vision, it surpassed it and enhanced it, and creatively he was responsible for two of Marvel‘s biggest hits. Marvel Studios‘ president Kevin Feige made it no secret that Gunn would be heavily involved with the future of the MCU, helping to spearhead it’s forward momentum and trajectory, much in the same way that Joss Whedon and brothers, Anthony Russo and Joe Russo have. When Gunn was fired last Summer for some highly inappropriate tweets from almost a decade ago, it sent shock waves through the industry, not least of all because professionally he had done nothing wrong.
James Gunn brought so much to the tone, aesthetics, and scope of that first Guardians of the Galaxy film. It would be hard to imagine anyone else stepping into that corner of the sandbox and creating anything comparable with what are essentially his toys. After his firing, the principal cast sent an open letter to the studio, respectfully asking that the studio let Gunn return as director. Tens of thousands of fans signed petitions. However, it looked unlikely that the director would be returning for the third (and final?) installment in the GotG trilogy. The one bright light in this whole dark drama was that Gunn’s recently completed screenplay for the film would still be used. For a while rumours circulated online of possible replacement directors who could step in to replace Gunn. At the top of the list were Nicole Pearlman and Taika Waititi. Nicole Pearlman was the original writer on the first Guardians of the Galaxy film before it was rewritten by James Gunn. The other choice, and the one that most fans seemed to flock to, was Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi. In response to these rumours, Waititi made a statement, saying, “For me, those are James’ films. Going into something like that with his stamp all over his films, would be like going into someone’s house and saying ‘Hey, I’m your new dad, and this is how we make peanut butter sandwiches now. It feels kind of awkward. However, I’m still hanging out with those guys [at Marvel] and talking about new stuff. I want to do another movie with them.” Apparently Disney and Marvel ultimately agreed, because now Gunn has been reinstated as the director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but what does that say about the ethics of the companies?
That question isn’t easy to answer. If I had to sum it up, I would say that the bottom line is profit, and perhaps if there were two bottom lines, just above that would be prestige. Almost all decisions in Hollywood are determined by how much of a profit you can pull in and how much prestige your work can acquire in terms of critical appraisal and awards. Because of that, studios and the talents hired by them are often placed above certain moral expectations, and this is why Hollywood is often criticized for its lack of morality. The problem is that generalization really only applies to a select few people who have been highly visible due to the scandals that they’ve been involved. Hollywood scandals aren’t always, or even often, based upon a genuine interest in ethics. Many times scandals are concocted in order to bring down talented people. The motivations vary and range from professional jealousy to sexism and racism, from resentment over contracts to creative disputes, from personal grudges to political retaliation. And these Hollywood scandals are in no way new. They are just more widespread and quickly disseminated in the digital age.
When the silent film era was at its strongest in the late 1910s and into the early 1920s, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was falsely accused of raping Virginia Rappe. One of Rappe’s friends spread rumours about him raping her with an icicle and that her death was the result of Arbuckle’s weight on top of her. The doctor performing the autopsy denied there being any truth to these claims. Numerous witnesses countered the claims with their version of events where Arbuckle applied ice to her stomach while she was in pain. We know now that Rappe was suffering from medical complications arising from her alcohol consumption and peritonitis and that Arbuckle was trying to help her. The blatant lies that Rappe told were planned in an attempt extort money from Arbuckle. It ruined his career. Clara Bow also suffered similar treatment by the press. They were all fabricated for the sake of ruining her career. Some things don’t change.
Disney and Marvel came under a lot of fire when they severed ties with Gunn. This was because they knew about Gunn’s controversial tweets before they hired and then only fired him after they became well-known. That did nothing to give them any claims of taking the moral higher ground. Now they are receiving criticism from some people, most notable among them conservative actor James Woods, for having hired Gunn back. In my last write-up on this issue, I pointed out that Gunn probably should never have been hired based on his earlier social media presence and Disney‘s self-proclaimed values system, but given that the studios knew about his past and what he had said, firing him after the fact to save face was just hypocritical and facile. Now it appears all the more so since they have hired him back after Gunn’s six-month absence on social media. Interestingly, it’s been suggested by a number of sources that Marvel never really considered any other directors to replace Gunn, which may indicate that his firing to begin with was just a PR move. Whether it was always intended that he direct the film, even in the face of the backlash, it’s hard to say because the decision process has not been very transparent. What we do know is that James Gunn virtually disappeared from social media, ceasing to post on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, until March 15, 2019. Then on that day, he posted a statement, one which sent fans into a frenzy, announcing that the decision had been reversed and that he would indeed be returning to direct the third GotG film.
