Since the news of Joan Rivers’ passing today– and in fact since her hospitalization last week– I’ve seen a heck of a lot of vitriol and hatred directed towards her– nearly all of it directed at her as a person. Someone will say something horrible, and follow it with “if she wasn’t nice to other people, why should I be nice to her?”.
Is this really a justifiable position to hold regarding an entertainer? I get that her routine was built around being “mean”, if you were to oversimplify it. But it’s just a routine. Is it really fair to hate someone personally for their body of work?
I’m not saying that anyone has to like Joan Rivers– not her personally or her work as a comedian. To each their own. And I’m certainly not saying anyone should be absolved of their sins simply by dying. But I’ve seen some really venomous, bile hate piled on another human being who was literally sick and dying. And even then, I suppose I don’t have that much of a problem with that, per se. Some people are just jerks. But it’s the self-righteous proclamation of innocence and justification. “She did it first, it’s not my fault.”
Well, let’s just say for a moment Joan Rivers was a “bad” person, and it wasn’t just an act. You can’t use other people’s bad behaviour to justify your own. Second, take some responsibility for your words. If you want to hate someone, do it– but own it, including any backlash that comes with it. You don’t get to play the innocence card.
And lastly– people can do some amazing verbal gymnastics to justify liking the creative works of an otherwise awful people. People have no problems enjoying the works of Roman Polanski or Chris Brown (a debate for another day). So if one can enjoy the work of a person they don’t like– why doesn’t it work in reverse? Even if one hates Joan River’s corpus— does that mean one has to hate her too? Or is it impossible to dislike or disagree with someone’s creative output without personally hating them, too?