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Kill Your Idols, And Other Lessons I Tell My Sons In Light of Scandals and Monstrous Men

Amidst the ongoing scandals, a father searches for teachable moments for his sons.

There is no clarity here, just a whole lot of discomfort that should be given voice.

I, like many men and significantly fewer women, have been surprised by the pervasiveness of men in power abusing that power in myriad wretched ways, from rape to leering to unwanted touching. Some sort of rock has been lifted but before these guys have scurried off, I’ve paused to note their names. Some I can’t say I’m surprised. But I’m not talking about the Harvey Weinsteins or the Roy Moores. It’s the Al Frankens and Louis C.K.s, the Glenn Thrushes, the Charlie Roses, and the John Lasseters — men who seemed to me, a man and not in regular contact with any of them, decent guys.

This decency was assumed, I suppose, in some cases by their fundamentally decent and humane work. Piercing political commentary in Glenn’s case; sensitive interlocution in Rose’s; hilarious introspection in C.K.’s; fucking Inside Out, for chrissakes, in Lasseter’s.

The guidance I might impart is that the quality of a work says little about the quality of the person who made it. I am heartbroken by these events. It makes art seem less true. But as we root about for role models, it’s a necessary course correction

On the one hand, I’m sad to realize how predatory and monstrous, blithe, and crass (at best) so many men are. On the other, sunshine is the best disinfectant. The truth has outed many heinous acts, and now it’s consequence’s moment to shine. As the father of two young sons, I hope that by the time my boys reach manhood, the revolution will have already come. But I realize too it’s up to me to help them foment change.

Look, at the end of the day, we’re still going to see Pixar’s Coco this weekend. I don’t think the response to the fact that the man responsible for the film, John Lasseter, is a creep is to ignore the work itself. I also don’t think the correct response is to see the film and take the moment to inform my sons that the man who made it also made many inappropriate comments to women and touched them against their will.

The guidance I might impart is that the quality of a work says little about the quality of the person who made it. I am heartbroken by these events. It makes art seem less true. But as we root about for role models, it’s a necessary course correction. It makes a strange aesthetic companion adage to hate the sin, love the sinner: love the work, hate the worker.

Later, perhaps, we’ll tackle how consuming a product enriches the producer — a good argument for boycotting— but for now, one of the many, many, many lessons might be as simple as saying just as good people do bad things, bad people do good things too.