Music + Visuals = Potency
At this point, one would be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t ever seen a music video or a portion of one during the course of their lives. Almost without exception we have all seen music videos, at some time or another, whether on MTV, VH1, BET, or YouTube. They have become not only an accepted part of the music industry but an almost mandatory staple of it. If you want to succeed commercially in music today, you have to adapt to this, and in 1981 with the launch of MTV, the music industry was introduced to one of its greatest assets as well as one of its greatest liabilities.
If one goes all the way back to Walt Disney‘s 1940 film, Fantasia, or even further back to the Silly Symphony cartoon series which began in 1929, it becomes immediately apparent that the marriage of visual imagery with music has proven to be a most formidable combination. Music can either be enhanced or diminished by an accompanying visual presentation. Some songs and some visuals mesh so spectacularly that one can barely hear the song without imagining its video counterpart. Take Star Wars for example, it’s almost impossible not to see the scrolling titles and prologue for the films in your mind’s eye whenever you hear John Williams‘ legendary theme, or to see an iconic character like Darth Vader without imagining the ominous theme of the Imperial March. Go on, give it a try. That’s just one obvious way that musical language and visual language can complement each other and create a link between one medium and another.
Now, take a look at music videos today, and most of them seem to have a singular purpose: to sell singles and albums. In this digital age, especially with the dwindling sales of physical music (since we’re on the subject I’ll take vinyl and CD over MP3 files any day), having a popular music video can make or break a career, even to the extent of a terrible song finding widespread fame and commercial success because the music video was so memorable. There are singers and musicians whose entire careers can be chalked up to the artwork and photographs on their albums or their music videos rather than on the quality of their music. Having grown up in the late ’80s and ’90s, I’ve seen this happen with bubblegum pop, teenybopper, boyband, and dance pop stars. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not living under the naïve delusion that once there was this grand past of substantive and enriching music videos, because no, there wasn’t. There are occasionally performers whose music videos elevate the medium from crass commercialism to high entertainment or even true art. Michael Jackson‘s Thriller, Kate Bush‘s Running Up That Hill, Peter Gabriel‘s Sledgehammer, Madonna‘s Like a Prayer, Nirvana‘s Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nine Inch Nails‘ Closer, TLC‘s Waterfalls, and The White Stripes‘ Fell in Love with a Girl are all examples of music videos whose visual aesthetics and narratives are more than just sales gimmickry. These are videos that attain artistry and relevance. They obtain renown, acclaim, and even controversy. They achieve immortality through the purity of their innovation.
Nine months ago, actor and musician Donald Glover, under his performing name of Childish Gambino, released a video for his latest single This Is America. The video immediately earned the same level of distinction as those aforementioned videos, because it is a singularly unique vision, as well as being a provocative, controversial, and riveting experience. Opening on an image of a black guitarist performing in a warehouse, the appearance of Glover dancing, and the shooting of the guitarist, whose face is now covered in a bag, in the head at point blank range, the video is openly confrontational in its effort to address racial violence. It continues and shows an all-black church chorus, singing and dancing in joyous and faithful celebration, before being gunned down, again by Glover, and then having their bodies unceremoniously dragged away and discarded. Forcing viewers to confront the harsh realities faced by black Americans every day and challenging long-held stereotypes, Glover’s song and its video present scenarios and raise questions, but intentionally leave the interpretation and the answers up to bewildered viewers.
Within 24 hours, the video for This Is America had received almost 13 million views, and at the time of writing this, the video has received over 484,500,000 views, with over 7.4 million viewers responding that they liked the video and 564 thousand expressing their dislike of it. Steeped in symbolism and allusions to current social crises, the video has become a lightning rod for controversy, and a hot topic among critics and commentators, most of whom praised its audacious visuals and metaphors. That said, the video has also received its share of reservations and critiques, with many of the criticisms focused on the abrupt and disturbing violence. Some viewers have seen it as a revolutionary statement on race relations and gun violence in the United States while others have accused it of reinforcing negative racial stereotypes. Some viewers have decried it as a pretentious mess of disjointed lyrical and visual content while others have hailed it as a masterpiece of Trap (a term for a form of hip-hop popular in the South and characterized by electronic beats, a dark or ominous energy, and scathing social commentary).
