After reading about this, I’m the one who’s sorry. I’m sorry for spending so much time with his comedy in years past, for ignoring the media whispers about his behavior long before it was made public, for evangelizing to friends about how great he was. C.K.’s appalling turn into the king of the d-bags is enough to make me throw my hands up and say: Is it possible to be a fan of anyone or anything anymore?
And that’s an interesting question. I find myself more and more hesitant to sing the praises of a new movie or show or comic or singer, lest it all go to hell two news cycles later. At this tumultuous moment, I think we each have to decide for ourselves which pieces of art to keep, and which to throw out. Perhaps fandom — defined as the attachment to the artist as creator — should no longer be the point.
This recurring quandary about artists and creators is not a fun place to be. My whole job is being enthusiastic about pop culture! But it tends to take the wind out of my sails, as I engage with an exciting new release, when I immediately can’t help wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. And a more enduring question nags at me: How does nostalgia work in this new landscape? What happens when the things we loved were created by people we now loathe?
I find myself watching everything with newly critical eyes, which is a necessary part of evolving and learning and changing. What I don’t want to do is calcify into defending outdated stuff because it’s inconvenient to do the heavy lifting of rethinking bad behavior.
Two (male) comics, two reasonable approaches to looking at past behavior, trying to use their art form of choice to publicly own up to it.
But “Buffy” was a formative show — its irreverent humor, gleeful girl power and inventive language are a potent mix that inspired me as both a critic and consumer of pop culture. Tossing “Buffy” out initially seemed the only logical recourse, though, after so many cast and crew members weighed in to agree with or offer support to Carpenter.
Then I did the exact opposite instead — I embarked on a re-watch of the show. Here’s the catch. I watched it this second time without the baggage of being an unquestioning fan of Whedon’s oeuvre — and by keeping his alleged behavior in mind.
Going back into “Buffy” with eyes wide open about Whedon’s shoddy treatment of women did change how I see it. I was more aware of the snarky asides by male characters, especially Nicholas Brendan’s sidekick Xander, that read as avatars for Whedon himself.
But I also, for the most part, still love “Buffy,” flaws and all. And I’ve decided I’m keeping it.
For me, comedians are the toughest to rationalize with the detach-from-fandom approach. In standup, there’s not an extended team, for the most part, just one person with a microphone. Likewise, there are some fandoms that simply can’t be divorced from the work — an auteur like Woody Allen, who puts so much of himself into his films, often literally, is a good example. So bye, Woody, no matter how much I loved “Love and Death.”