Galliano on the rocks
Frankly, until I started reading about the brouhaha stirred up by his execrable (and video’d) comments, I don’t believe that I’d ever even heard of John Galliano.
My only word-association with Galliano was “liqueur” – the yellow stuff in the skinny, tapering bottle. Tastes kind of like Sambuca – licorice-y. Ingredient in a Harvey Wallbanger.
As for John Galliano, the Dior designer, well: I am not now, never have been, and – at this point in my life – am unlikely to ever become, a fashionista. Look no further than a look that could be no further from my dull and pedestrian sense of style….
Galliano – and, by the way, that’s Sir John Galliano to you, if you’re someone who keeps up with the Queen’s Honours and all that - was fired as creative director for Christian Dior last week. This was in the wake of his having been suspended after his involvement in an allegedly anti-Semitic incident during Paris Fashion Week. The coup de grace that turned “suspended” into “fired” was the posting online of a video that showed Galliano in earlier action, blathering:
“I love Hitler," and, "People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f**king gassed."
Needless to say, there are few brands out there that would want to be associated with this sort of behavior, and Christian Dior is apparently not one of those few. CEO Sydney Toledano had this to say:
It has been deeply painful to see the Dior name associated with the disgraceful statements attributed to its designer, however brilliant he may be. Such statements are intolerable because of our collective duty to never forget the Holocaust and its victims, and because of the respect for human dignity that is owed to each person and to all peoples.
Having played a version of career Russian roulette with one too many bullets in the chambers, John Galliano is supposedly off to some fancy and expensive somewhere, sobering up. Stay tuned for tears, remorse, “I was drunk,” “I thought I was being funny,” “Of course I don’t feel this way” “This is being taken completely out of context”… Followed by a long period during which Galliano attempts to rebuild his career while serving as “anathema of the year” to decent people everywhere. This year’s Mel Gibson – the person we’d never be, saying the things we’d never say,doing the things we’d never do.
I’m not condoning Galliano’s statements, of course. I suspect that he’s an a-hole, a creep, and – let’s face it – words like “people like you would be dead” don’t tend to surface out of nowhere.
But every time one of these extreme cases of anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, or whatever-ism, emerges, we all rush in to condemn and to distance ourselves from “it”. (Well, most of us do, anyway. Apparently one Patricia Field, a fellow-fashionista friend of Galliano, has leapt to his defense, yelping that Galliano’s statements were clearly “farce,” akin to Mel Brooks’ The Producers. Note to Ms. Field: I haven’t seen the movie in a while, and I’ve never seen the play, but I don’t exactly remember any lines along the lines of ‘f**king gassed’ in “Springtime for Hitler.”)
Anyway, whatever “it” is, it’s an aberration, one in a million, something that we would never think/do/utter.
And, thus, we conveniently let ourselves off the hook of any sort of honest conversation or personal reflection (or, as we used to say in my old Catholic school days, examination of conscience) about our own deep-seated feelings about the “other.” Where these feelings come from, how we frame them, what it means to (and about) “us” and “them”.
What’s permissible? What’s over the line?
As it happens, Academy Award winner and Harvard grad Natalie Portman, has an endorsement contract with Dior perfume. The Israel-born daughter of an Israeli and an American, Portman is also the great-granddaughter of a couple killed at Auschwitz. Here’s Portman on the Galliano incident:
“I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments that surfaced today...I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.”
Beautiful, talented, and smart. (I suppose I should hate her for that, but can’t bring myself to. Maybe after I see the Black Swan I’ll feel differently.)
I’m sure that Galliano is crushed that Natalie Portman - who should be wearing one of his creations on the red carpet at the next awards show – is out there saying she’s disgusted by his comments. After all, he didn’t mean her when he uttered his “farcical” words to those folks in the Parisian café.
But that’s just it, isn’t it. The ones we know - -gays, blacks, Jews, liberals, Republicans, union members, Southerners - tend to be okay. It’s the rest of them out there that are, you know… Well, you know.