In terms of visibility, Donald Glover, as an actor, a writer, a producer, and a director, has been rising in prominence for some time now with his roles in 30 Rock, Community, Atlanta, The Martian, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Likewise his musical persona as Childish Gambino has risen as well, beginning with the melodic and confident rap of his first album Camp, continuing with his startlingly original follow-up album Because the Internet, and culminating in the brilliantly funky and psychedelic album “Awaken, My Love!”. And though it is true that singles like Bonfire, Crawl, and the Grammy-winning Redbone certainly stood out from anything else that was coming out of contemporary hip-hop or R&B at the time, the video for This Is America has managed to overshadow most of his other creative output as a hip-hop artist. Depending on how you look at it, this could be viewed as either a good or a bad thing, but it remains a fact. Topping the power of a strong single with an unforgettable music video will be a challenge for Gambino, but one that I think he is more than up for, and the result could be equally spectacular.
While it’s a topic that I have often overlooked, fashion has been an undeniable stone in the foundation of both high and low culture, serving as a point at which the worlds of commerce, films, music, and art have all intersected. It has become impossible to explore any of these areas thoroughly without seeing how the world of fashion has overlapped with all of them. Whether it’s costume design for films and television series, the latest business suits for the bigwigs of industry, the wardrobe supplied for commercial photography and modelling, or the extravagant apparel of celebrities walking the red carpet, fashion is an integral element of the modern cultural zeitgeist. And in recent memory, but especially in the last two decades, it’s hard to find another fashion designer who has shaken things up as much as John Galliano.
Controversial designer John Galliano, head of Dior from 1996-2011, has often been referred to as “the rock star of fashion”. Like a rock star, Galliano’s designs have pushed the boundaries of the fashion world with their combination of his haute couture (high culture) fashion mindset and the more counterculture Goth and Punk do-it-yourself aesthetics. He has also courted controversy on numerous occasions, both for his designs, and for his outrageous statements. Galliano has also drawn considerable influence and inspiration from the world of Fine Art. This becomes particularly apparent in his Ready-to-Wear 1997 Fall line (aptly dubbed the “Siouxsie Sphinx” line), which combined imagery taken from Ancient Egyptian artworks and the styles of the Goth sub-culture that was cultivated by none other than Siouxsie Sioux of the Post-Punk/Goth-Pop band, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and for his Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2008 line, which built upon the themes and aesthetics of the aforementioned line and explored other influences.
Galliano drew inspiration from Siouxsie Sioux, whose own fashion aesthetics were a mix of the black leather, metal spikes, dog collars, and tousled hair of Punk, the fishnet stockings and garters of the Cabaret dancer, and the theatricality of Kabuki performance with its luxurious silk robes, pale facial makeup, heavy eyeliner, and dark lipstick. Another important aspect of Siouxsie’s style was her love of the artworks of the German Expressionists and the artists of the Vienna Secession, most notably Gustav Klimt. The influence of Klimt’s work is most apparent on Siouxsie and the Banshees’ 1982 album A Kiss in the Dream House, which as an aside is often considered the band’s greatest artistic achievement in their early Post-Punk days, and, along with a trio of albums by pioneering Goth-Pop band The Cure, helped to establish the sound of the Alternative and Goth genres as distinct from the umbrella terms “New Wave” and “Post-Punk”. Sioux’s style was a combination of Punk, New Romantic, and the emerging Goth, and it would rise in prominence throughout the late ’70s and ’80s, and help give birth to the Goth look of the ’90s adopted by Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and others.
