Which Celebrity Offenses do We Forgive?

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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121 Responses

  1. gingergene says:

    I think the 2 biggest rules for most people are (1) how much do I care about the bad thing this person (allegedly) did compared to (2) how much do I like/identify with this person. Everything we do beyond that is after-the-fact rationalization.

    Minor offense + person we like = no biggie
    Major offense + person we don’t like = unleash the internets!!!

    The other two combinations (major/like & minor/dislike) are balancing acts, and in most cases if we bother to have an opinion at all, we will be heavily influenced by other people’s reactions. That said, how we feel about the person is usually a better predictor of how we’ll react than the nature of the offense.

    Relative obscurity can work in the celebrity’s favor, which I think might be what’s going on here- Mayweather is huge in boxing, but boxing isn’t huge in sports anymore, so the number of people who have an opinion about him in any capacity are relatively small.

    I do think that “youthful hijinks” vs. “grown-ass man/woman” definitely plays a role. Wahlberg did what he did when he was young, and seems to have grown up since then. Mel Gibson’s rants came when he was well into adulthood. But maybe I just like Mark Wahlberg more than I like Mel Gibson.Report

  2. Kolohe says:

    Mayweather’s reputation has probably took a permanent heel turn when the two not-famous but not-obscure either reporters had their press credentials revoked for writing columns with a similar theme (i.e. “why has Mayweather gotten a pass all these years”). They were kinda sorta reinstated, but after the Streisand effect had occurred, and the reporters were able to tell Showtime to stuff their credentials below the belt.Report

  3. Glyph says:

    “Are there consistent rules being applied? Is it possible to figure out what they are?”

    No, and no.Report

  4. Chris says:

    I wonde, if Gibson had been at the height of his career (perhaps the Lethal Weapon or Braveheart days), instead of on the down slope, would we have dinged him as hard for the his racism? I mean, we’d have dinged him, because but I don’t think it would have essentially relegated him to straight-to-DVD movies.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Chris says:

      Alternatively, was it known but ignored because he was a bankable star?Report

      • Chris in reply to Kolohe says:

        Right, that’s part of what I’m getting at. I remember hearing stories of Gibson in the early 90s, and the whispering became more of a din when he did The Passion of Christ, but in the early 90s he still had a couple Lethal Weapon films in him, and when he did The Passion of Christ people might have thought he still had some box office potential. Then he did Apocalypto and, with more than a decade between that and Braveheart, everyone realized he was pretty much done, so it was open season.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Chris says:

      There are a lot of Jews in the entertainment industry and I really doubt that a lot of them would like working with an out and out Jew hater even if he was a bankable star. Mel Gibson probably get it under wraps for as long as possible but when it exploded, it caused damage. His sin was unforgiveable in his community if not his fans.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


      This could be part of it. And I think that @kolohe is right too. Everyone in Hollywood probably new about Gibson’s anti-Semitism in an “open secret” kind of way. But he was bankable and people were willing to look past it. This includes my co-religionists.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    Did you see what happened to Joss Whedon yesterday? Dude left twitter. Presumably because of the abuse he received due to how he treated Black Widow in the most recent Avengers movie (I haven’t seen it but I’ve heard that Black Widow requires saving at the end).

    Buffy didn’t matter. Firefly didn’t matter. The first Avengers didn’t matter.Report

    • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      That’s not the story I heard.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

        I heard it was related to this sort of thing:


        I haven’t heard any other stories. What have you heard?Report

        • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

          That there were a lot of reasons, largely related to his relationship with the studio. I know he got a lot of heat, but he’s gotten heat like that before (everyone with a following has, at this point), and he was clearly growing dissatisfied with The Avengers and the studio and Twitter. Perhaps it played a role, but there’s no evidence it played the role Oswalt thinks it did.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


            Did you hear about the prima Nocta controversy?Report

            • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              No, I hadn’t heard about it, but reading about it now I see that it’s not a real controversy.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

                How so?Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                The real problem with the prima nocta joke was that it is ahistorical. Such a thing did not exist for a variety of reasons. Feudal lords knew how much they could push their power for the most part. High taxes is one thing. Demands for women on their wedding night in a culture that took chastity seriously is just asking for open rebellion. Even when the norms of chastity were honored more in the breech, the Church at least attempted to maintain consistency on the issue.Report

              • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                There seems to be an effort to fish for outrage, but no one seems to be biting. It’s obviously a silly issue, and even the hardest of hard core “SJWs” in their dorm rooms can recognize that.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


                Except there were posts about it on feministing, buzzfeed, comicsalliance, and possibly other sites. I just did this by googling for Avengers 2 and Prima Nocta.

                You seem to be handwaving because your side….Report

              • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                There was a post on buzzfeed, and I don’t know what the hell comicsalliance is. There are a whole lot of posts on buzzfeed.

                I’m handwaving because it’s not a real controversy. It’s something you heard about on Facebook and then had to go searching for. If you have to go searching for it, in 2015, it’s not a controversy.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                Well, earlier this morning I saw that Time was covering it, but then I went on to see that someone actually asked Joss Whedon why he quit Twitter.


                He wanted to get some work done and getting rid of twitter was the best way to do that.

                “It’s like taking the bar exam at Coachella.”

                So that’s from the horse’s mouth.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

            growing dissatisfied with The Avengers and the studio and Twitter.

            Also known as “growing up”.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:


      I didn’t hear about him leaving twitter but I did hear that people think the Avengers has a rapey joke about tradition of prima Nocta.


      I have not seen Avengers 2 yet but prima Nocta was probably more of an urban legend than anything else.

