It is clear that Kevin Clash is far from vindicated. He has lost his wonderful career as Elmo’s puppeteer, and his reputation has been forever marred. No matter what happened, this is a horrible and very sad situation.
“Another kid? Another kid?!? I thought it was Groundhog’s Day when I heard that shit….yo, that’s how much we love Michael. We love Michael so much, we let the first kid slide.” – Chris Rock, on Michael Jackson.
A few days ago, I wrote about the Elmo/Kevin Clash scandal like he was Jean Val Jean. Or, better, Tom Robinson. Judged guilty before proven innocent. His accuser had recanted, and it looked like this was just an ugly incident, but not an ongoing concern.
Recently, it has come out that there is a new allegation of underage sexual misconduct, and while I am highly skeptical about this allegation (you forgot about this for how many years?), it is clear that Kevin Clash is far from vindicated. He has lost his wonderful career as Elmo’s puppeteer, and his reputation has been forever marred. No matter what happened, this is a horrible and very sad situation.
We want to believe that our idols are innocent. We want to justify their actions, and support them. Kevin Clash is an idol of mine, for a lot of reasons. He was poor, Black, and gay, and beat the odds to become a successful, respected, and loved entertainer. He created the persona and voice of one of the most popular children’s characters of all time. His work will stand the test of time.
Of course there is a chance, however small, that he solicited teenagers for sex. That is illegal, and not appropriate behaviour for a children’s entertainer.
That being said, we have to view this in a proper context. There are situations all the time where older men marry or date very young women (R. Kelly and Aaliyah, Courtney Stodden and that old guy, Jerry Lee Lewis and his cousin). They are scandalous, but generally don’t have too much of an effect on their careers.
From the reports I have read, it sounds like Mr. Clash was looking for love, however misguided and inappropriate it may seem now. And remember, the allegations suggest that these men were 15 or 16 when they dated Mr. Clash, and they don’t allege that they actually had sex. And this is if the allegations are true (and we really can’t know at this point one way or the other). 15 and 16 year olds are not children. They know what sex is, and they have the capacity to consent or not consent. Yes, some people feel gross about older men dating teenagers, but let’s take a moment and remember what life was like when we were 15 or 16. We were almost in college. Maybe we started drinking (illegally). We were experimenting. Some people experimented with sex, some with drugs. We may not always have made the best choices, but we knew what we were doing.
I will never fully know if Mr. Clash is innocent or guilty. I want to believe he is innocent, but maybe it’s just because of how much I admire the man’s work. For many years, he has been my definition of a “good man.”
This is truly a tragic end to a wonderful legacy.
Edit: please note that this is not meant to excuse sexual conduct with minors (under 18) by adults. It’s just my thoughts on some of the moral and social ambiguities involved.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.