I don’t understand the media frenzy over Isaiah Washington gay-bashing co-worker TR Knight, mostly because I don’t understand we expect celebrities to live up to a higher standard than everyone else.
You could make the argument that celebrities, by virtue of being in the public eye, are inherently supposed to be role models (an argument which I would reject), but even if that’s true, that would only account for what their behavior is like when they’re in the public eye. Washington didn’t call his co-worker a faggot in a national magazine, on a TV interview, in a public place … he said it on the closed set of their TV show. Which doesn’t excuse it. It just means … well, it’s really none of the rest of our business. A friend made the argument last night that it probably didn’t contribute to a good working environment for the cast — well, sure. But that’s kind of the show’s producer’s thing to worry about, isn’t it? I mean, if they want to fire Washington, fine. That could be a reasonable course of action. But why does everyone feel like that’s the general public’s decision to make at all?
People do not necessarily become good people just by virtue of being a celebrity. Just as their are homobigoted office managers and policemen and school teachers and scientists and grocery store clerks out there, some celebrities are probably going to be racist or sexist or intolerant, too. Do we really all expect them to be paragons of tolerance just because they’re on TV?
And then there’s everyone’s reaction to his repeating the word faggot at an awards ceremony last week.
“No, I did not call (co-star) T.R. (Knight) a faggot,” Washington told reporters. “Never happened, never happened.”
This is, according to other cast members, patently untrue. So, okay, find fault with him for lying. But people seem to be finding fault with him for the public use of the word faggot. My friend argued last night that it was completely inexcusable for him to repeat the word, especially at the golden globes ceremony (hallowed ground, apparently). Um, what was he supposed to say? “The F-word?” (I think that implies something else).
Says Mayor Corley: “The word is not used or abused in the streets of our town; it’s more, amongst the black community, as a term of endearment, OK? … But it is a national issue, and I would like the city of Brazoria to take a leadership role throughout the nation in banning the use of this word.”
… ugh. words are not just, like, these completely object things with unilateral intent and meaning. they derive their power and meaning from context.
So back to Washington, I’m not saying that what he said is excusable, or that he wasn’t wrong, or that people shouldn’t be offended by his intolerance, or feel negatively about Washington now. I just don’t understand why everyone is always so SHOCKED when a celebrity acts in an intolerant way. Especially when we don’t hold are politicians to the same standard ….
Making celebrity bad behavior into a media frenzy like this doesn’t really serve any purpose, as far as I can see, except to have celebrities then go on a disingenuous apology tour while the initial offense gets repeated over and over and over …. the same magazines chastising Washington for his repeated use of the word in his denial of ever using it are now positively bursting with faggot headlines …