When Good Stars Behave Badly
by Kayla Perrin
Yesterday morning, I was driving in my car, listening to the Tom Joyner Morning Show, when the hosts began to talk about a disturbing scandal involving actor Morgan Freeman. I was pulling into my driveway, but sat in the car until I heard the details.
According to Tom Joyner and his co-hosts, a story had broken in The National Enquirer regarding Morgan Freeman. And then they dropped the bomb: the story alleged that Freeman, 72, has been having an affair with his 27-year-old step-granddaughter FOR TEN YEARS. It's bad enough that she's his step-granddaughter. But if this story is true, it's even worse that he would have begun this essentially incestuous relationship when the girl was only 17.
The hosts all discounted the Enquirer as a reliable source, but what had them stumped was the allegation of ten years. They argued that that number led them to believe there was some truth to the story, as that wasn't a number someone would just pull out of thin air.
Tom Joyner went on to say that he hoped the story wasn't true, but if it was, then he could no longer watch any movies starring Morgan Freeman. For example, he couldn't watch THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION anymore (one of my favourite movies!). Nor ALONG CAME A SPIDER. Nor any other movie Morgan Freeman has ever been in. He could no longer watch the man who had once played God in anything else.
The comment got me thinking. My first thought was, That's a bit extreme. I couldn't imagine myself not watching another Morgan Freeman film. Like I mentioned above, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is one of my all-time favourite films. But then I thought about my initial reaction and realized what it was. In a way, I was dismissing Morgan Freeman's alleged bad behaviour.
I'll be clear--I don't in any way condone the relationship he may have had with his step-granddaughter, and I hope against hope that the story's not true. But I realized that when my first thought was that I wouldn't necessarily boycott any of Freeman's films, it was a thought I had only because of the successful actor that he is.
For example, if I heard that a neighbour had done the exact same thing, I would waste no time in deciding that the neighbour was a dirty-old-pig and avoid him like a cancer. So why wasn't my first reaction to take the same kind of stand that Tom Joyner was making (providing the story proves to be true at the end of the day?).
Because I admire Morgan Freeman. And it's very easy to blur the lines of reality and fiction when it comes to stars. We see actors like Freeman in the role of hero time and time again, and we believe that is who they are as people. It would be a terrible blow for me to accept that someone I admire so greatly could be . . . well, a dirty-old-pig.
Again, I am going to reiterate that I'm not saying the story is true, and that I sincerely hope it isn't. Because how can I go on watching him in new movies and old and not have my view of him tainted?
When Kiefer Sutherland is accused of bad behaviour, it's par for the course. It doesn't bother me one way or another, and it doesn't stop me from watching one of my favorite television shows, 24. I have no problem separating Jack Bauer the fictional character from Kiefer Sutherland the person. And I LOVE the crime-fighting Jack Bauer.
But can I do the same with Morgan Freeman? My admiration of him is based on more than his character in his films. I've seen him do interviews and he comes across as extremely likable. I know he was very charitable after Hurricane Katrina. Morgan Freeman the man has always seemed like a stand-up guy . . . the kind of man I would never expect to engage in despicable behaviour.
So do I take the kind of stand Tom Joyner will take if this story proves to be true? Or do I appreciate Morgan Freeman the actor and forget who he might be in his personal life? What would you do?
I hope the story is debunked and I won't have to make that decision. This is one story I just don't want to be true.
Author of AFTERNOON DELIGHT, a SPICE Brief release from eHarlequin.