Terrible People

When great artists are disappointing humans, how bad should we feel?

Terrible People

Daft Punk, Get Lucky - an undeniable superhit.

Track's crying out for Michael Jackson though.


Was that a sharp intake of breath? Or a non-judgmental hee-hee?

Let's be real: Pharrell is smooth, but his voice has never really been the sell.

MJ on vocals would be a quantum leap, completing the collaborative perfection of the song: a 60s/70s legend in Nile Rogers, an 80s/90s legend in Jackson, and Daft Punk, robot lords of the new millennium.

I'm definitely not the first to realise this.

Sadly, had Jackson even been alive, the partnership would have been... far-fetched.

His musical legacy might be untouchable, but his personal legacy is fucked.

Great music, Terrible Person.


We're caught in a bind with the work of Terrible People.

Like laughing at a sick joke, you enjoy it and feel guilty all at once.

What's your tolerance?

Still laughing at Louis CK?

Holding firm on Harry Potter?

Still doing ok with The Ellen Show?

Wishing Mel Gibson was still Mad Max?

Revisiting the greats of Woody Allen?

How about that Gary Glitter track in Joker?

Sometimes, we're protective - Kobe's passing hushed unsavoury allegations.

Sometimes we just fudge it (on Spotify, you can listen to R Kelly, but he'll never be recommended).

But passing judgement is easy.

We're awash with content, and anyway - silencing despicables counts as a social good.

So while Midnight in Paris continues to make its place in my Top 5 All Time, any actor tapping up Woody Allen for a role is going to face some heat.


Our intense spotlight on celebrity has regressed us.

The Victorians insisted that immoral people were incapable of producing great art... until Richard Dadd in the late 1800s, a bloody great painter who murdered his father. Oscar Wilde and the aesthetes coined "art for art's sake", because the morality of the artist and what they made were distinct.

It feels this was dealt with a century ago.

Besides, the world gets finicky when our moral judgement of the maker influences our perception of their craft. Every celebrity endorsement feels like a timebomb.

After all, today's national treasure might be tomorrow's secret Nazi.

The favourite childhood author who's a closet racist; or abusive actor, paedophile painter, etc. etc. Like a terrible version of the Mr. Men.

We set ourselves up to fail when we expect them to give us more than a decent bit of entertainment.

Like Austin Kleon, I defer to Rebecca Solnit on the matter of whether artists should be good people as well as good artists:

"Probably the short answer is that everyone should be a good person, but a lot of artists were only good artists (and quite a lot more were only bad artists). Whether or not they were good people, the good artists gave us something."

So here's my pitch: let's take artists off the pedestal and treat them as - well, not normal people, that's pointless - let's treat them as detritus.

I call my method 'Solnit Plus'.

Every time I pick up a novel, I simply assume the worst about the person behind it.

Because all I want from them is a good book (or film or album or whatever).

That Oscar-baiting movie? Director's a paedophile.

Dancefloor banger? Fascist.

Abstract expressionist? The devil himself.

Whatever the case, I assume they're vile: definitely not a person to be liked.

Certainly not idolised.

But if they can be that much of a miscreant and I can still enjoy what they made - well, damn. They must be good.