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For me, it's partly that Gibson and Cruise, say, are guys who have broken a covenant of sorts. The covenant says, basically, hey, we're going to play characters, play them so well that you can spend 2 hours pretending they exist. And every famous actor deals with the problem of fame and how that can make fulfilling that covenant difficult (sometimes they cure this by making a career out of playing characters who are themselves, which is a fine choice at times). Gibson and Cruise do something bad -- they make themselves the spectacle, while still trying to fulfill that covenant.

So maybe that's part of it? Not just that they have repugnant views, but that they have, in a sense, broken trust with us? That may be why historical stuff is easier to deal with: the distance makes the actor as spectacle -- spectacle is so much a thing of the moment -- less of a problem.


I honestly don't see the problem with criticising art based on the artist.

Hollywood depends on everyone doing the opposite - the reason that A list actors get paid so much is partly because they're good, but mostly because the public can be relied upon to go and see a movie with that actor in it - regardless of whether it's a good movie or not. That's the whole point behind actors being celebrities in the first place - so that you will transfer "Tom Cruise" to "Jerry McGuire" or "Lestat", or whoever.

So, turnabout is fair play, surely?

But Ingrid is right in any case - it's not the religion, it's the fact that they're jerks. I'd stop going to a supermarket where I was treated badly; that's equally unfair, really (assuming that the supermarket doesn't have this as their customer service policy), but it's human nature. Presentation is important; humans are superficial creatures. And it's only fair that if Tom has historically gotten roles because he was cute and girls loved to watch him, that he should now start losing roles because he's a jerk and nobody wants to watch him.

I doubt any of them are likely to starve because of it.


I think there may also be an element of 'My eyes! My precious eyes!' about it. Once you've seen someone act like a screaming whackadoodle, it's hard to unsee it - and it can be hard not to see a shadow of it every time you look at the person who did it.

And it's not just weird beliefs that's the problem with Cruise, Gibson and Stein, it's hateful behaviour. Through his Scientology stuff, Cruise actively encourages discrimination against the mentally ill; Gibson rants against Jews; Stein was dishonest enough to trick people into being interviewed for 'Expelled!'. That's not just offensive beliefs, it's nasty behaviour.

So it's very possible you just see one of those faces and think, 'Hey, I don't like you!' And there are reasons to dislike these guys that aren't to do with their beliefs per se, but to do with them having done horrible things. Are there celebrities you can't be doing with because of non-religious horribleness? That would seem to support this theory if there were.

will willis

Have you ever sat through a movie that wasn't very good or listened to an inferior album because you had once heard the actor/artist say something that you could get behind? Or perhaps you may have spent a grueling three hours at the local playhouse because a good friend of yours wrote the play that bored you to tears.
It's the same thing, we can choose to not support someone on the same basis that we use to choose to support others.


I had the same reaction you had to Tom Cruise for quite some time, Greta. Recently, he started doing a little publicity blitz, apparently in an effort to salvage his reputation. He was doing interviews on The Today Show and the like where he *didn't* act crazy, and was generally the charming Tom Cruise of yesteryear. It didn't go all the way toward curing my distaste for the guy's antics, but you know what? It did a considerable amount.

I think it's because I don't *want* to dislike Tom Cruise, and like you said, it's *not* about the religion, it's about how he acts about it. His doing a consciously sane media blitz implies to me that he knows he screwed up, and that he wants to make up for that, at least in some small way. Or that he doesn't want to suffer its consequences anymore. If they both result in better behavior from him, they're functionally equivalent, I think.

I can ignore Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller because he's such a minor part, and because the movie is so damn good. Somehow I still find myself overwhelmed by the charm of some of Mel Gibson's earlier work (the first two Lethal Weapon movies, for instance), even though his present public persona is pretty repugnant.