Looking even further into the progression of influence and inspiration, Gustav Klimt was moved to emulate much of what he admired in the artworks of the Ancient Byzantines and Greeks, with their lavish mosaics, recurring geometric patterns (of triangles, squares, and spirals), and bright flourishes of gold leaf. Klimt’s art, more of which can be seen HERE, was striking in its modern style and yet still incorporated ancient elements, resulting in something that felt both timeless and fresh. Klimt’s work was considered controversial and subversive when he, along with artists Koloman Moser and Max Kurzweil, and architects Joseph Hoffman and Joseph Maria Olbrich began the movement known as the Vienna Secession. The group’s motto was “Der Zeit ihre Kunst. Der Kunst ihre Freiheit.” (English trans. “To every age its art. To every art its Freedom.”)
This motto accurately reflects Galliano’s attitude towards fashion as well. We can best see the effects of these various stylistic progenitors in Galliano’s opulent and elegant dress from the Haute-Couture Spring-Summer line in 2008. Here one can see echoes of Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees, Gustav Klimt, and classical works of art and design from the Byzantine tradition. Much like a garment made from different materials, which are cultivated and gathered from different places, then carefully dyed, cut, and sown together following the plans of a designer, these seemingly disparate influences and inspirations all come together via the direction of creative peoples. Seeing this progression forwards and backwards through time not only hits home just how much art and culture is reverberated throughout the ages, but also how art in one form, the visual arts, can impact art in other forms, music, performance, and fashion.
Currently some of Galliano’s most spectacularly flamboyant designs, including the one featured in the photo above, are on view until March 3, 2019 at the Denver Art Museum as part of the special exhibition Dior: From Paris to the World, of which the Denver Art Museum is the sole location. If you’re interested in seeing more of Galliano’s Siousxie Sioux and Gustav Klimt-inspired designs for Dior, please follow these links to slideshow of his 1997 Ready-to-Wear Fall line and his 2008 Haute Couture Spring-Summer line on the Vogue website:
John Galliano’s Fall 1997 Ready-to-Wear Line for Dior
John Galliano’s Spring-Summer 2008 Haute Couture Line for Dior
From its opening in 1947 being protested for its extreme opulence during post-WWII austerity measures to its use of cultural misappropriation in the many themes for each fashion line, from the small size of both its dresses and its models to claims of plagiarism, the house of Dior has been no stranger to controversy. But nothing has been quite so controversial as a series of highly insensitive, violent, and anti-Semitic remarks made by John Galliano, which lead to his subsequent firing as the fashion company’s Creative Director. Galliano had held the position for almost fifteen years at the time of his termination. The reason behind it were ultimately two separate incidents when Galliano, who was drunk on both occasions, made some pretty horrific statements to patrons of a cafe in Paris, and then later again in the same cafe where the incident was caught on video and shared online. In the video, Galliano said, “I love Hitler. People like you would be dead today, your mothers, your forefathers would be fucked gassed, and fucking dead.” Galliano’s remarks were made in France, where it is illegal to make racist statements or to promote fascism, and so he was arrested, and his Legion of Honour medal revoked.
Ironically, much of the artwork that Galliano took inspiration from, be it the work of Odilon Redon, Edvard Munch, or Gustav Klimt, was part of a trend of radical artistic reinvention in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a trend largely born of Jewish intellectualism, and one that Hitler would denounce as Entartete Kunst: degenerate art. Greater irony, still, is that Galliano, a Gibraltar-born citizen of Britain, and a homosexual man, would also have found his own works banned and himself imprisoned by the Nazi regime.
Since his firing, Galliano has had a temporary residency for fashion designer Oscar de la Renta in 2013, and then in 2014 he became the Creative Director for Maison Margiela.
You know, I have to question the ethical well-being of any society where someone comes forth with claims of having been violated, where the immediate response is anger, doubt, and suspicion. When a person undergoes trauma that trauma is real and substantial, regardless of whether their claims are, and that person should be heard and listened to. This is true regardless of the specifics. If a person, of any age, gender, or race, has the courage and the conviction to stand before another person and say, “This is my story. This is what I experienced. This happened to me,” we should pay attention and we should pay respect. There is nothing easy about lowering your defenses after being violated. Trauma has a way of rooting itself deep within the psyché and restricting an individual’s ability to be vulnerable. The strength and the determination required to approach someone else, without knowing if you will be heard, if you will be believed, and if you will be seen differently, is tremendous. To expose yourself in that moment of vulnerable confession and acknowledge what happened to you is one of the most courageous things that a survivor of trauma can do. You’re opening up psychological wounds each time you share your story. It hurts. A lot. Whether those wounds heal or not is largely dependent upon the support system you have around you and whether people, in general, are able to offer their trust and confidence in your experience. Knowing that you are heard and believed is in no small part the first step in rebuilding your life and finding empowerment.
