As someone who was raised Jewish, I was appalled and offended by the vile and idiotic anti-Semitic remarks spewed by John Galliano. If you’re not familiar with the story, just Google it, but basically he said “I love Hitler” and various other comments that re-affirmed my opinion of him as a Mensa candidate. After these remarks came to light, Galliano was fired from his position as the head designer of Dior. To put it in film terms, this is the equivalent of Peter Jackson being fired from the latest Hobbit movie. It’s a big deal in the fashion community and my friends who work in that industry are still in shock.
The weird thing is that I don’t think he should be banished forever for his hateful rhetoric, just as I don’t think Charlie Sheen should be fired for being awesome or that Mel Gibson should be denied work because of his own racist and anti-Semitic remarks. The bottom line is that there are always going to bigoted people out there, but that doesn’t make those people any less brilliant at their particular vocation. John Galliano being an anti-Semite doesn’t make him any less talented as a designer. I think the choice should be up to the consumer as to whether or not they can compartmentalize and choose to wear his clothes whilst knowing he is prejudiced. Natalie Portman has bravely made her feelings known loud and clear (and seriously, kudos to her for having the balls to speak out about it), but not everyone may feel that way. The hire-ups at Dior clearly felt that sales would go down because of Galliano’s actions and it’s perfectly understandable that they would seek out this change.
Look, I think Mel Gibson is a hell of an actor. I think he’s charismatic, charming and I really love watching him in movies. His being an anti-Semite doesn’t change the way I feel about him as an actor, but it sure doesn’t make me want to hang out with him. Just as John Galliano being an anti-Semite has nothing to do with the clothes he designs (unless he’s trying to bring back the swastika). These people are scumbags and assholes and morons, but they are also savants. I want them to continue creating their art and I want to never have to interact with them, for fear that I might punch them in the face.
As a person who opposes intolerance in any form, I can’t deny that Galliano’s firing felt good, that justice had been served. But so many great artists have been racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and it would be a shame if we denied them an opportunity to create their art simply because they have idiotic opinions. Richard Wagner was anti-Semitic, so am I supposed to not listen to his music? I can’t even count how many brilliant Southern writers were racist, am I supposed to not read the works of O’Connor or read Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner?
The point, ultimately, is that intolerance should not be tolerated. I refuse to accept a work of art that is inherently racist prejudiced, but I can differentiate between the art and the artist. And while the artist might be a racist, as long as there isn’t a sign of it in the work, then what?
I don’t want to be seen as defending Galliano for his behavior, which is absolutely unacceptable, but I don’t see what it has to do with him as a clothing designer. Good riddance, I’m glad he’s suffering and all that, and considering the fact that sales might dwindle, I understand (and even rooted for) his dismissal from Dior. I hope he is punished to the fullest extent of the law. I also hope he has a chance to design clothes again in the future, just as I hope to see Mel Gibson on a movie screen.