Fame, Capitalism, and...Why Are Abusers Still Rich and Famous Again?

By Maggie Kurnyta

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It’s something that I’ve been hearing more and more with each passing outcry of protest and solidarity. “It’s just a matter of time,” they say, “a matter of time before they get right back to where they were.” We have a habit (call it American, but I’d argue that it’s not limited to only one culture) of supporting notable abusers. A survivor speaks out, the news outlets run with the story for a few weeks, and we assume that this oppressor is relegated to the margins of history and fame. “It’s all capitalism’s fault!” We yell, and sure, capitalism plays a pivotal role in our understanding of complex power dynamics, but there has to be more to this story.

Johnny Depp has multiple movies either in post-production or fully completed, and no one on these extravagant sets with their multi-million dollar budgets thought to maybe replace the actor whose wife bravely accused him of domestic abuse and alcoholism? So this guy gets to attend movie premieres and give interviews, while his ex-wife, who donated the proceeds of their divorce settlement, to the ACLU and a Los Angeles-based children’s hospital, is just another “brave woman?” What does it mean when we commend these survivors for coming forward if their oppressors not only maintain their freedom, but also their prestige, power, and fame?

Chris Brown is still making music, and while he certainly acknowledged his own traumatic past with domestic violence and publicly apologized for his violent nature, I still think it can’t be enough. His tours, his records, his merchandise….they just keep selling out. And as they sell out, Brown pockets the proceeds and basks in his lavish lifestyle. Granted, some argue that there was nothing else he could have done. A public apology should be worth his career, right?

For abusers that never receive legal retribution for their crimes (ahem, which seems to be all of them ahem), a career downfall won’t make me shed any tears. Our society, which prides itself on the sheer joy of capitalism, can take a few economic hits now and then. It may actually wake us up from this nightmare.

Take Christine Blasey Ford, one of the women who came forward against Judge Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court with her own story of assault and the silencing nature of power. There was no larger conspiracy to dismantle the oppressive, patriarchal structure of Washington D.C. It wasn’t about a grand scheme to ruin Kavanaugh’s reputation, nomination, and personal life. No, it was a voice urging that her assaulter be disqualified from holding office in the highest court of the land. It was just one plea from a woman who risked her entire livelihood just to prevent ANOTHER abuser from grabbing power from our broken democracy.

Right now, we stand in the streets, begging for our elected representatives to listen to us. We don’t want to overthrow a regime or usher in an era of radicalism; we just want one man, a right-hand puppet to one of the most powerful abusers in our country, to not hold a position designed for the elite, white male. I know, it sounds crazy right? How dare these radical protesters stop a white man from taking what is rightfully his?

It’s the same thing in Hollywood. As long as we support Depp, Brown, and see the endless lists of other powerful abusers, we fall victim to capitalism’s hold. They’re too powerful for prison, supporters claim. Well, then let them fall, I claim. What if...we just stopped supporting abusers? What if we voted them out of office and stopped buying their albums and stopped attending their movies and so on? Honestly, with the way things are headed, there might not be any movies to watch or albums to listen to.

And yes, the concept for this excerpt came from the right-wing (thank you, by the way!) who decided to set fire to their Nike merchandise to protest Colin Kaepernick's advertisement for the sport label. It amazed me how capitalism could hold such power over us. Nike representatives definitely weren’t crying over the videos of fans aggressively protesting their multi-billion dollar advertisement. I mean, they may have been crying...into their gold-plated tissues, that is.

With multiple digressions and a few bad jokes later, here we are. Basically, if we live in a capitalist environment and money is a necessary evil that we must subscribe to, then do so but be smart about it. Know where your money is going. Challenge the beliefs you hold about companies, celebrities, and everything else in between. Our collective money can dismantle systems of power and oppression. Money is power in this country, just ask the NRA.