My feelings about the past week of grieving celebrities and bickering with fellow social-justice-warrior-y types about how to grieve over celebrities were summed up pretty well by a tweet from one of my Twitter friends: “A quick Google and a thorough check of Your Fave Is Problematic indicate that it’s safe to publicly mournAlan Rickman.”
Of course I’m glad Alan Rickman was, as well as an amazing actor, by all accounts a pretty amazing human being. There’s nothing wrong with being a fan both of an artist’s work and of an artist as a person, the causes they support and the impact they have on the people around them. Likewise, I absolutely agree that while “speaking ill of the dead” should be kept to a minimum, that when a famous person has a checkered legacy it’s important not to sweep their misdeeds under the rug when they die–to do so is disrespectful to the people they’ve wronged and has been a favorite tool of those who use grief to manipulate our understanding of history.
But treating a legacy as something to be weighed on a binary scale–as though you have to add up all of a person’s sins and, if they surpass a certain threshold, they’reinstantly moved from the category of “hero” to “villain”–doesn’t help anybody.