When the trauma that you’ve experienced is of a sexual nature, the wounds are all the more deep, and the emotional consequences all the more complex. The reason for this is that you not only experienced hell, but someone intentionally inflicted that hell upon you, because they were either oblivious to the consequences that it would have for you (as well as for themselves), or worse, they did not care. It’s impossible to say with certainty what goes on in the mind of an abusive personality when they violate another person, how they justify themselves, how they invalidate an entire other person’s consciousness, denying their right to physical and emotional security. Do the ramifications of their violence occur to them? Are they so insular and egocentric that they are only aware of their perception and their feelings throughout the whole act? What do they think and feel afterward? Is there guilt, regret, or remorse? These thoughts may not go through the mind of every sexual predator, but they are a constant for every survivor, which is partly why it is so challenging to confront your abuser and tell your story. Something has already been taken away from you and you have been held in very little regard. The fear of coming forward and sharing that with someone who might take more away and hold you in equally low or even lower regard is terrifying. It brings back the sense of being probed, violated, and having your power stripped away.
It astounds me, truly astounds me, the insensitivity and cruelty that survivors are forced to endure when their trauma is played out in the media for all to see. The way that women, in particular, have been scrutinized and made to relive their trauma just so that they can seek justice is itself unjust. Despite the outrage that such proceedings elicit, the same unfolding events happen again and again, the pattern persists, and people go about their business; news as usual. Interestingly, because of the role that patriarchy plays in society, when men come forth with claims of having experienced sexual abuse, the response is almost without exception to believe them. The horrific logic seems to go something along the lines of, “That’s such a shameful secret for a man to keep, so if he’s willing to admit to such an unmanly shame, then it must be true.” Yet because we do live in a society where women are seen as less-than, we somehow find it, if not less unacceptable, at least less surprising when a woman experiences sexual abuse. “It’s a pity, and we feel bad about it, but that’s just a thing that sometimes happens when you’re a woman.” What’s infuriating is that this double standard of belief/disbelief and empowerment/disenfranchisement is perpetuated by both men and women. Accountability for the creation and perpetuation of this rape culture must be shared… by all who live in it. When someone states that they have been violated, in any manner, it is our civic duty to take that statement seriously, to extend our empathy and sympathy, and to help them.
Recently we saw a terrible drama play out on the stage of our national media, wherein a woman claimed that she had been sexually violated by a man, by an incumbent Supreme Court Justice no less, and while many poured out their support for her and her profound testimony, others fell right into the predictable pattern of victim-blaming. Then, of course, there was the usual propping of the alleged perpetrator. So often is the case that we see the accuser torn down, their testimony all but ignored, and their intentions questioned. They are forced to walk through a relentless gauntlet of scrutiny, mockery, and character assassination. “She likes rough sex. She wouldn’t dress like that if she didn’t want it. Everyone knows she slept around. She drank and did drugs. She set herself up for that kind of thing. It’s no great secret.” Meanwhile we hear the opposite treatment of the accused. “Yeah, I knew him, and he’s a good guy. I never saw any behaviour like that in our time together. We joked around and stuff, but everyone knew that was it; they were just jokes. Guys say stuff like that all the time. It doesn’t mean anything.” This is the very foundation of rape culture, and regardless of a person’s politics or their sex, it has to be stopped.
This is why I cannot accept Brett Kavanaugh as a nominee to Supreme Court Justice and why I fully support a thorough and impartial investigation into his behaviours and his past. It’s not because I know one way or another of his innocence or guilt. It’s because accountability must be taken. Justice must be served. We cannot ignore allegations like these, especially when they pertain to an individual who is being placed into a position of significant power within our nation, and we cannot ignore or dismiss the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford.
