TONY, PART ONE: THE GOOD

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?

40 thoughts on “TONY, PART ONE: THE GOOD”

  • Love this. Love everything about it. Love that you explicitly articulated things I'd been non-explicitly percolating on for the last few years. I've grown especially tired of the "More woke than thou" brigade shitting and pissing on every fucking thing all the time, especially when it's on people from their own side of the fence. It is part of the reason even perfectly sane middle-ground people can come away hating "liberals" as joyless, pedantic, nit-pickers.

  • Too many people mistaken moral judgement for moralizing: acontextual, self-righteous, and irrelevant interjections of moral disapproval just for the sake of enjoying that disapproval. Its a very dangerous thing and is supplanting and driving our serious moral judgment and turning our moral discourse into a game. It ends up treating all bad acts or characters as equally bad (more-or-less), which is a kind of dismal relativism.

  • What? You don't like it when random internet Lord Robin Arryn wants to see the Bad Man, fly?

    Can't say I blame you. I was fortunate enough to pre-date this particular phenomena by a handful of years, and to have been well away and graduated by the time they arrived on college campuses.

    *Sidenote* As if on cue, we have someone to provide Woody Allen a nice tongue bath. Not someone, or a topic, I give a shit about in either direction. Just amusing.

  • These people are just like the humorless, scolding church ladies of my youth that drove me to become a liberal.

    If you think that calling people out on the most trivial utterances is going to win them over to your side, you'll be surprised that they will a secretly fuck themselves over just to make sure you don't win.

    Its long past time to alienate and ostracize these judgemental assholes. Nothing improves if people are petrified to speak. Lighten the fuck up and let it slide. The person you so smugly deem to judge for not using the latest woke phrase is probably a better person than you will ever be.

  • Amy Elinoff says:

    I agree. And I would add, it's okay to be mad at someone for saying something stupid or being an ass, but being mad is not the same as condemning a person's character or erasing their efforts to evolve. Definitely different categories, the ordinary stupid action vs. comprehensively evil deeds. Forgiveness is a real thing and can be justly applied, compassion and anger can coexist.

  • Thomas Jefferson was actually a weirdly shitty President, tho, and understanding the weird shittiness is helped by understanding that he was only willing to grow insofar as it did not interfere with him having slaves.

    But yes, this is nuance and not shutting shit down, of course.

  • "Maybe we can save the Dragging for legitimately horrible people …"

    I'll start. Our President* said Kim Jong Un, Brutal Murderous Dictator, "He's smart, loves his country, he loves his people." I hope that statement follows him into eternal history. Along with with all the other weapons grade stupid that comes out of his ugly anus shaped mouth on a daily basis.

  • Good old Tony. His passing was like a gut punch. When he came out with "Kitchen Confidential" I thought "fuck yeah, somebody's finally speaking for the tribe and telling it like it is." I thought it should have been required reading. Having said that, I readily admit to having issues with his meat-centric bullshit and more than a few of his political views, although he was pretty woke in most ways. He did what he did to get where he was and made some mistakes along the way, but at least he was self reflective.
    There's much to say to and about the PC police, but the shit's so ubiquitous and ignorant I've lapsed into despair and given up.

  • "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."

    Well, until the Right/Russian cyber propaganda machine gears up again in 2020 and we get tsunami'd with it all over again.

  • If I had to answer for every shitty thing I did in the 90s (when I was late-teens/early 20s), I’d have a lot of difficulty. But the majority of that was due to the time period and my age at the time. Who doesn’t have loads of regrets from that age? Thankfully, my crappiness was mostly thoughts and words, and not much in the way of actions. This gets to the qualm I have with the #metoo movement, which I think on the whole is great but is sometimes taken too far. Like when Al Franken got booted from the senate. I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it, but I’m not saying he deserved it. What I’m saying is that what we know about him puts his behavior leagues below what we know about Cosby, trump, or Charlie Rose. It’s not a matter of “was he right?” He admitted he was wrong. But it’s a matter of degrees.

    Times change, people change (ideally/hopefully). Everything is relative.

    That said, I can no longer deal with Bill Maher, but that’s because he’s a shit in the here and now. Not that I’ll come screaming at people who mourn him on the internet, but I may ”smdh” when I see the tributes. He’s not an imperfect ally, he’s a shitty dude with some progressive thoughts.

  • Interesting take but I'd go one step further than "Shitty people do great things sometimes". I'd say that it takes shitty people to do great things; dig deep enough and you're bound to find that your role model has warts all over.

    I take issue with 'shitty', though. Are they the people who don't agree with you or, even worse, those that have opinions different from yours and call yours 'shitty'?

  • Lois Breedlove says:

    I think the past can illuminate the present. So if you’re trying to say Celebrity X is a misogynistic ass who should face criminal charges and look, his actions stretch back 20 years – that seems appropriate.

