The King is Dead, Long Live the King

Tortured. Genius.

These two words – conjoined in their description of a subject, a state of being, at once both beautiful and ugly – have become favoured currency amongst the media in their coverage of the anti-Semitic imbroglio, and subsequent career implosion, of John Galliano.

By now, we will have all seen the videoin which an intoxicated Galliano, snarling words of bigotry, invokes Hitler and the gas chamber from beneath his piratical moustache – and it will, understandably, have surprised many.  The evidence of his racism is incontrovertible.  Most surprising of all, therefore, has been the rush of commentators – citing reasons as diverse as alcoholism, the madness of genius, and pressures of a frenetic work docket – who have sought to wrest Galliano from the hook of public censure.

What value do such fatuous statements add?

Galliano’s downfall may have been swift and shocking but it came at his own hands.  Having watched a member of my family struggle with addiction, I understand that – in knocking down the walls of social propriety and inhibition – alcohol lessens our ability to moderate behaviour and subverts morality.  Can it go further to create, or supplant, racist thoughts and ideologies where none had existed before?  My answer would have to be in the negative.

Mental illness and alcoholism are corrosive – absolutely so – but, whatever the explanations for Galliano’s tirade, there can be no excuses.  Only he – and not alcohol – stood as actor and protagonist in this debacle.

Subsumed within the apolitical borders of the fashion industry – with its appetite for the taboo – it is plausible that Galliano has long been protected by a phalanx of cohorts either unable, or simply unwilling, to hold a mirror to his behaviour.  As Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, recently commented: “We help these designers build an ivory tower and then we watch them throw themselves off it”.

Indeed, it might be argued that these same people continue to shelter Galliano by proferring excuses – and diverting our attention to the nature of his genius – as though this, in some way, negates the poison of bigotry.

Will Galliano work again? 

Who could ever predict, or know, what the denouement of this plot may prove to be?  There are, literally, six million reasons why Galliano’s statements were abhorrent and utterly unacceptable.  Dior’s dismissal of the designer was correct.  It is therefore regrettable that such swift and decisive action should be made equivocal by the patronage last week of Sydney Tolenado – President and Chief Executive of Dior – at the, admittedly scaled back, presentation for Galliano’s private label.  The horse has bolted – allegedly, to rehab – but it would seem the stable door has not closed. 

It is, of course, tragic to witness a human self-destruct.  It is tragic to observe John Galliano – a designer of extraordinary thematic imagination – snuff his once glittered career.  Nevertheless, we might be well-advised to remember the greater tragedy affecting, still today, the lives of all those needlessly brutalised by racism and prejudice.



Filed under Style Souk

7 responses to “The King is Dead, Long Live the King

  1. Appreciate the post. I was shocked to read comments on various websites of people defending his on-video rant; because of his genius, the insane work schedule, his creative level, shouldn’t we overlook his behavior? Yes, he’s brilliant. But these words didn’t come out of the ether; he spoke them and from what I saw, it looked like he was serious (albeit seriously inebriated).

    • These words didn’t come out of the ether”.

      I think you make such an excellent point here, Observationalist.

      Is it conceivable for a person – even in drunkenness – to be of no anti-Semitic belief and yet find the reach within their vocabulary to state: “People like you ought to be dead, your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f***ing gassed. I love Hitler”?

      The content of Galliano’s speech was of such violent extremism it seems implausible, to my mind, that it could represent a ‘one off’ or the first occasion of his having spoken this way.

      Thanks for stopping by,

  2. Stacie

    Well said, I completely agree with you. We see this often here (I’m in California) with celebrities who seem surrounded by people who are only telling them how wonderful and unique and above it all they are until they make some shocking public display and the whole world sees that they have gone crazy!

  3. Well said. The alcohol excuse is old. I’ve heard people say, was he provoked!?! Like there would be an acceptable excuse. No. Excuse.

  4. everydayglamour

    Yes, I agree with you! Alchohol doesn’t put racist words in your mouth. Nor does being provoked. He’s a genius designer but… suggesting that the Jews would be better off being gassed, that Jews are ugly, is abhorant. Completely unacceptable.

  5. Thanks so much for your lovely comments on my blog!
    Brilliant and interesting article above loved reading it.

    Abigail x

  6. So eloquently put my dear. No excuses for what he did and no matter how much of a genius he is, tortured or otherwise, Dior were right to fire him. xxx

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