      There is historical debate about how real or unreal prima Nocta was as a law and/or custom. According to wikipedia, Voltaire mentioned the idea in one of his works and it became a target for satire at the aristocracy. The Marriage of Figaro involves trying to outwit a lord on the prima Nocta. 19th Century France used it as propaganda against the Ancien Regime and the Bad Old Days.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I’m only reading about the Prima Nocta joke now due to this thread, and probably won’t see the film but I have to say, it’s an interesting case of how the joke changes depending on how you parse it, and who we think is “telling” the joke (Whedon or whoever wrote it, or the character of Tony Stark).

        On the one hand, you have a privileged, arrogant guy joking about how he wishes to be a feudal lord and take the virtue of the lasses that he more or less owns. Seems pretty tasteless.

        On the other – isn’t that exactly the sort of tasteless joke that the a-hole character Tony Stark IS (or can be) would make?

        Or alternately: that a slightly-less a-holish character with some self-awareness of how he is often perceived, STILL might make (probably while roguishly waggling his eyebrows)?Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Glyph says:


          I haven’t seen the movie yet either. I heard about the joke yesterday via facebook and even that was only one person (and said person thought the reaction was overblown).

          I think a lot of people have serious issues with the remembering that saying/writing something does not necessarily equal endorsement. Here the reaction seems to be “Why did feminist hero Joss Whedon put a rapey-joke in Avengers 2?” This is instead of thinking “Tony Stark is just the kind of guy that would make a douchey joke like this!!”

          Then again, lots of people seem impervious to taking lines and suggestions as they are. The most famous example of this is that Oliver Stone intended Gordon Gekko to be a villain (seriously he is named after Reptile!!) and “Greed is good” was not supposed to be a lauded speech. Yet countless legions of guys saw Gordon Gekko as a hero and took “Greed is Good” to heart and something praiseworthy.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Just as some people read religious texts literally, so do some people interpret entertainment.Report

            • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

              No lie, this analogy just blew my mind; I am picturing pop-culture scribes the world over, poring over modern movies and TV and books and tweets line by line by candlelight, seeking The Word of Truth and Divine Understanding, while ferreting out witches and heresies and unbelievers.

              And one day, far in the future, stories will be told, of the miracles performed by EyeRonMan…Report

              • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

                And how he forced the people he did miracles for to pay him back.
                (no seriously. he was the token Republican. So help me, the writers Tried)Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

                You don’t see all the over-analysis of shows on Mad Men on websites like Slate or the Atlantic or even our own Babylonia series as examples of this?Report

              • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Well, I do NOW.

                I was being 100% sincere – the parallels to religious fanatics attempting to draw literal meaning from allegory, then use their interpretation as license to (metaphorically) burn them some witches and heretics, had never occurred to me.Report

              • KatherineMW in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Babylon 5 is a show that’s made to be discussed, thought about, and interpreted. It’s not as though you have to dig very much to see its political, religious, philosophical themes, etc.Report

              • Glyph in reply to KatherineMW says:

                And it’s not like I didn’t dig into, say, Sandman and The Americans here…Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Glyph says:

          On the other – isn’t that exactly the sort of tasteless joke that the a-hole character Tony Stark IS (or can be) would make?

          Yes, it really is. Especially without Pepper around. Tony Stark is often a sexist ass. He’s just a *charming* one.

          In fact, he used to be even *more* of an ass, until the events of the first movie had him swear off making weapons. (At least, for other people.)

          And people seem to have forgotten that that Tony is, functionally, the villain of the next Captain America film. Way back in the comic’s Civil War, Marvel insisted that ‘no side was right’, despite everyone seeing Tony’s side as pretty wrong. With them actually making this a *Captain America* movie, it looks like they’ve embraced that viewpoint.

          And, hell, he’s sorta the villain of this one! Not only does he cause the events of it, but Ultron pretty clearly has some of his personality.

          Actually, Tony and/or his father’s bad choices functionally produce every villain in the Iron Man movies also. In 1, it’s his own business associate. In 2, it’s someone his father wronged and apparently took some tech from. In 3, it’s two people he brushed off the business potential of their work a decade ago because he wanted to get laid and then leave.

          It’s very easy to just see Tony’s charm and intelligence and think he’s a good person. But, like most Marvel heroes, he’s pretty flawed.Report

          • Glyph in reply to DavidTC says:

            I don’t know if you watched Agent Carter (you should, I liked it a lot), but while they play it *mostly* for “charming rogue” (or if you prefer, “man-slut and horndog who absolutely cannot keep it in his pants”) comedy, it’s partly daddy Howard Stark’s relentless skirt-chasing that also sets the plot in motion there.Report

            • DavidTC in reply to Glyph says:

              I’ve seen Agent Cater, and indeed I did like it.

              It’s somewhat interesting how Howard Stark is somewhat progressive for his day. Yes, he chases women, but when he meets women who don’t fall for his nonsense and are willing to stand up to him, *and* are competent at what they do, he will respect them, like he does Peggy. Unlike *everyone else*, who are unwilling to respect Peggy even if she is *clearly* very good at her job…if it was up to them, she wouldn’t even be there.

              And fast forward to modern day, and Tony Stark is exactly the same…and it comes across as *incredibly sexist*. Pepper Potts is immune to his charms (Well, mostly, dammit. I still have no idea how she puts up with him) and doesn’t put up with his crap and more competent at running the company than he is…so he makes her CEO in Iron Man 2. But, in the same movie, he hires a personal assistant pretty much solely based on her looks and flirtiness. (This is, of course, Natasha, sent by SHIELD to keep tabs on him, so that doesn’t *actually* work out for him, but that’s besides the point. Nice callback in Avengers 2, though, when Tony mentions he’s seen her flirt.)