    What does not seem useful is a witch hunt like what is being done to Joy Reid where young men are going back 15 years to an old blog to see what they can find. The quotes are out of context and are irrelevant to who she is now.
    As you say, what Bourdain said about cat chicks 20 years ago doesn’t particularly help us understand who he is today – except like the best of us he grew up.

  • "Maybe we can save the Dragging for legitimately horrible people."

    It's not like we're going to run out of them, anytime soon.

    @Scout:

    All good, except I think it's "mouth shaped anus"–everything that comes out of is shit.

  • "I take issue with 'shitty', though. Are they the people who don't agree with you or, even "worse, those that have opinions different from yours and call yours 'shitty'?"

    Well, yeah, if they're people you like they are shit, by definition.

    Oh, yeah, I almosts forgot.

    ""I need to make a correction. I have never pretended that I intend to do anything but comment on the absurdity of the progressive delusion. Hence, I don’t think I have ever attempted or proffered solutions."

    So you admit to being nothing but a fucking troll.

    A little unintentional birthday gift to me @ 9:55 AM on 10/25/17.

    Thanks, for being clear. And just so I'm clear. I intend to put that bit in quotations, and only that, as a reply to any comment you make on any thread.

    Now, fuck off, troll."

    yeah, I know, I'm breaking my own rule here, but you are such a p.o.s. troll that I want to make sure that nobody who isn't familiar with the asshole that is you doesn't get sucked into an argument with you.

    You're such a fucking waste of space, protoplasm and breathable air.

  • Lois Breedlove says:

    Hard sometimes bc my horrible person may not be your horrible person. We can’t all even agree on Trump!

    As a journalist we make a distinction btwn private person, public person and public official for the level of scrutiny. That’s a place to start. Obviously someone we vote on should be scrutinized more thoroughly than Joe Smoe.
    It’s the Gotchya stuff that seems particularly destructive. I’m always asking what is in it for you that you’re revealing this?
    These days though gotchya seems to be the definition of news even when it’s about Joe
    Smoe if it’s sensational enough.

  • Yeah, but what if the "cringe worthy" revelation hits one of YOUR sore spots? Is that what the Gin and tacos are for?

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    Call Out Culture is only really effective for punishing people who occupy some sort of grey area. Donald Trump and Roy Moore aren't affected by it because they never subscribed to its premises, and are thus free to go about their business.

  • Carrstone is a consistent enough troll that I’ll bite for the benefit of the libertarians:

    Here “shitty” is defined as having sex with someone against their will, which is regarded as a bad thing because of the lasting physical and psychological damage.

    If you don’t agree with that, you can get the fuck out now.

  • @Safety Man:

    Re: Consistent troll:

    If it looks like an asshole & it walks like an asshole & talks like an asshole & LIKES assholes, then it's an asshole.

  • PrairieBear says:

    @ Leon: speaking of Bourdain and Maher and in the same thread, the former did not have high regard for the latter:

    Insufferably smug. Really the worst of the smug, self-congratulatory left. I have a low opinion of him. I did not have an enjoyable experience on his show. Not a show I plan to do again. He’s a classic example of the smirking, contemptuous, privileged guy who lives in a bubble. And he is in no way looking to reach outside, or even look outside, of that bubble, in an empathetic way.

    I can't stand Maher either, for so many reasons, and I could go on a rant 10 times this long about him without even getting started. Wasn't really a fan of AB, but somebody shared that quote on Facebook and also one on Kissinger (no, not saying he and Maher are in the same league of evil) and those quotes made me kind of love him.

    Here's the source; the rest of what he said may not be so palatable to most G&T readers: https://www.datalounge.com/thread/18153099-anthony-bourdain-is-no-fan-of-‘insufferably-smug’-bill-maher

  • PrairieBear says:

    Some great points here. I myself went through something of a virtual-signaling, SJW-ish phase a while back, partly I think from hanging out on certain blogs. I was way past old enough to know better, but I think I'm through it now. The reactions to different people doing these "transgressions" seems to vary wildly.

    For example, just to throw out a name recently in the news for this kind of thing, was there the smallest bit possibly of overreaction in the case of Rosanne? Just the teeniest, tiniest bit? No, really, I swear I am not a Trump supporter and I'm not trying to troll.

    I wasn't and I'm not a dedicated fan and I didn't watch the original show in first run. I saw quite a few episodes in syndicated reruns. It was often entertaining and it reinvented the family sitcom genre, bringing class consciousness and a more realistic, sympathetic portrayal of working-class people. Counting her 8 years of successful stand-up comedy, she had nearly a 40-year career before being excised from polite society over one tweet. I'm not big on "reboots" for various reasons, didn't watch it either, so I guess it's OK if they wanted to cancel the new show. But I read that a bunch of different streaming services had eliminated all the episodes of the original show from availability. That seems creepy and kind of Orwellian to me. It's early, of course, whereas Bourdain's "fat chicks" comments, etc., were much longer ago. YMMV as always.

