Kendrick Lamar’s song, “Mortal Man,” from his 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly, has a hook that goes, “If shit hits the fan, is you still a fan?”
Although he was alluding to Michael Jackson’s sexual abuse allegations with those lyrics, that’s a question many fans of TV, movies and comedy are asking themselves today. A few years ago, when House of Cards originally premiered on Netflix, I was amazed by Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of Frank Underwood. I loved the way he broke the fourth wall when talking to the viewer. He perfectly displayed the essence of power and manipulation, which makes Underwood such a memorable character.
Frankly, at that point, I thought Kevin Spacey was on top of the world. His acting skills made him a household name, he starred in the 2014 Call of Duty game via motion capture, and every season of House of Cards kept getting better and better. I truly believed he was a great guy and amazing actor.
Fast forward to late 2017, and now he’s on a downward spiral with the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. and Terry Richardson. And while a month ago I was excited to begin watching House of Cards again, suddenly I don’t want to watch it anymore. I can no longer say I’m a fan of his. This is a case of a celebrity falling from grace. As a fan it’s very confusing and frustrating.
Famous celebrities falling from grace isn’t new; see Bill Cosby, Chris Brown, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Lindsay Lohan. All of them were once in their primes and due to mistakes they made in their lives, they’re now being shunned by the general public.
It does bring in the question of whether watching shows like House of Cards or anything else Spacey has been involved in is okay. Can you really enjoy Frank Underwood’s takeover of the U.S. political system when you know that the man portraying his character is an accused sexual predator? Can you still laugh at Louis C.K.’s comedy after he confirmed the accusations against him?
For Spacey, the choice is clear. I can’t stand behind someone who sexually assaulted multiple people and tried to deflect attention from it by re-introducing—even unintentionally—a stereotype of LGBTQ people being pedophiles, when they aren’t. I feel that is an abhorrent move that hurts a whole community that struggles with being accepted by society.
But this isn’t the first time I or anyone I know has felt this way about someone after negative accusations come out.
For example: One of my cousins was an avid Chris Brown fan. She loved him; she had all of his albums and even had his birthday as her iPhone passcode. I would joke a lot with her about her massive admiration for him, common among teenage girls in 2009. Then when the news of how he beat up Rihanna came out, her perception of him changed. She no longer looked up to him. Although she still listened to his music from time to time, she wasn’t the same Chris Brown fangirl I knew growing up. She wasn’t too excited for him whenever he would release new albums.
There’s also the case with A$AP Bari and his fashion brand VLONE. At the London Wireless Festival over the summer, Bari was caught on video trying to force a woman who had just slept with his assistant to perform a sexual act on him, while she pleaded with him not to make her do it. It was disgusting, and that video went viral, causing him to lose a partnership with Nike, who had several pairs of VLONE Air Force 1’s to release with its new collection. His popularity was beginning to take off, until Bari committed those acts.
That was hard for me to process, given that the A$AP Mob has had a big influence on my life, not just with music and fashion. Thankfully, every Mob member from Rocky to Illz condemned his act, and Bari faded into obscurity, barely posting on his own Instagram for a few months. While he’s back to promoting the brand and collaborating with the likes of fragment design, the response to his brand isn’t as strong.
I’m not a fan of Bari’s character; he’s not a rapper, and his only real saving grace was his brand. However, I did like VLONE, and while I still like the orange “V” that adorns the back of their shirts, I don’t know if I can bring myself to wear it knowing what its creator did.
But even if the person you admire didn’t commit an act of sexual assault, even general controversy can have you reconsider your fandom. I am a big Kanye West fan, and I saw the fallout from his mental breakdown last year during the Saint Pablo Tour. He ranted rather than performed, and he declared his support for Donald Trump a little over a week after the election. My sister would remind me of that, by saying, “Your boy voted for Trump.” I would get angry, and try to defend him. But when Kanye went to meet with Trump a month later, the comments got more frequent, and I grew more conflicted.
What both Bari and Spacey did isn’t okay one bit. With Kanye, I don’t know. He’s renounced his statements, but it’s still a grey area for me. I still love and enjoy his works, but supporting Trump last year was just weird.
For some, an artist is separate from the work, and for others an artist is inseparable from it. I’m in the middle, and I think it truly matters with what the issue is, who the person is and the content of the art in question. With rappers like 21 Savage and XXXTENTACION who rap about guns, drugs and sexual acts against women in some songs, it becomes hard to be a fan when you really delve into the lyrics, even if the music is sonically appealing.
The decision on whether to keep being a fan after shit hits the fan is a complex question, and one every fan answers for themselves.
Illustration by Ashlie Juarbe