              Treating 99% of women as background decoration that you might occasionally sleep with, and 1% as real people, with specific goals, agencies, and competencies of their own, and actually paying attention to them and listening to their ideas: Progressive in 1955, sexist in 2015.Report

              • KatherineMW in reply to DavidTC says:

                It’s actually Steve who mentions that he’s seen her flirt “up close” (when she used the kiss-as-distraction-technique in Winter Soldier).Report

              • DavidTC in reply to KatherineMW says:

                Doh, you’re right.

                Which is odd, because that wasn’t *actually* flirting.Report

              • Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

                At least insofar as I’ve seen the guy in these movies, he’s quite capable of lying… Is it not within the realm of the possible that Mr. GeniusAsIdiot is simply posing?

                Tony: “Hm, Shield’s sent someone. They know my taste, so I’d better hire her to stay in character”Report

          • DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

            Thinking about it, it seems like Joss’s actual problem here is ‘assuming the audience understands the characters better than they actually do’. Not only is it showing up with Tony’s comments, but it happened with Natasha’s ‘I’m a monster too’. talk. A lot people seem to be thinking that has something to do with her infertility.

            Firstly, people seem to be somewhat misremembering the order of that conversation. There were two bits…’we are the monsters’ bit, and they ‘why we can’t settle down together and raise a family’ bit. Bruce didn’t mentioned his infertility until the second part…and Natasha said that really didn’t matter, the same thing was true of her. They were already past the ‘monster’ part of the discussion. Neither Bruce nor Natasha consider their infertility a reason they are monsters.

            But there’s an interesting thing to notice there. People seem to have honed in on Natasha’s statement there, and think it has something to do with her being a monster, but didn’t try also applying it to *Bruce*. Part of this might be the sexist history of women being expected to have children, but I suspect that a lot of that is because Bruce is *obviously* a monster.

            This means, I suspect, that people have *forgotten Natasha is a monster*. Like, morally. Or, at least, she was, and still considers herself to be.

            Natasha has killed more people than most of the other Avengers, combined. (Steve and maybe Thor might beat her, but their kills were soldiers, in war. She killed innocent people.) She’s certainly killed more people than Bruce. She was a professional assassin. She was programmed, as child, to be a murder machine. She is, basically, as much a monster as the Winter Soldier, except all of her is human…or at least human looking. (We really have no idea if any other modifications were done to her.)

            Remember that line in the first Avengers where Clint asks her if she knows what it’s like to have her brain scoped out and replaced with something else, and she says, and I quote ‘Of course I do.’ Not just ‘Yes’, but ‘Of course’.

            The problem, of course, is that it is somewhat easy for the audience to forget this, even with the flashbacks intended to remind us. So when *she* talks about being a monster, and then being infertile, it’s easy for the audience to think that’s what why she thinks she’s a monster. That’s…not why she thinks that. At all. People who understand Natasha’s character wouldn’t think that.

            And it’s easy to blame the audience for ‘not understanding her character’, but don’t assume that’s what I’m doing. The problem here is that the movies, by necessity, are mass entertainment, and assuming the audience understand character nuances is really a *production* mistake. They don’t understand that Tony is not actually that nice a guy. They don’t understand that Natasha actually is a monster, even if told she is. They operate on the idea that the Avengers are the ‘good guys’. (Except maybe the Hulk might be a little out of control.)

            If the audience is going to view them that way, you either have to write them that way, or you have to correct the audience by showing her *actually being a monster* and Tony being a sexist ass, or you’re going to get some stuff misinterpreted. (Or, in this specific example, you could have a damn prequel movie showing her pre-SHIELD, but that’s apparently too hard.)Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to DavidTC says:


              From the prospective of someone who used to be involved with theatre, I can also tell you that a love of people have problems with the concept that playing with a line or concept does not equal endorsement.

              So they weren’t differentiating between Joss Whedon writing for a character but they could have just seen it as Joss Whedon saying what he believes. This sort of stuff happens all the time.

              Of course there are also artists that openly put their politics into their works. Frank Miller and Alan Moore come to mind in comics and both do so with a sledge hammer rather than being subtle.

              There are also artists who use irony to hide their views and get it into art. Charles Kraftt comes to mind here. He is a Washington based artist who was famous for his disasterware series. He world do something like make delftware in the shape of an AK-47. Some of his art did have Nazi imagery and inconography. Everyone thought that Kraftt was being ironic and really left-wing in his critiques on war. The Stranger found out that he is really a far-right winger with Neo-Nazi and White Supermacist views.


              So there is a lot of bad faith and distrust because obviously people abuse irony to get really noxious views into art.

              I might have to do a post on this.Report

              • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                So they weren’t differentiating between Joss Whedon writing for a character but they could have just seen it as Joss Whedon saying what he believes.

                The other possibility is what I think @chris is saying above, that this is mostly about people whose job it is to create internet clicks doing what they have to do to generate internet clicks.

                There is a fine line between reporting on what starts as a genuine social media conflagration and running around with a box of matches yourself. These lines were much clearer in the old media days.Report

              • Chris in reply to j r says:

                As I was traipsing through comment sections yesterday, trying to find people who were really outraged about the prima nocte comment, what I saw repeatedly was this interaction:

                “About the rape joke in Age of Ultron…”

                “What rape joke?”

                “The one about prima nocte.”

