Over the last month, a number of my heroes have been buried in public consciousness.
It’s a phenomenon that has been in place over the last few decades, but the nature of the Internet has accelerated that process in the last few years. It’s something I like to call ‘Death by Internet’.
Where accusations surface, and articles are put up, hash-tags are created, till the personality eventually apologises for the mistake, and his career comes to a grinding halt in a few hours. It happened to Kevin Spacey, and Woody Allen, and Louis CK.
They were all my heroes. They were all artists who enriched my life in numerous ways, people who I watched and heard and read over and over again. These were people who inspired me to be better at what I was doing. People I looked up to, in a mix of admiration and envy.
I had watched a few of his films earlier, but it was during my Masters that I truly discovered the genius of the man. We were assigned a task to watch a film, write about it and give the professor our opinions on a few subjects.
I happened to watch American Beauty and was blown away by the man. As is my habit, I looked him up and started reading about the man. I learnt of the cult status that he enjoyed, and how he kept his private life intensely private. I learnt about how he never gives interviews or appears on social media.
Over the next few years, my admiration for the man only increased. There is something about the way Kevin Spacey essays his characters. Unlike lesser actors *cough cough Aamir Khan cough cough*, he doesn’t need to resort to gimmicks like physical transformation or makeup. His face was a canvas. His eyes were tools.
Kevin Spacey was not an actor. He was a ghost who inhabited the souls of the characters he played. Watch him curb a smile as he is being driven to the field in the climax of Se7en, or the chameleon-like calmness with which he switches in The Usual Suspects. There was something Kevin Spacey did with his self that no other actor managed to do.
And yet, when he was accused of sleeping with young boys, his response was a sheepish, cheap ploy. It was disheartening and unbelievable at the same time; the kind of apology you’d expect from an Arjun Rampal, from a Suneil Shetty.
And yet, he did it. He decided to come out in the open about being gay, hoping to put in a final performance for the world.
I was never an actor, but Kevin Spacey’s films encouraged me to write. They encouraged me to scratch beyond the obvious surface, to explore the darker, sinister side of me.
Even if Woody Allen didn’t make a single movie, his place in popular culture would be cemented simply through his stand-up work. The pioneer of the shy, under-confident, awkward comic – Woody Allen is consistently ranked in the Top 5 lists of the greatest stand up comics of all time.
His movies have made me marvel at the man. Beguilingly simple, and yet disarmingly complex – Woody Allen’s movies were always about two people talking to each other. The settings could be present day Rome, or 19th century Paris – his films were driven not by set-pieces or graphics – they were stories narrated by tormented characters. I spent a good part of the previous month going through his movies, and they never fail to impress me with their brilliance.
And yet, the accusations against him are horrifying. That he would molest a young girl, that he would take pictures of the adopted daughter of the woman he was dating, and then go on to marry her – was this the tormented artist, or a twisted human being?
It won’t be far-fetched to say that Louis CK was partly responsible for me becoming a stand up comic. I had participated in a stand up competition and went with a fucking PPT!
A friend of mine pinged me saying he loved the fact that I was doing a Ricky Gervais (I’d no clue who that was!), and that I should start watching Louis CK. The next few weeks were spent in watching his videos on loop.
The manner in which he turned his misery into humour, his demented desires into punchlines – there was a morbid beauty to Louis CK’s work. While most comics adopt the ‘I’m a stud’ persona, he took self-loathing to the level of an art form.
The allegations against Louis CK have been floating around the comedy scene for a long time now. So I wasn’t particularly saddened when he was outed, but it’s heartening to see that his apology was the most honest, the most earnest.
I have written about the impact of Azharuddin’s match-fixing scandal on my life earlier.
As a child, you are blind to statistics and logic. You worship people because you heard someone praise them. Mohammad Azharuddin was my first real heartbreak. My family, never one to back off from an opportunity to drill sorrow into my life, taunted me for months about the match-fixing scandal.
I remember weeping in my room. The scandal had shattered my beliefs, broken my heart, and twisted me in ways that are difficult to describe in a blog on a cold winter morning.
How does one deal with the death of their hero?
How does one grapple with the fact that the person they worshiped all their lives is a monster? I have spent many a sleepless night pondering about this. I wish I could say that it is easy to separate the art from the artist – but I know that is hardly true!
Has it changed the way I look at these people?
Nope! I still enjoy Woody Allen’s movies, I still marvel at Louis CK’s sets.
Perhaps we are wired to only take the best from the people we love. Woody Allen taught me to stay true to my voice, Louis CK to embrace my demons. Kevin Spacey’s astonishing talent still makes me stare in awe, and Mohammad Azharuddin…fuck that guy! Fucking piece of shit!