Before he was accused of being an anti-Semitic drunk, before videos surfaced of him calling people “ugly Jews” and professing his love for Adolf Hitler, designer John Galliano was a long-time fashion darling who wowed the sartorial elite, season after season, as the creative force behind luxury fashion house Christian Dior.
On March 1, at the height of the controversy, Dior fired its creative director of 14 years. Galliano, who issued a public apology through his lawyer, is set to stand trial in France; where he made his racist comments and where doing so is a crime. The Financial Times reported that “if found guilty, Galliano could face up to six months in prison and a fine of $31,187.”
It is interesting to note prior to this climax, however, the amount of people who appear to be shielding or defending the designer and their various explanations.
First, there were the empathizers. Vogue Italia’s editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani voiced outrage at the people who took advantage of Galliano’s drunken state and filmed him spewing racist remarks while giggling in the background. Famed designer Patricia Field called the designer’s “I love Hitler” video a “farce,” meaning, not serious.
Then, there are those who avoid it like the plague. The outspoken and eccentric pop performer Lady Gaga, no stranger to controversy herself, demurred on the topic of Galliano in a recent interview. It is also notable that when Oscar winner Natalie Portman, the newest face of the brand’s Miss Dior Cherie fragrance and a well-known Jew, was first confronted for her opinion on the issue, she was reportedly escorted away so fast one hastened to remind her manager she was pregnant. Portman has since issued a statement voicing her disgust with the designer and refusal to be associated with him in any way.
Lastly, there are those who blame the bottle. Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld is furious ― not at what was said, but at the fact that such a prominent figure in fashion could be so irresponsible as to become so intoxicated and unhinged in public in this Internet age. Whoopi Goldberg, actress and a talk show personality on The View, essentially named alcohol as the evil culprit in this whole brouhaha.
So, does this all point to a public service announcement on the dangers of drinking and talking? While Galliano could very well swallow the same words had he been clear-headed, there is a certain truth behind the idiom, “drunk words are sober thoughts.” The idea is that no amount of rhetoric on the importance of being politically correct is going to filter through an inebriated mind hell-bent on verbal destruction. Galliano reportedly apologized “unreservedly” and is set to attend a rehabilitation facility.
It should be no surprise that racism, bigotry and discrimination exist at every level, in all walks of life. Bad behavior, especially among those with an inflated sense of self, has always been the rule rather than the exception. Perhaps Lagerfeld has a point; before the advent of live-streaming and smartphones with video features, controversial remarks and dubious behavior made by people in higher ranks could easily be dismissed as baseless gossip.
Galliano’s case, along with the numerous other irrefutable anti-Semitic recordings made of other celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson, all serve as a reminder that not only is it wrong to have those beliefs, but that voicing them can have serious, career-debilitating repercussions in the court of public opinion.
Images and displays of anti-Semitism bear a long-lasting sting. No amount of anonymous service in the British army or excessive partying will ever completely erase Prince Harry’s severe lapse in judgment in donning a Nazi uniform at a fancy dress party circa 2005.
Galliano lost his job first and foremost because he made comments that are not only improper, but also wrong. At the very best, it exhibits a serious lapse of judgment (as pointed out by Lagerfeld and Goldberg) that’s unbecoming of the creative head of a major fashion house. At its worst, it reveals deeply-rooted discriminatory and twisted worldview that appreciates a genocidal dictator while viewing others as inferior beings; which is unbecoming of a decent person. Let’s hope there is a rehabilitation facility for that.
(Editorial, The China Post)
(Asia News Network)