Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Don't Really Want to Talk About Kevin Clash

I'm sure you've all seen that a young man accused Kevin Clash of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with him when the accuser was 16. I don't really know how to address that without being completely depressed about a man I admire and who works with my beloved Muppets.

Look, sex with minors is illegal. I don't want to get into one of those discussions I see online, where it devolves into an argument about age of consent laws in various places. Taking advantage of a relationship you have with a minor is abuse. I don't want to think of someone like Kevin Clash as capable of abusing a kid, because he's Kevin fucking Clash.

We'll never know the particulars of what did and didn't happen, and I really don't want to. I already can't work out how I feel about what I do know. It makes me a little queasy that the Sesame Workshop would conduct their own internal investigation without taking the move of bringing in the authorities. I think that has to be the first step, because you can't take a chance with an accusation like that.

But here's the thing: the young man, who is now 23, recanting his accusation a day later (after a six-figure settlement was reached) makes me feel very uneasy. Because there are two ways this plays out in my head.

The first is that the accusation is true: that Kevin Clash had an inappropriate, illegal sexual relationship with a minor. And probably the kid grew a little older, felt that he had been taken advantage of and abused, and came forward about it. And then Kevin Clash paid to make it go away.

The second is just as troubling: that this is legal blackmail. That this young man hit Clash up for money and threatened to go public otherwise, that Clash called his bluff, and then paid up when the reports came out.

I don't like either one of those options.

Because if it's the first option, then Kevin Clash--the guy in charge of the Muppets on Sesame Street--is someone with terrible moral judgment. And if it's the second option, someone who gets to remain safely anonymous has bullied Kevin Clash into paying out while ruining his reputation and very likely his career.

I can't climb into the head of someone I don't know and imagine their circumstances or motives. And I don't want to be a victim-blamer. I don't understand hearing "Kevin Clash had sex with me when I was underage" and then the next day after a check is written hearing "No, wait, I remembered it wrong, I was 18 after all."

It just makes me uneasy.

It makes me equally uneasy to think that Kevin Clash would have sex with a child and to think that there's a possibility that Kevin Clash had his career tarnished by a false accusation.

I don't give a shit about age differences. If two consenting, legal adults want to engage in sexual activity, I don't really give a damn if one is 18 and the other is 50. That's not a crime and it's not for me to moralize about.

But it just makes me sad that now, throughout history, Kevin Clash is always going to be remembered for being the performer of Elmo, and also the guy who was accused of having sex with a child. And even if the accuser is suddenly 18 after all when it happened, the accusation will never, ever go away. I'm assuming Clash won't be able to resume his duties on Sesame Street, because it's a show aimed at children. This is it for him. Parents got upset because Katy Perry showed a little bit of tit in a dress, for chrissakes. There's no way Clash will be allowed to keep doing Elmo like nothing happened. That's it. This is what he'll be remembered for.

But god, what if it's true? That possibility is even worse. And if it is true, paying the accuser off seems like letting him get away with it, even with the damage to his career, to his legacy, and to Sesame Street.

It's all so sad and I hate that this is a thing. Because I feel like the only two possibilities here are that Clash was blackmailed or that Clash is a criminal, and Sesame Street is collateral damage of someone's shitty judgment.

Fuck's sake.

UPDATE 5:40 PM: Because I don't want someone coming here and telling me I'm a victim-blaming monster who just wants to explain this away because it's someone I admire coming under fire, that's not the case. I think even if the relationship was consensual between two adults, it still shows iffy judgment, because Clash is in a position where he's around children and works with them. As a substitute teacher, I'm very aware of how suspicious society can be towards men who work with children. I will not allow myself to be alone with a child in a room for that very reason; even the slightest appearance of impropriety can have nightmarish ramifications.

But just to reiterate, what really gets me here is that the timing of the recant seems bizarrely swift to me if the original accusation is true, and that if the accusation is true, simply signing a check is just getting away with abuse.

UPDATE 11:02 AM: The accuser's identity has been confirmed. It now seems even more of a scam/public blackmailing to me, but, you know, there are two ways to look at this. Still. The dynamics are troubling, but it's not really my concern. What bothers me still is whether Kevin Clash will be able to move on from this, and whether moving on will involve Sesame Street.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

This, I thought was interesting, less about Kevin Clash and more about news reporting: How journalists made sure the truth spread as far as the lie in Elmo accusation coverage.