I think, in the end, the best you can do is to accept that it's an emotional reaction, even if you don't like what it says about you and the criteria by which you judge and appreciate art. It's been something I've had to get used to, as well, after being revolted by overhearing a conversation at a restaurant where two people were discussing how they'd never watch Matt Damon again after finding out what a dirty hippie liberal he was. I don't want to have my own views colored by the same irrationality, but sometimes they just...*are*, you know?

David Ellis

I had much the same reaction over the science fiction author Orson Scott Card (a mormon). He wrote some books that I think will be considered classics of SF (particularly ENDER'S GAME and SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD).

But since his articles against gay marriage I have no stomach for his fiction anymore. I still consider my favorites among his books excellent works of fiction---I just find myself with no desire whatsoever to reread any of them or to try any of his newer books. And there are too many terrific writers out there NOT saying bigoted things for me to be much bothered by it.

Shahar Goldin
religious bigotry (which I have serious problems with)

Why do you have a problem with religious bigotry?

Racial and gendered bigotry are clearly wrong because no one can control what gender or race they're born with.
Gender identity and sexual orientation based bigotry are clearly bullshit, in that at least in some cases it's clear that the people don't have much choice as to which one they're born with, no one's gender identity or sexual orientation causes harm or injury to anyone else, and this bigotry is clearly based in antiquated tradition that was unfortunately written into books.
Ethnic and national-origin based bigotry ... again no choice.
Height, weight, colours, even mental development and ability, these all have something in common. It's not fair to make opinions about people based on things they can't control.

I think it's perfectly legitimate to assume that republicans are kind of assholes. I think this is fair and valid and legitimate bigotry. They use their vote and often their bully-pulpits to increase the election of republicans, and that hurts everybody. Most of all I think it's fair to assume that republicans are homophobic, sexist, racist, classist assholes that don't particularly want to see poor people dying in the street, but don't particularly care if poor people do end up dying in the street, and especially don't care if those poor people aren't members of their church.

I think religious bigotry is much more in this vein. If I know someone is a catholic I think it's fair to make pre-judgments (that is, I am prejudiced) that they are anti-choice, that they support the work of the protesters at Planned Parenthood, that they don't particularly mind that the Pope is persuading millions of africans not to use condoms, that they believe in ridiculous dogma which has killed millions (probably hundreds of millions) in holy wars and genocided entire civilizations. And I believe that they have a choice. They choose to believe this nonsense, and as such I am justified in hating them.
I recognize that something on the order of 95% of people stay with the religion of their parents, (continued)

Shahar Goldin

I recognize that I'm particularly privileged in this regard, having been born to atheists.

I just don't care very much.
If you are going to go to church, or a mosque, or a synagogue, or a temple, and financially support your religion, I'm going to assume that you agree with it's tenets, which are almost always terrible (By the same token I'm positively-bigoted towards Unitarian Universalists).
If you're going to go around saying "I am an evangelical Christian" thereby perpetuating the meme that it's somehow OKAY to believe that God sent Katrina to kill the gays, I'm going to assume that you're a terrible asshole. And I'm not going to feel bad about it.

And I think that now more than ever, as the number atheists is on the rise, as science continues to fill all the gaps that people's gods used to, et cetera and so on, more and more I think that holding people accountable for their religious beliefs is valid, and I think that if someone made the kind of assumptions that I make about, say, Orthodox Jews, instead about, say, bisexuals, that would be sickening.
I don't think this is always the case, for example I try not to make these assumptions about Muslims living under theocratic regimes, but in general, I think religious bigotry is perfectly justified.

Jon Berger

My mom was the same way about Charlton Heston, for what it's worth, because of the gun thing. Which was too bad, because she refused to watch the "Seven Musketeers" movies, which are amazingly wonderful movies and which she otherwise would have loved. Along similar but weirder lines, she also wouldn't drink Welch's grape juice, because the founder of the John Birch society was named Robert Welch. Totally different guy from the grape-juice guy, but that didn't matter; the name "Welch" was just forever tainted in her eyes. Possibly as a result of my early exposure to this sort of thing, I don't get these visceral reactions, which is good because it allows me to sneer at Evangelicals who refuse to watch Sean Penn movies without being a hypocrite.

