Separating the personal and the talent

Bill Wyman, Chiellini, Football, Italy, Jimmy Page, Liverpool, Roman Polanski, Suarez, Uruguay, Woody Allen, World Cup

So, he’s done it again. Luis Suarez, perhaps angling a move to Juventus, has decided to get a taste of Italian football early. There were early refereeing controversies, but for the most part this has been a glorious tournament of excitement, attacking play, and goals. It comes as no surprise that a major blotch has come eventually and, unfortunately, the culprit was even more predictable. Trying to account for any potential Evertonian bias, surely Suarez has far passed the point of no return. Does morality, as Oscar Tabarez has claimed, have no place in football? It is a place of rash tackles and confrontation, but biting an opponent not once, twice, but three times? The fact that these do not constitute his worst offences, after the Evra incident, is a damning indictment. Perhaps biting is a sign of affection in Uruguay.


What comes through in these situations is the disconcerting tribalism of it all. The use of t-shirts to support Suarez in the midst of the racism incident was an appallingly mishandled piece of blind loyalty by Liverpool, and to see how they deal with this case will be fascinating. The response of the Uruguay team and manager since Tuesday has been a risible attempt to defend the indefensible, blaming Chiellini, Italy, and the English press for their star player biting an opponent after virtually no provocation. I have, unfortunately, read some (by no means the majority) of Liverpool fans claiming that the bite did not happen, and that it is a witch hunt. It brings to mind David Brent in ‘The Office’ Christmas special, after heaps of evidence that he is a pillock:


Stitch up. It was a stitch up. They filmed hours of material, and most of it is a good bloke doing a good job at work, and the one time I accidentally head-butt an interviewee makes it to the programme. You’re gonna look a prat. You head-butt a girl on telly, and you’re labelled a prat, and that’s the game. And the BBC must have taken what, about eight hours footage a day, and got it back and most of it was like, you know, “Oh, look. Here’s a good guy, he’s getting on. He’s their friend as well as their boss. He’s a motivator, an entertainer. There’s lots of good stuff. Oh, he’s made one mistake, like any human would, should we just cut that out?” “No, what? Put that bit in, cut the other stuff out. We want a scapegoat, we want to dumb down, we want to give them the biggest plonker of the year”. You know…I’m not a plonker.


The crux of it may be that Suarez is the ‘star player’, the golden boy of Uruguay and Liverpool. Can anyone really imagine the t-shirts, the excuses , the protesting if Suarez was a reserve goalkeeper? This is a question that permeates other aspects of life and ‘celebrity’. On a personal level, I continue to enjoy the work of Roman Polanski and Woody Allen after their personal transgressions and misdemeanours. I celebrate Phil Spector as one of the greatest music producers of all time, despite a crime far more heinous than anything Suarez could ever, presumably, be even able to comprehend. Following the monstrous actions of Ian Watkins, anyone found listening to Lostprophets would be condemned, and many stores stopped selling their records. Both Jimmy Page and Bill Wyman dated 14 year old girls, with accusations that Page even kidnapped a teenager and sexually abused her, but has anyone had any qualms about listening to the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin? I know that I haven’t, and in fact did not know about Wyman’s and Page’s wrongdoings until recently. Ezra Pound and Richard Wagner were fascists, but their work was so crucial to their fields that they cannot be eliminated from the artistic consciousness.


The difficulty is where to separate the talent and the person. Can we take art as a separate entity when it is so tied up with the individual; their thoughts relayed through their chosen medium? Do people employ double-standards in such scenarios based on the artistic merits of the offender? It would be harder to condemn Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin to the annals of history than Lostprophets, and for neutrals/rivals, it is far easier to demand a lengthy ban for Suarez than it is for Uruguayans or Liverpool fans. Does the madness contravene the genius? Would Jimmy Page’s obituary focus on Led Zeppelin or statutory rape? Would Gary Glitter’s focus on his great music (file not found) or his paedophilia? One cannot imagine that there would be consistency. Should the quality of the work impinge on the personal reputation? Do people of such ignominy deserve effusive praise for their work? On Polanski, the American writer Calvin Trillin articulated:

A youthful error? Yes, perhaps.

But he’s been punished for this lapse–

For decades exiled from LA

He knows, as he wakes up each day,

He’ll miss the movers and the shakers.

He’ll never get to see the Lakers.

For just one old and small mischance,

He has to live in Paris, France.

He’s suffered slurs and other stuff.

Has he not suffered quite enough?

How can these people get so riled?

He only raped a single child.


Why make him into some Darth Vader

For sodomizing one eighth grader?

This man is brilliant, that’s for sure–

Authentically, a film auteur.

He gets awards that are his due.

He knows important people, too–

Important people just like us.

And we know how to make a fuss.

Celebrities would just be fools

To play by little people’s rules.

So Roman’s banner we unfurl.

He only raped one little girl.


Polanski’s Chinatown is one of my favourite films, I am likely to listen to Led Zeppelin over the next week or two, I believe Woody Allen to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and I have even listened to, and somewhat enjoyed, Charles Manson’s music. Maybe I am able to separate the personal from the talent. Maybe I am wrong to do so.