Manners & Misdemeanors

Why Are Some of the Most Brilliant Geniuses Such Horrible People?

Recently, men with great accomplishments have been thrust into the spotlight because of their greater egos and terrible behavior.
ILLUSTRATOR SANDY ARANAS
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I was eating a slice of old-fashioned vanilla cake last night, and I got a little misty eyed. Call it the movie moment of Si-si: As I swallowed a forkful of comfort, bathed in the light of an open refrigerator, an onslaught of memories arose.

During my stint as a Truly Rich Working Lady, with a mysterious nine-to-five job in New York City (let’s just say, with cake), I had the honor of working for a horrible boss.

He was a genius, certainly, a creative wonder who thought only of outre things, from olive oil cakes with moody marshmallows to thick-as-sin gelato stuffed inside warm brioche buns. Horrible Boss never did anything in halves. Every move was always big and great and grand. I was happy to be part of a baked goods empire that I felt was doing something important.

But he was—pardon my French—a total jackass. Once, after creating what I believed a cake that evoked the joys of a New York summer, he took issue with a very minor thing: the cream cheese frosting was in pearl aqua. “That’s gross,” he exclaimed during an all-hands meeting. “I don’t think that’s a color for us. In fact, I don’t think you belong here.”

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Another time, when I pitched an idea for a plum blossom-themed confection, he got hung up on the mood, and threatened to scrap the finished cake if it didn’t turn out “exactly how I want it, which is like a flower dream.”

In my head, I thought, “Okay, boss man. Don’t serve the cake. Make your own!” Or, “Okay, boss man...” and then I maybe cried a bit inside a bathroom stall.

He treated everyone like cow poo, but he was just so damn good at his job. He spun out the most provocative, forward-thinking desserts that I’ve ever tasted. And then he pushed (terrorized?) us peons to make our own best cakes. It was all so horrible and wonderful at the same time!

Today, now that the distance of space and time separates us, I reflect on whether all that grief in exchange for a glimmer of greatness was worth it. Can you separate a man’s excellent work from his horrible ethics? Can you forgive a mean genius? And can you eat the yummy cake without feeling bad?

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It is very timely to think about this right now as a lot of men with grand accomplishments have been thrust into the spotlight because of their even grander egos or unacceptable behavior.

Can you watch a film when its director is throwing an epic (and frankly embarrassing) tantrum online? Can you read a book when its author proposes hate crime against groups of people? Can you enjoy a movie when its producer has been revealed to be abusive toward women? And can you listen to the movie-version voice of God when the actor has allegedly been harassing women?

That last one I wish to be not true please—and is it wrong that I feel this way? On one hand, I don’t want to support someone who thinks that making lewd remarks to a lady is normal conversation. But then, I love his voice, so maybe I can just put that idea in a little box whenever I watch his films. But then again, if I buy a ticket and watch his movies, do I become part of the alleged crime? But no one can do God like he does! But, but... It is so confusing like my vanilla emotion cake.

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The PC police will not like what I am about to say, and it is this: Do you like cake?

Because, on the matter of maker and made, when the creator is terrible while his creation is great, whether you throw away both or just keep one really depends on how you feel. So do you? Do you like cake?

Personally, I like this vanilla cake. Sure, the memories attached to it are not pleasant, but that doesn't mean that the cake is unpleasant, too.

Having said that, the memories do color the way I perceive it now. I know, for example, that its recipe was squeezed out after torturous mind games and (one-sided) shouting matches between Horrible Boss and slaves, so it does add a twinge of bitterness to each bite.

But having said that, the tender pleasure of this vanilla confection remains, and does not suddenly turn into cardboard just because of one man's rudeness. That's just me. I don't know how Drew from the sprinkles department feels about it.

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What I don't like is this other cake, a quadruple chocolate monster cake covered in thick fondant. First, I am displeased with fondant (why are you a barrier to the real star, the cake?). Also, it was made by an amateur baker and certified heartbreaker, my Truly Rich Greatest Ex, who unceremoniously threw me to the curb. Though it is like fireworks inside my mouth, the experience of being duped and dumped takes away all joy from this cake. In fact, it makes me cry. I cannot eat it, but that's just me.

What I'm trying to say is that there are no hard-and-fast rules about this tricky situation. It is not a hard and fast rule to simply separate art from artist, or boycott both artist and art.

Context matters. Your personal feelings apply. You should come to your own conclusion about how you want an artist's behavior and beliefs, manners and misdemeanors to affect how you see his work.

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Are his actions so awfully stomach-turning to you that you can't find enjoyment in his art anymore? Or are his actions, well, just meh to you that it doesn't really matter? )(A litmus test of that would be: Does the film, song, art, or cake affect you so powerfully, that it inspires you or makes you dream or makes you think so profoundly, such that its effect supersedes other things?)

Now, of course, as a Truly Rich Lady, whatever my feelings are about this divisive topic, they will not be expressed out loud, or, if expressed in public, be referenced only in a neutral way. I don't want to ruffle feathers at our next chi-chi party. I don't want to start an online debate!

There are too many opinionated hotheads nowadays in the circle of the Truly Rich. Have you heard about the weird one who talks about eating cake always?

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About The Author
C.C. Coo
The Truly Rich Lady
C.C. Coo—also known as Town&Country’s Truly Rich Lady—is not a professional seeker of leisure as many people wrongly assume, for she has a real-life occupation: a SHE-EO of Important (Sub)Company of an Empire, for which she works very hard to make sure that the people in her care are not left wanting. She believes that manners are utterly important: “If society is like one of those costume jewelry pieces worn by Jackie O or Diana, manners would be the glue that keeps the veneer of a most beautiful thing from falling apart,” she says.
View Other Articles From C.C.
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