Roi des Foux

I've had pretty much the same response to Gibson and Cruise, for the same reasons you've outlined. Furthermore, I stopped enjoying Dilbert as much when he said about evolution/creationism: "I enjoy yanking the chain of people who think they believe things for actual reasons as opposed to taking a side."

Roi des Foux

Ok, that should be, "I stopped enjoying Dilbert as much when Scott Adams said..."

Jon Berger

P.S. -- if you haven't seen the "come out of the closet, Tom Cruise" episode of "South Park," you owe it to yourself. Seriously.

I've never seen "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and now I think I probably never will.
Oh, no! Please, don't let Ben Stein dissuade you--his character in that movie is supposed to be repulsive(ly boring)! Actually, every single adult character in the movie is a moron--but Stein's claim to fame in Ferris is that he was utterly convincing as a homicidally dull economics teacher. And it's no accident: the economics lecture he delivers is one that he, Stein, actually wrote!

Ferris is one of the most lovely Eighties Kid movies ever made; don't let that idiot prevent you from seeing it.


I have the same attitude toward Orson Scott Card as David Ellis does. Once I realized that I wasn't going to be able to read any more of his books without them being tainted by his religious and political views, I gave most of them away, even the ones written before he succumbed to the Brain Eater.

I noticed a similar thing with Christian Bale after hearing his on-set breakdown. It's made me less likely to want to go see his next movie, knowing (or believing) that he's such a prima donna. So I'd say it's not a religious thing, it's an asshole thing.


I have avoided seeing Valkyrie because of Mr. Cruise plus the fact that Stauffenberg was a kind of hero of mine. The movie concept seemed tacky to me. I would probably see TC in something like MI 4.
I had collected a fair number of Orson Scott Card books - even though I knew he was a Mormon. But I gave them all away last year, to my son, after reading Card's bigoted rants on homosexuality. I couldn't face seeing them on my bookshelf anymore.


I have the same emotional reaction to Michael Richards... Kramer was my favorite character and I can no longer watch Seinfeld at all.

Tom Cruise I'm still OK (I have avoided seeing the
"crazy clips"). Mel Gibson I'm not OK with (I don't know if there is video or audio of his "incident" with the police, but I read a transcript.

Still OK with John Travolta, although I do wonder how much his beliefs played into the fate of his son.

While not on the same level, I'm amused by old X-files where Fox's interests in porn are mentioned considering what happened in David Duchovny's personal life. It hasn't had a negative effect on my enjoyment of the series. Although I do wonder if that was a case of art imitating life, of life imitating art.

Anyway, I guess my point is that its easy to see how one can be inconsistent about what personal behaviors/beliefs have an effect on your enjoyment of their professional output.


I don't watch Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson movies either. I don't like Mel Gibson's antisemitism and I don't like the Scientology thing. But then again, I used to work for Scientologists and they're kind of freaky.

The reason I don't watch the movies is that I believe in putting my money where my beliefs are. I don't want to pay any money toward any thing that counters my beliefs in any real, meaningful way. Scientologists have some beliefs about drugs and psychologists that are incompatible with my own and with that of my chosen (future) career, so I don't pay to watch movies that I know help fund Scientology. It's not religious intolerance so much as I really don't want them telling students in my schools that megadoses of Niacin will help flush marijuana from their bodies. It's their poor grasp on science that concerns me.

Ben Stein has about 5 seconds in Ferris Bueller, which is an excellent movie. See it regardless, I'd say. Borrow from a friend or rent from the library - that way, no money gets back to Mr. Stein.

Blake Stacey

I definitely know the feeling, and I think it's a pretty common one. Somehow, I think it's easier to "forgive" a movie, like Pulp Fiction or Ferris Bueller, because a film is so much more obviously a collaborative creation. Even if the big-name star is a completely repulsive loon, he's surrounded by other actors, in a cinematic environment created by the screenwriter, the director, the special-effects team, etc., etc. I might feel a little bad that I'm giving Tom Cruise a share of my brain time, but emotionally speaking, the effect is diluted by Quentin Tarantino or Robert Redford.

