Do we need to know our heroes’ flaws?
I liked the film Goodbye Christopher Robin, I found the drama engaging, Margot Robbie was excellent, I cried at the sad bits and I enjoyed all the stiff upper lipping. I just wish it hadn’t been about how author A.A Milne inadvertently ruined his son’s early life by putting him at the heart of his Winnie the Pooh books. I love those stories, I have such fond memories of hearing them as a child and I have cherished sharing them with my own children. Frankly the knowledge that they caused pain to one small boy and his parents because of the fame they thrust upon him has taken something away from that. The warm glow has been extinguished. Every time I read The House at Pooh Corner now I’ll be thinking of that sweet little mop haired boy and how he was exploited, hounded by the press and bullied at school. This happened, I get that but was my ignorance of this a problem, was it hurting anyone? Why did they feel the need to tell me that A.A Milne, who gave joy to so many children, was actually a pretty poor dad? You’ve kind of ruined all those stories and poems for me. They’re changing the guard at Buckingham Palace, Christopher Robin went there with Alice. These tales I once loved are now tinged with malice, what seemed so pure is a poisoned chalice.
I felt the same watching The Invisible Woman, Ralph Fiennes adaptation of Abi Morgan’s book about Charles Dickens mistress Nelly Ternan. Dickens was a genius who gave the world an unrivalled collection of novels. I revered the man, why did they feel the need to point out that he was also a selfish cad who dropped his wife and ten children faster than Dodger could lift a wallet? (At least in this case it was about celebrating a woman previously lost to history.) Does it matter that these writers were flawed? There would be no point in boycotting their work if you wanted to? They aren’t taking in the royalties anymore. It’s not like Spacey, their behaviour is not going unpunished, they’re not rewarded by me turning a blind eye. There are no victims left behind that need a voice. There is no real need to tell these stories, all it can stand to do is mar their great work. If they’re not hurting anyone then I don’t want to hear about it. I want to be left to believe that Shakespeare loved his wife, that Einstein wasn’t a chauvinist and even that Hitchcock wasn’t a bullying pig.
When it’s a triumph over adversary story as it was when Angela Bassett played Tina Turner to Laurence Fishburne’s abusive Ike in What’s Love Got To Do With It? then I can see the value. It’s also fine if almost everyone already knows the story as with La Vie en Rose or Lady Sings The Blues. If it’s about bursting precious bubbles though then I’m not sure I can get behind it. It all just feels like gossip fuelled by a desire to shake pedestals.
I know this is cod consequentialism but if the benefit of keeping the truth hidden outweighs the benefit of sharing it shouldn’t that be reason not to tell the story?
Am I wrong?