3.3.11

A storm in a teacup

So, you would have to have been living under a rock not to have known how very in vogue it is for celebrities to get caught on camera saying offensive things. The world went into meltdown when Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic side got a good ol' public airing, and the exposure of his horrendous drunken phonecalls to his ex-partner only fanned the flames. Everyone's favourite trainwreck Charlie Sheen is in similarly hot water for...well, I'm not even sure WHAT he's done this time. 
And then, the issue of celebrities not being able to control themselves when under the influence became shockingly clear when famed maverick designer and flamboyant enfant terrible of British fashion, John Galliano, was caught on camera doing a Mel Gibson. 
In the video (which I recently brought myself to watch on The Sun's website and now feel like I need to bleach my eyeballs - because of The Sun, not Galliano) he is seen verbally abusing the hapless tourists who are quite clearly disturbing his nice civilised piss-up in a cosy cafe, referring in no uncertain terms to the Holocaust, Hitler, and the Jews. Y'know, those three buzz-topics that you just don't mention (unless, as Ricky Gervais observed, it's in relation to winning an Oscar. Incidentally, when are they going to make a biopic of Hitler?)
The cyclone began. Rumours surfaced of arrests, of suspension from Dior, and then, mid-Fashion Week season, a sacking of Galliano from his prestigious post as Head Designer at Dior. Then, probably poked very hard in the back by her new benefactors, Natalie Portman, the new face of Miss Dior - Cherie (which, incidentally, I'm wearing today) stepped up to the plate to condemn Galliano's remarks.The designer himself has made a public apology and asserted that he will be getting help to deal with his problems. 
The aftershocks are still resonating - every magazine under the sun will cover this in upcoming issues, and magazine Twitter accounts continue to publish 'Breaking News' stories about four hours after the rest of us are done talking about it. The dark angel of British fashion has fallen, and his wings have left streaks across the sky. 
And supposedly, they've landed Dior in serious trouble. 
Now, let's make this very clear - I am in no way in support of what Galliano said while, by all accounts, severely intoxicated. But I think there are a few keys things that need to be considered here before we all congratulate ourselves on condemning him. 
First, he was drunk. Yes it's an excuse as old as time, but what you say when intoxicated is not always a reflection of how you would behave otherwise. 
Secondly, he was, himself, being harassed. Put it this way - if you were sitting alone in a nice quiet restaurant, enjoying a bottle of wine after, no doubt, another day's hard work making magic happen at one of the world's most celebrated design houses, and some people at the table next to you start asking inane questions and videoing you, what would you do? Yes, I acknowledge that you'd probably be gracious and politely ask them to leave you alone, but factor in alcohol and a reputation as being a bit of a wild card, and who knows how you might have responded? (I refer to a hilarious piece of Youtube footage that circulated a few weeks ago showing a drunken teenager verbally abusing a carriage-full of burly blokes on a night train).
Sure, these are pretty thin arguments in defence of what he said. Especially as he said it to strangers. 
So let's move on to the second argument - was Dior right to fire him? 
Well, in the short term, yes. Having a loose canon who maliciously hisses racial slurs when under the influence is not good PR. But neither is dropping the designer who basically made you into one of the most exciting and innovative fashion houses of the last decade. 
Galliano, like McQueen and Westwood, lives to make outlandish statements both on and off the catwalk. I'm sure he's not the sort you'd invite home to meet your grandma, but he sure as hell is the person I'd want at the head of my fashion empire if I wanted to make big things happen. Exuberant off the catwalk as much as he expresses on it, he's one of the greatest things to happen to British fashion and I think Dior will regret this decision. I imagine, if they have any sense, they will hire him back once the buzz has died down. 
No? You don't think a man who has, admittedly, been shrouded in controversy like this before, deserves a second chance? 
Let's bear in mind Mr Gibson. And then (I hate to sully my blog with his name but I'm proving a point) Ashley Cole, who has time and time again proved to be not only scum of the earth but stupid, most recently demonstrated by his accidental shooting of a student. And then his vile little ex Cheryl, who rose from chavvy, criminally convicted squalor to national treasure in a few short years. Lesser people than Galliano have done far worse and been let off. And yes, the old adage of celebrities getting off lightly should come into play here, and again, I assert that he should pay for what he did. But if the media, the fashion pack, and Dior, allow one of the greatest designers in recent times to be damned forever for this episode, it'll not only be a travesty, it'll be a tragedy. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree with what you're saying here. I think the other thing to consider is how much this episode really affects his ability to do his job, and to me the answer is not at all. It's not as if he's the spokesperson for Dior; he's the creative talent behind it. Sure, his drunken remarks may have been a true reflection of how he really feels, but then again it's just as likely that they weren't; drunk people not only say things they don't mean, they can also FEEL things they don't really feel (hello, beer goggles!). He's apologized, he's indicated that he will seek help, and to date this is his only racist outburst (at least that I know of). He might truly be an anti-Semite or just a total asshole, but in the end that really doesn't affect his ability to design beautiful clothes.

    If the media would just stop airing all this behind-the-scenes bullshit, the public would be no worse off. If the dollars we spend on Dior products are going to support racist causes, that's all that we as consumers really need to know. Otherwise, one guy's drunken ranting should not be news.

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