A book, on the other hand, has only one really visible creator. Yes, I know an editor went over it, and a whole mess of people were involved in the printing of it, but, frankly, who even knows who they are? So, if the author is a repugnant celebrity, it's pretty much impossible to imagine that they're only a part of a whole more worthy than themselves.

Greta Christina
Why do you have a problem with religious bigotry?

Shahar: It sounds like you're making the argument that it's fair to judge people on the basis of their religious beliefs, because religious beliefs are part of the content of their character. And to a point, I agree with you. I've even made that argument myself.

But there are two important limitations on it, and at least one of them is relevant to this discussion. One limitation is that not all believers in (X) religion adhere to all the tenets of that religion. In fact, many of them don't. Cherry picking and compartmentalization are incredibly common among religious believers. So assuming that because someone belongs to (X) religion, they therefore believe (A, B, and C) is not necessarily a fair assumption.

The other limitation -- and the one that's more directly relevant to this discussion -- is that a judgment of people based on their religious beliefs has to be relevant to the issue they're being judged on. It would, IMO, be totally appropriate to refuse to date someone because you find their religious beliefs absurd or repugnant. It would most definitely not be appropriate to refuse to hire them for a job, or rent an apartment to them, or give them a bank loan.

And what I'm trying to decide here is whether refusing to see someone in a movie is more of a "refusing to date them" situation or more of a "refusing to hire them" situation. I'm leaning towards the former, but there's enough of the latter in it to make me uncomfortable, and to make me feel the need to examine the question more carefully.


I feel the same way about Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey for their stupid, harmful beliefs about vaccinations. Actually it's not so much the belief per se that icks me out, so much as the complete lack of nuance or deference they display when blathering about their views. I can tolerate just about any position so long as the person holding it understands why people disagree.


Shahar, I'd like to echo Greta's response to you and add something else: your comment strongly implied that if race, sex, sexual orientation, etc were choices that it would be acceptable to discriminate against people based on them. I know you didn't intend that, but that's how it came out.

It's wrong to discriminate against people because of their race, sex, sexual orientation and so on because those things are not immoral, not because they aren't chosen.


It's been a while since I've seen Braveheart. In what sense do you consider it an "open incitement to gay- bashing"?

(I suspect I know where you're going with this, and if so I want to respectfully disagree with you, but I want to check first before disagreeing with a figment of my imagination. :-) )

Susie Bright

Hi Greta!

I have gone thru this too.. and Jon just cracked me up by saying that Chick Corea can be added to your list.

But here'a new twist.

I went to see a film recently that I DIDN"T KNOW Tom Cruise was in, because he's not the main star, it's kinda a hidden character bit.

He is also in a face-changing disguise. I turned to my movie pal and said, WHO IS THIS? HE"S GREAT!" and she said, "It's TOm Cruise!" which left me speechless because I had enjoyed the whole movie, innocently.

Stay out of the loop, and you can enjoy them all!

* movie is....

Tropic Thunder. I hope I didn't spoil it for you!

Greta Christina
It's been a while since I've seen Braveheart. In what sense do you consider it an "open incitement to gay- bashing"?

I'm referring to two things in the movie, and the combination of the two.

One is the grisly murder by defenestration of Edward II's gay male lover... in a way that appears to be heartily approved of by the filmmakers, and that seems to be intended as an "applaud and cheer line" for the audience.

The other is the way that the homosexuality of both Edward II and his lover are presented as character flaws, examples of the over- civilized effeminacy of the English aristocracy (drawn in sharp contrast to the manly heterosexual manliness of William Wallace and the Scottish warriors).

Either of these would be bad enough alone. In combination, the message seems to be clear: Homosexuality is a weakness at best, wickedness at worst, and brutal murder is an appropriate response to it, one we should applaud.


