I'm not much for reacting to Celebrity Deaths; they don't make me feel any differently than hearing about the death of anyone I don't know personally. But for reasons I'll elaborate more fully tomorrow, the Anthony Bourdain news got to me a little bit.
One aspect of watching people react to it was actually a positive, I think. This random observation summed up the way I see changes in how people talk about Celebrities:
When I first posted a comment on Facebook about how much I like Bourdain's non-fiction writing, a single comment (since redacted by its author) leaped in to do the tired "HAVE YOU READ KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL, IT'S THE BIBLE OF MISOGYNY WHY DO YOU LIKE A MISOGYNIST." Predictably, it was a dude. All of the comments from women were about how much they liked Anthony Bourdain.
It is inarguable that Kitchen Confidential, written 20 years ago, has some cringe-worthy passages in it. In fact, as I pointed out in response, Bourdain has written a number of things reflecting on how he feels looking back at his own writing from that time and seeing how "dated" some of the comments and some of the situations he describes feel. He has been, I think, pretty reflective about his own attitudes. And frankly, anyone who looks at something describing what they thought and felt 20 years earlier and doesn't feel like they've outgrown some or most of it as a person is…a person who is not progressing emotionally or intellectually through adulthood.
The point is, the incessant Dragging and "OMG EVERYONE IS PROBLEMATIC" thing that started a few years ago really feels like it's running its course. I honestly think your average intelligent person is getting a bit sick of it. The point is not "Misogyny is no big deal and everyone should give everyone a free pass." The point is, it adds literally nothing to the conversation to say something like this. Not one person who likes Anthony Bourdain is unaware of some of the things he said and wrote. It's just possible – and here's the part that is starting to dawn on more of us – that it isn't absolutely imperative to define every single person by the worst thing we can find evidence of them saying. Maybe rather than barging into conversations to Out Woke everyone with your dazzling insight about something that is already universally known, consider that people who like and respect a particular person's work are adults who understand that person's shortcomings and failings.
It's a matter of degrees, of course. If Bourdain had done something truly horrific in life (and maybe he did, for all we know) then it's fair to temper how we look at his work. But honest to god, and you can Drag me to high heaven for feeling this way if you prefer, with all the good work he did and as many people as he helped in life I legitimately do not give a fuck that he said "two fat chicks" on an episode of his TV show. I don't. I really do not care at all. The idea that we have to stop liking everything a person did if any evidence of anything Problematic they ever said or did can be unearthed (which, of course, it always can be) is exhausting and counterproductive and it feels like many people who care deeply about the world and people in it are getting a little sick of it.
There were glimmers of this in the recent past when Philip Roth died. Apparently Philip Roth was kind of a prick. Fair enough. But do you really think, for example, that if a person read a Roth novel at a particular time in their life at which that work had a powerful impact on them that he or she is going to retroactively stop feeling that way if you barge into enough conversations like some college sophomore six weeks into his first sociology class shouting "You mean Philip Roth THE MISOGYNIST"?
Shitty people do great things sometimes. And people who create things have a real impact on the lives of people who read, watch, listen to, and see those things. That doesn't have to go away just because someone has a valid criticism of that person. Granted, it's impossible to enjoy anything Woody Allen makes or made anymore, but Woody Allen has done that to himself by being a truly heinous person. He, or someone like Bill Cosby, are a different matter than "Anthony Bourdain used to laugh his ass off while people in his kitchen made crude sex jokes" or, to cite another recent YOU CAN'T LIKE THIS BECAUSE PROBLEMATIC fit, Donald Glover said "fag" on Twitter once five years ago. Yeah OK thanks for the info, I'm still going to think "This is America" is great if that's acceptable to the court.
The point is, it feels like we're working through the nuance, as the post I screencapped here says. Maybe we can save the Dragging for legitimately horrible people and spare it for people who said things they might, in hindsight, have wished they had not said. It's dawning on us that literally any person can be made Problematic and bad, including you, if we insist on defining them by whatever the absolute worst interpretation of the worst thing they said or did is. And we don't have to do that. We don't have to destroy everything and everyone. It is OK, even, if we just fucking enjoy some things and like some people.
And finally, it's OK to recognize that shouting "OMG THE THING YOU LIKE IS BAD, THE PERSON YOU LIKE SAID A BAD THING ONCE SO YOU ARE BAD FOR LIKING THE BAD MAN" does not make you useful or more enlightened or more Woke than everyone else. It just kind of makes you a prick, and a person who isn't growing out of a worldview that is appealing to most of us at 20 but decreasingly thereafter. Everybody fucking knows Thomas Jefferson owned slaves; what are you adding to any conversation that involves him in any way by shouting that at people who are already perfectly well aware of it?