                “Oooooh… hmm.”Report

              • KatherineMW in reply to Chris says:

                I wasn’t outraged, but the comment definitely threw me for a loop (I said “WHAT?!” out loud in the theatre, albeit under my breath) and I thought it was not in the least funny if it was meant as a joke. But it also felt like something Tony Stark would say and would think was funny because, well, he’s a dick.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                From the prospective of someone who used to be involved with theatre, I can also tell you that a love of people have problems with the concept that playing with a line or concept does not equal endorsement.

                The way to fix that is to have someone *push back*. Show Tony being an sexist ass to some woman, and have someone say ‘Stop that’. That’s how you show the work doesn’t endorse the thing. Avengers…forgot to do that. They did leave a lot of that movie on the cutting room floor, though…hrm.

                This is where the lack of women sorta hurts the movie. In that scene, we have Natasha, who really does not care how sexist men are…it makes her job easier. And we have Maria Hill who could object…except Tony is technically her boss. (Also, I’m not sure she was there.) And we had that doctor woman I’ve forgotten the name of, but, well, she doesn’t have any moral authority, we have no idea who she is!

                We could have had Thor take the comment seriously, I guess, or Steve object. Assuming either of them even knew what it was.

                Now, yes, that would have messed up that scene…but, really, Tony’s casual disrespect towards women in general could have come up at any time in the movie, and he could have been called on it at a different point. Then when he made the joke, the audience would be ‘That’s Tony, acting like an ass again’. Or thought that retroactively, if the slapdown came later.

                OTOH, Tony was all over the place in this movie anyway, making incredibly dumbass decisions, and getting repeatedly called out on them. So, frankly, I’m not sure the movie had time to deal with his *other* stupidity of how he treats women. And, hey, whatever happened to his obvious alcoholism from Iron Man 2? Tony Stark: Worse Role Model Ever(TM)

                So what this the movie probably should have done is the alternate path of *having him stop acting like an ass*. No one says he has to do that all the time, or even has to have that character trait at all, or maybe Pepper’s been a good influence on him so he stopped. And in the last Iron Man movie, Tony’s previous treatment of women blew up in his damn face, so, you know, he could have hypothetically learned something. (The Avengers movies are supposed to be about the characters that don’t have their own series. Tony can go be an ass in his own series, and even be the villain in Civil War. Here in Avengers, he’s supposed to be, nominally, a hero.)

                But the MCU is determined to make this Tony Stark as much of an egotistical ass as the comics, which is *really odd* for a comic book movie interpretation, which normally attempt to gloss over all the flaws of their heroes. Maybe the theory is that, without an Iron Man 4, it’s not like they need to sell him as likable anymore. He can be the Token Asshole Teammate in Avengers.Report

        • Stephan Cooper in reply to Glyph says:

          The context of the joke was Tony Stark making fun of how much he’d abuse his power if he became King of Asgard, in a similar manner to jokes people would make about siccing the IRS on your enemies if made President. So pretty much Glyph’s last option.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to Jaybird says:

      He’s said that he left just because, essentially, he needed to get away from things and rest and Twitter was the opposite of relaxing and recharging. He has also said very straightforwardly that people’s reactions to the Black Widow subplot are not the reason.

      Here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/adambvary/joss-whedon-on-leaving-twitter#.xnM5QWE92

      “That is horseshit,” he told BuzzFeed News by phone on Tuesday. “Believe me, I have been attacked by militant feminists since I got on Twitter. That’s something I’m used to. Every breed of feminism is attacking every other breed, and every subsection of liberalism is always busy attacking another subsection of liberalism, because god forbid they should all band together and actually fight for the cause.

      “I saw a lot of people say, ‘Well, the social justice warriors destroyed one of their own!’ It’s like, Nope. That didn’t happen,” he continued. “I saw someone tweet it’s because Feminist Frequency pissed on Avengers 2, which for all I know they may have. But literally the second person to write me to ask if I was OK when I dropped out was [Feminist Frequency founder] Anita [Sarkeesian].”

      What did happen, Whedon said, is that he chose to embrace his long-standing desire post–Age of Ultron to reclaim his personal life and creative spark — and that meant saying good-bye to Twitter. “I just thought, Wait a minute, if I’m going to start writing again, I have to go to the quiet place,” he said. “And this is the least quiet place I’ve ever been in my life. … It’s like taking the bar exam at Coachella. It’s like, Um, I really need to concentrate on this! Guys! Can you all just… I have to… It’s super important for my law!”

      “The real issue is me,” he said. “Twitter is an addictive little thing, and if it’s there, I gotta check it. When you keep doing something after it stops giving you pleasure, that’s kind of rock bottom for an addict. … I just had a little moment of clarity where I’m like, You know what? If I want to get stuff done, I need to not constantly hit this thing for a news item or a joke or some praise, and then be suddenly sad when there’s hate and then hate and then hate.”

      “For someone like Anita Sarkeesian to stay on Twitter and fight back the trolls is a huge statement,” he said. “It’s a statement of strength and empowerment and perseverance, and it’s to be lauded. For somebody like me to argue with a bunch of people who wanted Clint and Natasha to get together [in the second Avengers film], not so much. For someone like me even to argue about feminism — it’s not a huge win. Because ultimately I’m just a rich, straight, white guy. You don’t really change people’s minds through a tweet. You change it through your actions. The action of Anita being there and going through that and getting through that and women like her — that says a lot.”Report

      • DavidTC in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Oh, God, the Clint/Natasha shipping people. They make my head hurt.

        Let’s take this incredibly strong female character, and have her hook up with the guy who ‘rescued’ her. That sounds like a good plan, and wouldn’t at all be undermining some of her character.