One way or another, something has happened, and either an accuser is not speaking factually or the accused isn’t, but the very fact that an accusation was made, the very fact that someone came forth must be treated with the utmost severity and magnitude. This takes courage. This takes strength. And it must be taken most seriously. It must be taken seriously, not just because someone may be at fault, but because someone may have been horribly wronged. An allegation of this kind has merit, whether they allegation is true or not, because it brings attention to the fact that someone needs help. Either someone has survived a terrible, traumatic assault, and that person needs the support of the community in their emotional recovery, as well as in seeking justice, or someone has spoken falsely, either knowingly lying or unknowingly shared a delusion that they have experienced, and that person needs to be taken just as seriously and still given the support and help of the community. Nowhere within a healthy society should a person who has experienced trauma, the cause of it be real or imagined, find themselves reliving that trauma or humiliated furthermore by being mocked and disbelieved. This is not how you treat a person in pain, whether the cause of that pain is internal or external, and the lack of empathy extended to that person is the very same lack of empathy that enables one person to victimize another. Whenever someone victim-blames, they become an accessory in their trauma, and that accountability must be acknowledged too. If you mock or disbelieve a survivor, you are an accessory to their abuse, and you help to perpetuate rape culture.
Personally, and regardless of my own political affiliations, of Ford’s political affiliations, and of Kavanaugh’s political affiliations, I found his carriage to be less than worthy of a judge. While I can rightfully understand the full emotional spectrum that a person would experience under false accusations, I still found Kavanaugh’s responses to be incredibly dismissive and disrespectful towards Ford, and the egregious lack of acknowledgement and accountability of his own immature behaviour to be disconcerting. Confusion and frustration are normal responses to being falsely accused. Heck, even anger is a normal and healthy response, but what I saw from Kavanaugh was more than any of that. It was entitlement, it was false indignation, and it was maliciousness and spite. Whether or not he raped Ford, his testimony showed him to be a poor choice for a judge, and a very poor choice for a Supreme Court Justice.
Below is a poem I wrote that expresses how I feel on the matter, specifically in the case of Ford and Kavanaugh, but also generally about the dilemma of whom to believe, and why listening and remaining open-minded is so important in stopping assault.
Why does she seem to be so serious?
This is just a game, he says to himself
But that notion’s so antiquated
And his whole view is so egocentric
How can he be so distant from the world
I don’t understand all the confusion
How could you even draw a parallel
This is not a cry for retribution
Holding him accountable is not revenge
The world is a safer place without men like him
You worry about his future
But she lost hers to the past
You say this will ruin his life
But hers was in pieces
If this was all about getting attention
Why is he the one who’s crying now
It seems like a role reversal
The aggressor puts on a mask of victimhood
And the jury sighs and turns away
While the judge proclaims there’s not enough evidence
So both parties will disperse, but I wonder
Whose reputation is the worse for wear after this
And if a woman’s rights
Are just the rights of a man
Then who decides what’s happening?
And just as Kavanaugh
Became Justice Kavanaugh
And a woman’s rights
Are just the same as the Rights of Man
Would this keep on happening?
Now this is injustice, Kavanaugh
Why would anyone trust someone so angry?
And look how she’s dressed, I think it’s obvious
But these statements aren’t validation
And there’s no excuse for such violence
How can you defend the indefensible?!
I don’t understand your curt dismissal
Or how you fail to feel their conviction
I’m not asking for an execution
But I don’t want to see that man walking free
Still you empower him and place her under scrutiny
You say his career is on the line
But what she had can’t be regained
You say that this is cruel and unfair
But equality was overruled that day
Shut her up, shut her up, shut her up
She’s lying like they all do when they want power
Does anyone really think along those lines
As if power is something we should be limiting
As if men should be the only bearers of autonomy
And women should remain dutiful, submissive, subservients?
How could this really even be happening
Questioning the survivor and assuming nothing happened?
And if a woman’s rights
Are just the rights of a man
Then who decides what’s happening?
And just as Kavanaugh
Became Justice Kavanaugh
And a woman’s rights
Are just the same as the Rights of Man
Would this keep on happening?
