The worst thing about Russell Brand is, of course, the raping. The next worst thing is how long it was allowed to go on by the comedy community, who are literally incapable of denouncing any behaviour by another comedian, no matter how vile.
But the infuriating thing about the reaction to Brand is that it’s another example of the amount of hand-wringing that goes into mediocre art made by terrible people.
It’s a sad truth that their is great, important, or great and important work made my terrible people. Picasso was a cunt. Polanski is a rapist. Woody Allen is, at a bare minimum, an absolute fucking creep and probably a lot worse than that.
So what do you do about them? Do you try and discuss twentieth century Western art without reference to Picasso? Do you stick him in corner for academics? Do you display his works with a counter-balance of everything bad that he’s done? What do you do about 70s American film and Allen? Do you talk about Hitchcock - another creep - because he’s dead, but not Polanski while he’s alive and able to enjoy the benefits of the attention?
I’m not going to answer those questions. They’re not easy to answer, outside of reflexive absolutism, but in the case of someone like Picasso the question feels worth thinking about. “Can you discuss Western art without Picasso? Should you? And how?”
“How do you discuss English comedy without Russell Brand?” Easy. You don’t waste time on him. While you can’t avoid talking about rock and roll without talking about the Stones and their child-raping bassist, but no-one needs Aerosmith. If there’s a constant in so many noisy scandals of the last few years, as various artists have been revealed as terrible human beings, I find it depressing how much energy is spent on worrying about absolutely mediocre performers, people who bring literally nothing interesting or original or important to their art form. Discard them without a backward glance.
If you want to spend time and energy thinking about how you balance out an artist’s wrongs with the value of their art, do it with some artists whose work has some fucking value.