        Hilariously, in the comcs, while Clint and Natasha do have a brief ‘romance’, it’s right at the start of his career, when he was just a random costumed guy, and before she was a good guy. And she was just using him to help her steal stuff from Tony. So not only does it not really fit with this Hawkeye (Who’s never been a costumed superhero in the MCU), it wasn’t real anyway.

        Later, the comic Hawkeye goes on to flirt with Scarlet Witch (Which is why I was amazed that, in the same movie they introduced her, they blew up that relationship. I walked in expecting at least some flirting.) and he married Mockingbird for a bit. (While it would have been fun to put him in the new Mockingbird/Lance Hunter spin-off, they couldn’t afford Renner.)Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to DavidTC says:

          Didn’t Hawkeye get into the Superhero business because he was jealous of the acclaim and fame superheroes received? I also remember reading a reprint where Hawkeye advocating for Spider Man to join the Avengers because he had a great sense of style. Marvel was always more willing to let their heroes be a bit on the superficial side.Report

  6. Jaybird says:

    The Dixie Chicks provide an interesting example of a celebrity experiencing a backlash after doing something that irritated the Right Wing (and only the right wing) (AS IF CRITICIZING STUPID HILLBILLIES FROM TEXAS IS WORSE THAN HITTING A WOMAN!!!! Besides, they said they supported the troops).

    I can’t, off the top of my head, think of any other examples that are similarly high profile. I mean, I could talk about what happened to Sandi Patty’s career after she got divorced but that’d probably get everybody to say “Wait, who?”.Report

  7. LeeEsq says:

    Jaybird’s comment regarding the Dixie Chicks is hinting around the right answer. We don’t forgive celebrities of particular sins. Many people invoked Mayweather’s abuse of women in the run-up and aftermath of the fight. The way celebrities get their sins ignored is to commit sins that your fans do not particularly care about. The Dixie Chicks were more popular with Republican voting people rather than Democratic voting people. When they took a heterodox stance about Iraq II and GWB among Republicans than they took a hit to their reputation because it was a sin to their fans. Mayweather gets support because many boxing fans might not simply care enough about his wrong-doing. Athletes of all races tend to get away with a lot of physical and sexual assault for a variety of reasons. People kind of expect athletes to have a casual disregard for violence of all types for some reason.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Had Mayweather lost, I suspect (but, of course, cannot prove) that there would have been a *LOT* more discussion of his abuse after the fight than there was before.

      It would have been part of the “and another thing!” monologues given for why Mayweather sucks so much.

      As it is, he’s 48-0. He still sucks, of course.Report

    • morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I think the answer is far more cynical:

      We don’t forgive celebrities of unexpected sins. Sins that don’t fit into our preconceived stereotypes of the celebrity.

      Black boxer punches a woman? Of course he does. We accept this because of preexisting beliefs about boxers and blacks. [Insert various forms of ‘violence’, ‘violent’, ‘thug’, ‘dumb’,’testosterone’,’steroid rage’, etc]. Athletes get…ignored..because of preconceptions that they’re dumb lunks, so of course they’re not fully up to date on this civilization thing. (Doubly so for the black ones). Quarterbacks often get less slack, because they tend to be considered ‘smarter’ than linemen. (And of course, often white). It depends on the sport, of course, and whatever arbitrary amount of brain-power we (as a society) subconsciously assign.

      Mel Gibson turns out to be anti-Semitic? Woah, hold your horses there. He’s an actor, he says complex lines on my TV and seems smart, he should know better. Bill Cosby rapes women? But he’s a smart, intelligent man.

      We’ll accept actors being jerks and prima-donna’s — that fits our stereotypes. But racists and rapists? Oh no. We’ll accept boxers being abuses, again it fits our stereotypes….

      And the people that manage to survive past that tend to have…alternative revenue streams…to keep them going until it goes down the memory hole.Report

      • Glyph in reply to morat20 says:

        The thing that bothers me about athletes – particularly those in sports that reward brute strength and ritualized violence to the skull (I’m thinking mainly boxing and American football, and to a lesser extent hockey) – is I’m not sure it’s TOTALLY off-base to kind of assume that players that have risen to the top tier of those sports, may have some affinity or talent for aggression and violence (or at least, a desensitization to them). As our modern versions of gladiators, that’s part of how they got to the top.

        And on the flipside, all those repeated blows to the noggin that can damage impulse-control centers, can make “prone to violence” a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy – even if they didn’t start out that way. Intentionally or not, they’ve spent years being molded into a person that is very good for hurting people.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

          It is a chicken-egg question. Are the people who go into football, boxing, and hockey into because it is one of the few legal ways to express aggressive and violent urges or do they become aggressive and violent because of the sport?Report

        • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

          The sheer amount of pederasty and other downright dirty shit that goes on in college football programs these days argues against “they’re selected to be violent.”

          Some of that shit’s downright sadistic.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


          I heard people note that with Ray Rice. The argument was that he’s been rewarded throughout his life for his ability to physically punish people with his strength… Should we be shocked when he does that off the field? I don’t think I’m comfortable making that the WHOLE argument, but I think it needs to be considered.Report

          • Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy says:

            I don’t think it’s all that fair or accurate to look at people’s professions and surmise the contents of their souls. People with certain vices might make up a disproportionate number of certain professions, but that doesn’t mean most people in a profession engage in that behavior. Ray Rice does have teammates, after all. This type of stereotyping may not be all that destructive, but it is likely inaccurate, which is bad enough.

