In my earlier post, Raise Your Glasses, I posited that sometimes assholes can get the Genius Exemption, and I likened Kanye West to the Beatles and Stanley Kubrick. I believe that we can overlook dick-ish behavior from our public figures, provided that they are producing top-shelf work.
My friend Dustin responded that there’s a flip-side to this theory–people who are supposedly great, but are really just assholes. (He offered Ayn Rand as an example.)
I thought it might be worth considering this idea, and I’ve developed a brief list. I excluded people like Michael Bay, Larry the Cable Guy, and Rush Lumbaugh on the grounds that lots of people already know those guys are pricks (and why be redundant?). The folks below are in no particular order…
1. Ronald Reagan Oh, shit, I just said that the Man Who Ended the Cold War was an asshole! Except he didn’t end the Cold War–it was a collective effort from 8 different administrations over 45 years. And his administration allowed the illegal mining of harbors in Nicaragua, not to mention Iran-Contra. Add to that the debt he rang up trying to out-spend the Soviets… But, hey, he could give a nice speech!
2. John Grisham He writes harmless legal thrillers that move along at a decent clip, but he earned his asshole status when he decided to help Patsy Byers sue Oliver Stone. Byers had been shot by some people who had recently seen Natural Born Killers, and Grisham felt Stone and Warner Brothers were to blame for “product liability.” (The case was later dismissed.) It’s worth remembering that Grisham believes an artist is liable if someone sees their art and commits a crime. If I ever get busted for blackmail, I’m suing him because that was a plot point in The Firm.
3. Paul McCartney I know, didn’t I just exempt him three paragraphs ago? Only as a part of The Beatles. We’re talking solo career here. Since that group broke up, he’s needlessly antagonized Yoko Ono, cannibalized his back-catalog for endless shitty live albums, and dyed his hair an unnatural shade. He’s notorious as a perfectionist prick in the studio. Sadly, he hasn’t released anything perfect since Let It Be. Instead, we get “Silly Love Songs” and “Simply Have a Wonderful Christmas Time.” Now that you’ve got those ear-worms in your head, I’ve probably convinced you…
4. Ben Roethlisberger I love the Steelers, and Big Ben is an elite quarterback, but the Genius Exemption doesn’t cover sexual assault. He was never convicted–never charged–for the crime, but the police reports indicated that the woman in question had genital bruising. That’s not the result of regular intercourse, at least the way I’m doing it. Something’s amiss with Ben.
5. Jerry Lewis This is going to seem odd, but it’s not that I’m so pissed about his “women aren’t funny” remarks, or the fact that he called someone a “fag” during his telethon. No, it’s deeper than that. This man made what is often cited as the worst movie ever made, The Day the Clown Cried, but he refuses to release it. Let us bask in the wonders of your clown-in-a-concentration-camp film, Jerry! Or are you just mad that Roberto Benigni won an Oscar for doing pretty much the same thing in Life is Beautiful?