  • Lois Breedlove says:

    The last straw is often a small one. In Roseanne’s case what proceeded the twitter that did her in were tweets that were much worse. I think the network was looking for something that would get them out of the contract for the show. To be honest, she’s off her meds.
    But as a general point I agree with you. I’d hold up Kathy Griffins as an example.

  • postcaroline says:

    Ideological purity is scary and boring. I think back to what it was like for me at 14 and hearing Bill Hicks for the first time. Comedy Central aired what seemed like wall to wall viewings of the "It's Just a Ride" documentary shortly after he died — in my memory I watched it repeatedly on the air, then more still after recording it for myself. He was a revelation (pun intended).
    As I started listening to/watching more of his work, there was plenty of his stuff that made me cringe back then for its creepiness or meanness (not the suck your own cock routine which will always be funny). The Debbie Gibson jokes (GROSS), stuff about Muslims or George Michael, losing his shit on the heckling woman…all of that made me cringe 20+ years ago and it just sounds worse now.
    Still, it's not like I'm going to go back to the Bill Hicks of the Sane Man era and judge him for not being "woke" enough and burn all his shit. While I have never been an apologist for the truly dumb things he said, I remain a huge fan for all that he said that resonated with me.

  • An instructive thread. I should wait for Part Two to conclude my thoughts, so I'll just bullet-point a few immediate responses.

    1. Ed's reaction here isn't to AB's death. It's to the reaction of others to it, and for Ed those reactions suggest an evolution is afoot.
    2. Most people react to AB's death largely because he was a celebrity.
    3. Celebrities are only human. They will make dumb mistakes or embrace harmful prejudices. They will also do "good work," and their celebrity gives them a platform to broadcast that work for wide acknowledgement.
    4. I don't get the "ideological purity" complaint against people who gripe about celebrities whose wrong-doings, like their good deeds, command wide publicity.
    5. I don't know much of AB's work, but with the limited exposure I had I decided I wasn't fond of his style, his observations, his opinions. He is a food writer, and I happen to think food writing is the worst job in the world, both for the worker and for the consumers of their work. When I read most food writing I sense the writer agonizing uncomfortably over his or her work product. This doesn't make for happy readers. Perhaps it doesn't make for happy writers, either.
    6. It's entirely fair to resent well-off celebrities for choosing suicide. They have the resources to address their circumstances, and when they exploit their celebrity we are not unjustified in assuming they are using us. AB doesn't get to have an airtight private life under these circumstances.
    7. "Shitty people do great things sometimes." Maybe, maybe not. "Great things" don't by themselves redeem shitty people.

  • @ Dean:

    "When I read most food writing I sense the writer agonizing uncomfortably over his or her work product."

    You're reading the wrong writers–I believe those are critics and "competitive cooking" people (and not ALL of them)–Tony Bourdain was not a bad writer.

    He was good at his job in the kitchen and he was a bit crazy a lot of the time.

    Depression doesn't look like depression to a lot of the people who suffer from it; nor does alcoholism or other dependencies.

    @ Ed:

    "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."

    I react to some celebrity deaths.

    Breitbart, Nixon, Reagan, Mother Theresa and several hundred other celebriholes I can think of. I lifted a glass to the reality of death when I heard of their demises.

  • BTW, was "Celbrihole" already a thing? What about "Celebriwhore"?–I need to keep track of this shit for my soon to be published (or maybe started?) "democommies big book of witee and sofistikatid neologizmic wurds"

  • Townsend Harris says:

    One advantage to old age: decades living with the monstrous contradiction between Sinatra's music and Sinatra's psychopathy.

  • I hated Sinatra's music when I was a kid and then a while back I realized that he was not a "singer" as much as story teller (also, huckster, shyster, serial abuser, absent father, etc.) .

    He also tended towards using top rate players.

    He was no Richard Wagner in either musicianship or racism.

  • StrokeCity FC says:

    “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’?”

    The exception to this rule is, of course, Ayn Rand.

    If I’m walking by a conversation, and someone says You know what author changed my life? Ayn Rand!” Not only am I interrupting, but they’re getting dragged to hell and back.

  • A Stroke City FC:

    I was at the VAMC, Syracuse one day, recently. I was looking for a book (they have carts full of them) to read and I got a Carl Hiaasen, "Razor Girl", which I had not already read. So, I grabbed it.

    Then I saw a copy of "Atlas Shrugged". On my way down to Samir's Middle Eastern Foods I tore it into a dozen or so slabs that got tossed into different receptacles. I felt as if I had saved a kitten from dying because JEEZUZ was upset about somebody masturbating.

  • I must be getting old. I know I'm isolated. I think I get the general idea from the context, but what is Dragging? I am sure I have never seen the word in print until today, not capitalized, that is. You use it as a verb, too, I've never seen that capitalized. Is this some in-group thing and I don't get it because I've only been following this blog for a few years? And, "Drag me up to Heaven?" I dunno.

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