Tuesday, March 1, 2011

John Galliano

John Galliano is a highly gifted and deeply eccentric designer.

He appears to have a drink problem.

He also appears to express anti-Semitic opinions.

He appears to have a tendency to become abusive in ways that fueled by the former unleash the later. He does not appear to become actually violent (though in these contexts that always remains a verging possibility).

Does any of this matter?

To which my answer must be: not really.

The opinions expressed are unutterably vile (if our accounts of them are not distorted) but many of us when fueled by drink exhibit their shadow side to unforgiving display (and to their shame) but even if these are not alcohol related exhibitionism and go deeper (a fabricated belief system on which he acts), he is, in the last analysis, a person who designs clothes, clothes that do not yield to analysis as covert messengers of hate, but are clothes, well-designed and well-made.

However, it appears that our strange cult of celebrity would attach a grandiose importance to his opinions. What a designer of frocks thinks about matters other than frocks ought to be conditioned only by the quality of the thinking attached to the opinions expressed and the context in which those opinions are offered.

Thus, Vivienne Westwood can express opinions about matters other than those directly related to her work as a designer because she has worked to formulate these in ways that stand within the appropriate canons of influencing and engagement that ideas demand.

John Galliano has not - nor indeed shown any signs of wanting to, as far as I can see, he makes clothes and has a clutch of unsavoury opinions that, on rare occasions, he has given utterance to in public space.

We might contrast him with Mel Gibson who appears to share an anti-Semitic outlook that he has given expression to when drunk, so far so similar, but Mr Gibson has an express desire (and practice) to influence the thinking of others (rather than getting us to buy frocks) as is apparent in 'The Passion of the Christ' and its (arguable) anti-Semitic sub-text.

People ought to be judged by their intention (not our projected adulation and subsequent disappointment) and how they seek to manipulate those intentions in public space. John Galliano makes clothes- very well- and ought to be judged on that basis. He is a public figure only on those grounds, and has not sought to be a public figure on any other. His opinions about anything else (not expressed to the public but occasionally leaking into public) are neither here nor there.

As a person, as with any other,  holding the opinions that he appears to (appearance being here important for he has not been found guilty of anything as yet) is a cause of deep sadness and one hopes that this abrupt shattering of his career may initiate a time of reflection and (if he holds the opinions of which he is accused) repentance - a good Jewish word!

I am aware that expressing this in this way is 'counter-intuitive'. That is the burden of being out of sync with the age! I am reminded of a fabulous interview with the actor, Robert Mitchum, at Cannes where, to the incredulity of the interviewer, Mitchum refused to answer any personal questions. But but stammered the interrogator you are a public person and we have a 'right' to know! To which Mitchum replied, 'No, I am not. I am actor'!

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