Hi Greta,
I was going to ask about the Braveheart reference too, and it's also been a while since I saw it, though I think I do now remember what it is you're referring to in your explanation...
I don't think I ever really saw that as gay bashing. I (perhaps naively) saw it more as an unbiased portrayal of a homophobic father's disgust at his son's homosexuality and of a view which in those days must have been rather common.
The message you refer to seemed to me not so much a message from the filmmakers to the audience, but something shown by the filmmakers as having been the norm in the period in which the movie is set.
But, as I said, I may have been looking at it all a bit naively, but still hope that you haven't spoiled it for me, since I did really love Braveheart.

About the connection between art and the artist... my (very fundamentally christian) mother was never able to separate the two and can't listen to Elton John because he's gay or Michael Jackson because... dunno, he's allegedly a kiddy-fiddler and had plastic surgery?!
For the most part I've never had a problem with this unless it's the art that I have a problem with, for example, I can listen to some old favourite, Christian, music, so long as the lyrics aren't overtly christian (unless of course the song/artist itself harbours bad memories of a Christian upbringing) and I don't have a problem with watching Mel Gibson, so long as it's not the passion of the christ.

Maybe my ability to separate art from artist stems simply from my not paying much attention to what goes on in the world of celebrities and the bullshit they spout, though I'd prefer to see it as a matter of principle, having been so put-ff by the way my mother dealt with music (in particular) and not wanting to do the same thing.
On the other hand, if an artist I like actually started spouting bullshit on a topic I care about (I've never payed much attention to Scientology and therefore don't really care much about it) then I might well feel differently.

Greta Christina

Clytia, re Braveheart: I might agree with you, if it weren't for the way that the movie positioned Edward II and his lover's homosexuality as markers of their dissolution and weakness. But their sexuality and their relationship was presented as repugnant and corrupt. Indeed, it was used as centrally symbolic of their repugnance and corruption. In that context, the murder seemed like it was being presented as just deserts.

I know that Gibson has said that the murder wasn't meant to be applauded. But when you depict a character as disgusting and immoral for having characteristic (X), and then have that character murdered for having characteristic (X), it is disingenuous at best to say that you didn't intend the murder to be seen as righteous punishment. Especially when your story is such a broad and unsubtle struggle between clearly marked good and evil. (Braveheart isn't Watchmen; it's not exactly a tale of moral complexity.)

Besides: If the movie had been produced and directed by Susan Sarandon or Sean Penn, I might be more likely to give it the benefit of the doubt on this topic. But given Gibson's record of homophobic comments, I am very much disinclined to do so.


To my mind, it's a question of suspension of disbelief. When the actor or actress has done something so outrageous or evil that it overshadows the role they're playing, I lose the ability to see them as a character, and I can only see the real person, whom I know I dislike.

I have another example of this: O.J. Simpson. I can't watch the Naked Gun movies anymore, knowing what he's almost certainly guilty of.


you have WAY too much time on your hands

David Ellis

On a related note, I'm not willing to watch shows like MEDIUM because they claim to be based on a "real" psychic. I'm just not going to give my support to a show, no matter how good it might be (I don't know one way or the other, not having seen a single episode) that promotes belief in the paranormal when all the evidence points to it being pure BS.

Thankfully there are shows like PSYCH around to make fun of this movement toward belief in psychic phenomena.

The Beautiful Kind

Don't worry, honey. It's OK for you not to respect these people.


Firstly, let me apologize for the long post.

Like David Ellis and arensb, I have the same reaction to Orson Scott Card. I can't read anymore of his stuff.

But the reason I can't deal with his books anymore isn't just because he's a total asshole. It's also because I can't for the life of me figure out how somebody can write something so profound that really addresses prejudice in a deep way, and then turn out to be such a bigot himself. We all have our likes and dislikes. We're all walking contradictions, but I don't think we're all disingenuous. And to me, finding out about Card's bigotry and listening to him rant about homosexuality made me feel ripped off, like I had been taken in by a charlatan.