            …says the former business school professor…Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:


              I don’t think it is about souls. I think it is about messaging and learned behavior. If individuals are taught– via their passion/profession or elsewhere — that a certain behavior is acceptable in Context A, it is possible some of them will believe it acceptable in Context B.

              Again, I think it is was too simplistic to say, “Football made him do it.” But I think it might be part of the answer. More importantly, I think considering it might give us reason to reflect on that messaging.Report

            • Glyph in reply to Vikram Bath says:

              Yeah, as Kazzy says, the fact that you use the word ‘soul’ is sort of indicative of the conundrum we find ourselves in. We must, as a matter of ideals and practicality, believe in the concept of free will, even if it is quite possible same is a fiction; our entire human justice system depends on it.

              But we are all conditioned animals too. If you adopted a former pit-fighting dog, and took it to the local dog park, you wouldn’t be shocked if it got in a fight there, because it might have been chosen as a fighter for aggression in the first place, and in any case has has spent its whole life being rewarded for being a fighter.

              When talking about men who have been selected and massively-and long-rewarded for being the best of the best at aggression and violence, it makes little sense to say they are no more likely than anyone else to engage in violence.Report

              • Vikram Bath in reply to Glyph says:

                Fair enough!
                I don’t think it’s all that fair or accurate to look at people’s professions and surmise the contents of their souls as indicative of their outside-of-their-profession behaviors, especially when those behaviors are criminal ones.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                So the activity that we spend most of our waking hours engaged in and getting rewarded for, has no impact at all on the rest of our lives?

                Sounds legit 😉

                Seriously, I (mostly) agree with you, as a matter of law. But as a matter of reality, I am not sure I do.

                And I think it would maybe behoove us to consider whether selecting and training young men for ritualized violence, for the purposes of our simple entertainment, is the smartest thing we can do.Report

              • Vikram Bath in reply to Glyph says:

                I don’t think you or Kazzy have said what I’m objecting to, but the sentiment I disagree with is the idea that it should be obvious that someone who is a boxer or a football player would beat up the women in his life.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                “Holy cow, that guy just shot an unarmed kid for no reason!”

                “Do we know anything about him?”

                “Well, he spent twenty years on the force..”


              • Glyph in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                Vikram Bath:
                the sentiment I disagree with is the idea that it should be obvious that someone who is a boxer or a football player would beat up the women in his life.

                Well, I agree that as a matter of law (and even custom) that we generally shouldn’t stereotype and generalize…but to the OP’s point, I think many people, when told that a boxer beat the snot out of somebody outside the ring, are not terribly shocked; and this is not totally unreasonable of them.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                @kazzy @leeesq @vikram-bath – just saw this, and it somehow seemed apt:


              • Kolohe in reply to Glyph says:

                – just saw this, and it somehow seemed apt:

                There’s one vote in favor of the Targaryen Administration.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Kolohe says:

                I don’t get it?Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Glyph says:

                The current government in Meereen has outlawed fighting sports, considering them barbaric, cruel, and stupid, but gaming interests (who are mostly attached to the previous government) are lobbying hard against that ban, citing tradition and personal choice.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Kolohe says:

                Ah, gotcha. Yeah, that’s an interesting storyline and pretty well captures my ambivalence around boxing in particular.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                @vikram-bath @glyph

                Obvious? Certainly not. Most football players — most athletes — live generally law-abiding and peaceable lives. Which is why I’m not comfortable pinning it all on their profession. And it is hard to know the direction of causality… was Mayweather prone to violence for one reason or another and boxing became a safer outlet? Would he have been pounding people in the streets wantonly were it not for his career? Or would he have been more mild mannered in his relationships if he wasn’t trained from a young age to use his fists? I don’t think it is possible to know.

                I think it is worth considering because I think it adds nuance to the conversation and anytime we can do that, I think that is a good thing. Saying Ray Rice and Mayweather are just monsters doesn’t really get us anywhere except to a place where we get sneer at them. But who does that help? Understanding why some folks are violent might help us prevent violence going forward. If we can say, “Yes, contact sports increase the likelihood of violence,” or “No, contact sports have no impact on violence,” or “It depends on the individual,” we are somewhat closer to doing something about violence. Probably. We likely aren’t further away though were we never to explore such things.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

                @kazzy If I am giving the impression that I would pin it all on their profession, I apologize, I don’t mean to – direction of causality is always hard to pin down, I very much WANT to believe in free will, and anyway I think there’s a competing hypothesis that guys who maybe ARE a little prone to aggression are perhaps best steered towards activities that will allow them to work that aggression out more-or-less safely in a socially-acceptable context with other consenting adults (and maybe even make a buck or two at it).

                And like you say, plenty of boxers and football players and hockey players wouldn’t hurt a fly off the field.

                I just think it’s odd not to at least consider the possibility that engaging in repeated physical aggression (even if it’s in a rule-bound, ritualized context) has no impact at all on a person outside that context. Humans are pretty good compartmentalizers, but I am not sure we are THAT good.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

            A standard bit of relationship advice for lawyers is don’t talk to your friends and family like they are clients, witnesses, or adversaries in court.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to morat20 says:

        Roman Polanski is smart but lots of people forgive is very big sin because he is perceived as a creative artist and above conventional, bourgeois morality. Other artists including Woody Allen to a lesser extent. We aren’t agree at Mel Gibson or Bill Cosby because the are smart but because of their public demeanors as friendly and family-focused men. If either came across as more disreputable or bad-boyish than their might be more forgiveness.

