Last week, Ted Cruz decided to pull one of his campaign ads because it featured Amy Lindsay, an actress who’s appeared in softcore adult films, and I was disappointed to hear it.
Not because I’m a fan of softcore adult films (though I am) or because I dabbled in adult entertainment myself (though I have). Nor am I saying this because I think he made the wrong decision, because let’s face it, even though Ms. Lindsay is a Conservative, a Republican candidate is going to have to win over judgmental (my opinion), evangelical voters. I’m saying it because I regret that it seems we have a culture that evaluates people by the most complicated parts of who they are.
Look, being a person in this society is hard. I’m not even going to preface that with, “in my opinion,” because I’m fairly confident that even people living lives of relative ease and pleasure will confirm that they worked damn hard to get there. Being human is also an imperfect proposition – we all know that to be true to the point that “nobody’s perfect” is a common platitude. The thing is, I feel that we have a tendency to judge people not by what they do or have done well, but by the things about the way they live their lives that we don’t like. To use myself as an example, I come from a family who moved around a lot, and as a result, have lived in many different places – in elementary school, first and fifth grades were the only ones in which I began and ended the school year in the same school. I graduated from high school outside of Chicago with a high GPA, and earned my bachelor’s in central Illinois with high distinction, before going to grad school in upstate New York and then moving out to Southern California, having networked a great job in entertainment with a credit on a TV show fresh out of grad school. I made a lot of friends as a result of all that moving, am proud to say that I have contact with the vast majority of them, and one of them even gave me an organ when I needed a transplant.
But I hate myself.
I hate myself because I have a tendency to get angry, an anger that cost me the friendship with the person who gave me her kidney. I hate myself because right now I don’t have a job (though my last one lasted seven years), and because I’m not getting along with my sister, who gave up her life to take care of my father, a guy who loved, but didn’t really care for my health like she takes care of his. I hate myself because when you look at all of the great things I’ve done – the writing awards I’ve won, the amazing, famous people I’ve met, the people who’ve met me just because they liked my writing – none of them make up for the friendships and career my anger has cost me. Like everyone else in our society, what I’ve done is as worthless to me as how many people went to college because of Bill Cosby is to the public, or how many poor people Michael Jackson fed. What matters is what they might have done on their worst day, not who they are as a whole.
And to me that sucks.
Again, I’m not trying to let Cosby off the hook, as I urge everybody to read Kiese Laymon’s article analyzing what his negative behavior means in a greater social context, nor am I saying Ms. Lindsay is anything like any of those people, or like OJ, or anybody else who might deserve media fed scorn. All I’m saying is that when we deal with any individual, in any situation, I wish we would treat them like people, not like some whipping boy we use to feel better about ourselves. Because of my self-hatred and my various health issues, I see a therapist, and one of the things my therapist pointed out to me (besides the fact that Cosby’s scorned as much because he’s denying the whole thing, rather than taking responsibility and apologizing) is that when you make somebody into a symbol of “wrong,” deserved or no, you’re not really improving anything, you’re just trying to feel better about yourself. My therapist feels that putting somebody else down has a purpose, and nine times out of ten, that purpose seems to be to make a person feel high by showing how the victim of his or her attack is low by contrast. I feel that Ted Cruz saying that he wants nothing to do with a person who decided to star in softcore films to make a living is his way of saying that he and the followers who judge her behavior are somehow “above” that behavior, when in fact, I am pretty confident Ms. Lindsay made what she felt was the best decision for her, survival wise. In addition to dabbling in adult, I also worked in mainstream entertainment, as I said, and as a casting intern I feld that acting seems to be one of the hardest entertainment gigs you can get. I don’t wish that life on my worst enemy, because I’d be super insecure if I was an actor, terrified of how I’d make the rent each month after my latest project ended, and wondering what would become of me when I got old. I had a big job in mainstream, on a television show, and when it ended, I found myself unemployed for a long time. Like I said, I have health issues, and back then, we didn’t have an Affordable Care Act, so I had to grab whatever job I could find. Luckily for me, I have a college education from two big schools, so I found one that gave me great health care. I’m not sure how many actors are able to do that.
Long story short, I wouldn’t have bought in to the way Ted Cruz’s voters judged Amy Lindsay, nor do I judge Cruz for making the decision to pull the ad she was in. Really, I only know one thing for sure.
Ted Cruz lost the subsequent primary vote, coming in third behind Marco Rubio. I am sure the two events are purely coincidental.