We express ourselves through art to explore ideas. Now, we can either accept or reject parts or the whole of what we learn or conclude through the process, and maybe rejecting all of it is what Card did, but c'mon. This guy wrote, what, eleven thick books in the series exploring just this, and he turns out to be completely intolerant, as in "intolerance is the answer" (not a direct quote by him, but it may as well have been from interviews I've heard with him).

Now to be totally fair, I haven't read the whole series. I read the first four books and started the fifth. I don't know the conclusion he draws.

But I don't buy it. His work smacks of being fake. Of taking people on a ride and laughing at them. It's treating your audience and fans like shit. I don't like it, and I don't have to support it, and I don't have to give him a platform. His bigotry taints the work. (And I won't support his Mormon tithing, either, by purchasing his books.)

When people are being unfair, they need to be called on it, and if they can't think for a moment and rise to the occasion to explore their beliefs, then your left with few options, one of which is to just not engage anymore. It's one thing to disagree with people. It's quite another to be hateful, and Card is most definitely hateful toward LGBT people.

John the Drunkard

I have sung Lohengrin, Fliegende Hollander, Tannhauser, Parsifal, Rheingold, and one other Ring one. I always felt a bit unclean after each performance.

The treacly sweet sentimentality, the appeal to volkisch fervor, the love of violence, the annoying alliteration of the long librettos. Even without knowledge of Wagner's anti-semitism and his nazi fan-club, these are creepy in the same way as republicans babbling about Family Values.

For the rest, let's see, I love Chaplin despite his reckless fondness for Stalin..this one can be applied to dozens of artists.

Gibson's films have used big-budget sweep to cover dishonest pseudo-history. Anglophobic: Gallipoli, Braveheart, Patriot; and counterfeit biblical: Passion.

I have never felt much warmth toward Cruise. Can anyone detect a change in his work after the $cientologists recruited him?


Huh. I hadn't thought about it until all of you lovely commentors mentioned it, but as much as I loved the couple of Ender's Game books I read, I can't read Card anymore either. I still remember the stories and characters with a lot of fondness, but like you, sav, I kind of boggled at the "wait, didn't you just say judging folks on superficial criteria was bunkum?" He apparently takes a kinder stance on murdering, slavering aliens than he does on perfectly loving and ethical human beings that like sex with folks he wouldn't choose to have sex with himself. The empathy and compassion and yes, love, showed in his books had really touched me. Finding out he only has that love towards hypothetical, sexless aliens... it hurt. I think sav hit it all right on the button.

I could watch Ferris Bueller any day... I think Stein's performance in that was genuinely good, and I can appreciate it without being angered by other things. But the funny thing was, I used to like Ben Stein's ability to make funny of himself, and occasionally watched his game show. After learning more about him, it cast even those memories into a negative light... when he was playing himself, I suddenly colored the memories differently. It became less making fun of himself, and more self-glorification. And if a movie came out that I might normally see, that he played a LARGE part in... well, I probably wouldn't go see. A small part though? I'd probably just growl at him in the theatre. XD Unlike Card, I don't feel like he's betrayed me... he's just a harmless buffoon who uses his power to steal the future of our children... but he can't hurt me.

On the other hand... if Expelled had been more successful in its own right, and not such a huge laugh-line, maybe I would feel more like he'd hurt me, and feel differently about it. It's a dangerous line...


I do have the issue as well, even though not with movies (I am very apathetic towards almost all of them) but with music. You can not believe how much world music is created by people who sprout the worst esoteric BS. I try to avoid these artists, but occasionally, the music is good enough that I can gloss over their religious stances.


Ngeli, I feel the same about music. I like metal music, and sometimes that can be both quite misogynistic and homophobic, which I really hate :-(


Tom Cruise is superb actor I am a big fan Tom Cruise. The movie series mission impossible is mind blowing. Thanks for posting it.


It's called a turn-off. No rational thought or reasoning (or justification) needed.

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