        So what I guess I’m saying is that I agree with you about the unexpected sin part but I don’t think that smartness as anything to do with it. Public demeanor is more important in determining what you can get away with.Report

  8. j r says:

    There’s a bit of a problem with asking why people keep forgiving Floyd Mayweather, because the people who consider themselves Mayweather fans and supporters were likely never excoriating him for his domestic violence in the first place.

    I find articles like Garber’s to be unusually obtuse in understanding why things happen, especially when you stop to consider that this person is a real live professional journalizing person. Mayweather doesn’t make millions of dollars on a fight, because people like him. He makes that money because he owns his own promoting company. I’ve seen articles asking similar questions about why Woody Allen continues to have a career. Because he directs his own movies and his production company is run by his sister and individual actors still want to work with him and individual people still want to see his movies. This ain’t rocket science.

    I sometimes wonder what the chattering class means when they invoke the word “we.”Report

  9. j r says:

    I should add that you are on to something with explanation number 2, but it needs a bit of fine-tuning. On the whole, black communities don’t put their celebrities through the whole public shame cycle in the same way that other fans and media outlets do to mainstream stars. And when a black celebrity ends up in the crosshairs of that sort of mainstream ire, lots of black folks will reflexively support him or her, because the image of black celebrities being forced to kowtow to an overwhelmingly white media doesn’t sit very well with lots of black folks.

    OJ, Mike Vick, R Kelly, you see this sort of thing all the time.Report

    • Glyph in reply to j r says:

      IMO, it’s not just dislike for media kowtowing specifically that informs this seeming dynamic, it’s also the U.S. history of corrupt power structures scapegoating and railroading black people. OJ probably did it, but the minute you get a Mark Fuhrman involved, black people were understandably like, “oh, yeah, we’ve seen THIS story before.”Report

    • Chris in reply to j r says:

      Worth noting that, at least in the cases of OJ and Kelly, they’ve never really been accepted back into polite society with black people either.

      Mike Vick is different, but this is in part because I think a lot of people, not just black people, felt like the (social) punishment exceeded the crime, and that this was at least partially a result of him being black.Report

      • j r in reply to Chris says:

        Worth noting that, at least in the cases of OJ and Kelly, they’ve never really been accepted back into polite society with black people either.

        The Chappelle’s show jury selection skit probably explains this stuff best.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        Chris: Kelly, they’ve never really been accepted back into polite society with black people either

        Specifically in re: R. Kelly, what do you mean by this? As recently as 2013, Vibe called him “the greatest musical genius of the past two decades”, and he performed at the BET Awards. If I were going to name high-powered black entertainment establishment representatives, I’d probably go with Vibe and BET, and in no way does he appear exiled from those…so what do you mean by “polite society”?Report

        • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

          Yeah, I suppose that’s an exaggeration with Kelly. What I mean is that pretty much everyone acknowledges what he’s done, pretty much every time they talk about him. At least every time I hear people talking about him. They’re still gonna buy his albums, though.Report

          • j r in reply to Chris says:

            Yeah, this is what I mean about the lack of shame cycles in the black community. People acknowledge the bad, but don’t harp on it in the same way and, more importantly, don’t play the whole, “I am so shocked at this behavior!” card.Report

            • Chris in reply to j r says:

              Yeah, the outrage machine is mostly white.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Chris says:

                @j-r & @chris what about Bill Cosby?Report

              • Chris in reply to Kolohe says:

                Bill Cosby was on the outs with black people, especially young(er) black people, a decade before people realized he was probably a serial rapist.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Chris says:

                So the exception that proves the rule?Report

              • Chris in reply to Kolohe says:

                Perhaps in a way. Cosby was on the outs because he insulted, at least some people felt, black people (particularly black young people), and basically blamed them for some of the effects of racism. You know, the “pull your pants up and don’t say the n-word” stuff from the mid-aughts. Something like this has affected the way Oprah is perceived among younger black people as well, though not to the same extent (and there’s an active dialogue about some of her discussion of sexism in rap).

                Since this is all stuff white people don’t care about, for the most part, white people didn’t really notice until the rape allegations.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Kolohe says:

                I don’t want to put words in Chris’ mouth, but my understanding was that Cosby was already on the outs with the black community because of, essentially, political or cultural views he had expressed (criticizing various aspects of what he perceived as black cultural lapses). Cosby sold out to The Man, and told rappers to pull their pants up.

                Which is…interesting, in that groups will seemingly sometimes circle the wagons around one of their own when accused of violent crime (or at least, seem willing to overlook it) – but a difference of thought or politics, can get you ‘exiled’ but good.

                If Roman Polanski ever goes Republican, I expect to see his Hollywood supporters evaporate right quick.

                ETA: to further this observation (that ideological affinity seems to trump normal reactions to accusations of violent crime), I note that certain conservative circles who previously considered Cosby as an ally due to his opinions on black culture, have speculated that these rape allegations are part of a massive (presumably liberal) conspiracy to discredit a “conservative” black man and by extension, conservatism. Report

              • morat20 in reply to Glyph says:

                Well, everyone’s got a limited amount of time, energy, and attention. Is it surprising we prioritize defending (or even investigating allegations) to those we are, for lack of a better term, more friendly with?

                I care, in a very generic sense, about police brutality. But if my friend Tim were beaten bloody by police, I would care a great deal — and very obsessively — about that one particular incident.

                You’re more apt to defend folks you identify with for the same reason you’re more apt to think your school district is great, and the rest are ‘failing’. To give high marks to your Congressmen, but low marks to Congress.