Now this is injustice, Kavanaugh
Dear Humans, I know you care deep down
All of your anger and all your protests
Tell me just how far you have come around
Dear Humans, I know you need some relief
All of the troubles and all your problems
Stem from the same misplaced, ill-begotten belief
Dear Humans, I know you want to belong
Even though you shit all over yourselves
You still have the chance to right this wrong
Dear Humans, I know you have the will to do
Even as the bodies add up in piles
You still cling to a lie and you claim that it’s true
Thoughts and prayers
So sick and tired
Of the same refrain
The clichéd platitudes
Send my condolences
But does it change anything
Hugs and kisses
So sick and tired
Of the same old words
The dishonest well-wishers
And all of their crocodile tears
Are no better than gems on swords
There’s no problem
You just want freedom
The right to carry
And the right to choose
But the death toll
Only grows greater
And it’s not like it’s up to you
To bury the bodies
Or say the farewells
You just play the game
And you roll the dice
Sign your name
Propose the measure
What it reaps
Well, oh come now, never mind
Dear Humans, I know you don’t want to die
But I’ve watched you from above now
In my kingdom of the clouds up in the sky
Dear Humans, I know that you are all sorry
For all the wicked things that you do
Now the time has come for your apology
Dear Humans, I know that redemption is here
So say your farewells, your “I love yous”
Because I am going to shed this, my final tear
Then comes judgement
Death is my mercy
I forgive you all for this
For your murders, your policies
Broken promises, drones of death
Burnt forests without life left
This is your legacy
Then comes annihilation
Pain is your purity
I can absolve you of your sins
For your selfishness, your greed
Rebuilt palaces, banks overflowing
Homeless bodies litter the street
This is your litany
There’s no problem
You just want money
The right to earn
And the right to take
What you deserve
Is always growing
And it’s not as if you don’t
Ever give a little back
Or smile for the camera
You just play the game
And you roll the dice
Put your name up
In big, bold letters
What you build
Will come to ruin; all falls apart in time
With these words, I condemn
With these words, I liberate
All of you Humans
From the Earth
The stain that I made
My greatest folly
My greatest mistake
I now correct with annihilation
For you there is no time left
There is no need for worry
No need for panic or dread
I will reset the whole world
I’ll wipe the slate clean
Sincerely, your God
Isn’t it funny how the people that cling to apocalyptic faith fulfill their own prophecies right up until the point of the great disappointment? It becomes tiresome seeing the same adherents to so-called Christianity commit the same sins of greed and judgement that their Christ had warned them about. They speak of all these dangers to the mortal soul and then embrace them. I often wonder, with my characteristic pessimism, if it’s not all some innate predisposition towards self-destruction. I truly am beginning to accept that the same people who hold high this prophet of peace, love, and understanding, that they ultimately do so only to hold themselves up in his celebrated company and to feel chosen, to feel special and sanctified despite their own sins and their own guilt. When I look at our president, and by “our president” I claim no ownership of his presidency and no allegiance to his constituents, all I see is a man so in awe of himself that he will destroy the country and then use its blood and ashes to polish his golden palace. How anyone who rejects worldliness, greed, lust, or ambition can place that man on a pedestal, coming from a religion that also reject idolatry, is beyond comprehension; it’s appalling and repugnant.
The invention of the photograph was so much more than a mere technological innovation. It enabled the human species to graphically document their own existence while simultaneously allowing photographers the unique ability to express themselves in a manner that forced the viewer to experience their perspective. This kind of multi-faceted engagement with the viewer created a level of intellectual stimulation, and often provocation, as well as emotional stimulation, and sometimes manipulation, that carried with it the power to shape our perception of individuals and events. Lives were forever captured on film and preserved. Occurrences were frozen in time for all the world to see and to study. And ideas were proliferated through print.
Indeed, it’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, maybe even more depending on the picture, but more importantly, what words and how they are expressed is ultimately what determines their effect on us. Whether a photo accurately reflects its subject matter is largely dependent on the context in which we see it and how the image is in turn stored in our memories. Equally important is the intent of its author, the photographer, and how the photo is treated after its taken, whether its colours are heightened or muted, or whether the image had been cropped. Each alteration to the image can reveal so much about both the photographer’s own mindset and what they want viewers to see.
Collected here are some of the most iconic and socially significant photographs of the 20th Century and the stories behind them. While I am sharing these primarily with the intention of education, some of these images are graphic and may be considered disturbing, so view them at your own discretion.