                There’s also the real limitations of the human brain — what’s the quote? One death a tragedy, a million a statistic? We, as a society, frown in generic unhappiness about domestic abuse. But we’ll seize on a single instance and vent our spleen, because that ONE instance is real to us in a way the million are not.Report

              • j r in reply to Chris says:

                Depends which black people. The “pull up your pants” shtick is very popular with some people.

                I haven’t seen a lot of “two minutes hate” on Cosby from the black media, where the response has been much more measured. The most common take seems to have been something along the lines of, “I’m not rushing to judgment, but this doesn’t look very good. I wish Cosby would speak to the allegations and clear the air.”Report

              • Chris in reply to j r says:

                I’ve seen some pretty harsh condemnations, and some of the reaction you describe, to the rape allegations. However, the one you describe is not surprising, because black people are (rightly) distrustful of the way they are treated in the media in general and in the criminal justice system. I’ve heard people say, in essence, that obviously he is a rapist, but why only him and why now? That is, there’s a sense that this was what celebrities did in the 60s, 70s, and 80s (and before), and that while it is definitely wrong, and Cosby should be sunned, why only him, and why wait until now?Report

  10. Doctor Jay says:

    I think that in Mayweather’s case, people can root to see him lose, and that’s money in the bank. Where else can you watch a guy you hate get punched in the face? Also, there’s more drama, because he might win, and give the guy you love a beating. How many fictional shows and films have that plot?Report

  11. Saul Degraw says:

    1. I am not a boxing or MMA fan in general (like @glyph, I lack the gene that makes people care sports. Most guys seem to have this gene. My one exception is that I can enjoy baseball games). So I didn’t hear about the sins of Mayweather or Pacquaio before Saturday.

    2. Yet I had a lot of friends who were very excited about the fight and wanted to watch it (they could also be not serious boxing fans). I wonder how many of them knew about Mayweather’s history of domestic violence and Pacquaio’s right-wing views.

    3. How much of this is because big boxing events seem to get a lot of hype as being “fights of the century” Do you ever notice how many fights of the century there are? But they seem to happen with less frequency than other sporting events. Probably because there is only so much abuse a person can take.

    4. The idea that someone who makes his living from punching people can also be violent off the ring is not that shocking or far-fetched. The idea that someone can be deeply anti-Semitic while working in show business and/or the arts does produce head scratches. The movie Industry still has a lot of Jewish players on and off camera and on the artistic end and the business end. Mel Gibson’s careers did involve working with Jews at some point and at some capacity.

    5. Being human probably means we have to accept that we are capable of being really arbitrary and that a lot of things just happen without rhyme or reason.Report

  12. The truly unforgivable thing is to use PEDs to hit more home runs than Hank Aaron. Seriously, I see more active animus against Bonds than against any of the others you mention.Report

    • Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Yeah, the treatment of the sluggers of the steroids era, particularly Bonds but also McGwire, Sosa, A-Rod, and so on, is probably filled with important data points for this discussion.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

        The same season, the Yankees are refusing to pay ARod his 660-homer bonus and retiring Andy Pettite’s number. Many angles to that one.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Yes… it’s not just that ample hate is heaped upon these athletes, but which athletes get it and which don’t for the exact same offense.

          Then again, that hate is generally limited to a sports-specific context. People wanted those guys out of the game and barred from the Hall of Fame, but no one wanted them jailed or their children taken away or wanted them to never show their faces in public again.

          Well, actually, I guess they did try to put Bonds in jail, didn’t they?Report

  13. Kazzy says:

    I just think it’s odd not to at least consider the possibility that engaging in repeated physical aggression (even if it’s in a rule-bound, ritualized context) has no impact at all on a person outside that context.Humans are pretty good compartmentalizers, but I am not sure we are THAT good.

    This is what I’m getting at. We should consider it but should do so specific to the individual in question. What are the various factors that led him (or her) to possibly make this choice?

    And I agree with you about ‘free will’, though I tend to think of it as ‘agency’. While considering one’s circumstances is important, going so far as to making them a victim of their circumstances denies them their agency in some way. Yes, some situations can be so backbreaking that no individual can emerged unaffected. But to say, “Well, of course Ray Rice was going to beat his wife. He’s a football player,” already cursed Ray Rice to lacking agency. And I’m not comfortable doing that.

    Especially when we seem to do that more often with black men. We have a long, sordid history of denying black men their humanity. Denying that they possess agency seems like a continuation of that.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

      Honestly, if I were a defense lawyer for a boxer or football player accused of a violent crime and there was no real question that he committed the crime, I might seek to introduce evidence that repeated blows to his skull had damaged his impulse control, in hopes of at least getting him some leniency at sentencing – the same way you might point to a defendant’s horrific childhood abuse to help explain, if not excuse, his own crimes. It’s more likely than Twinkies, anyway.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:


        Sure. But a criminal trial is something else entirely. And “blows to the brain that altered its physiology/chemistry” is different than “well, we told him to be violent so he was.” The former recognizes a medical condition; the latter treats him like a child.

        I think we’re all actually agreeing. Nibbling at the edges a bit but we seem to recognize that particular professions may either select for and/or condition certain behaviors which might be something to consider when those behaviors are exhibited but are far from the end all, be all.Report

  14. KatherineMW says:

    I think, in your assessment, you may have answered your own question without realizing it.

    People find it okay for their celebrities to be bigoted against some people and groups. They don’t find it okay to be bigoted against others.

    Also, they seem to find it okay to be violent against women (but not against animals; ref. Michael Vick, who while he’s still playing football, faced more severe legal consequences for dogfighting than lots of sports players do for beating their wives or girlfriends).Report