Can the character be separated from the actor?
My 11-year-old daughter adores “GLEE.” She LOVES it. Thanks to Netflix, she has watched every episode multiple times. The characters are almost like friends to her. The show entertains and comforts her. I was not willing to take that way from her.
So I didn’t tell her about the charges against actor Mark Salling (Puck on “GLEE”) back in October. There was no reason to tell my kid Salling was arrested for possession of child pornography and lots of it. I wasn’t going to let him and his hideous crime hurt my daughter or take away something that gives her joy.
Now he’s dead by his own hand, so there was no avoiding it. When a celebrity dies, they make the news for days, weeks. It doesn’t matter if they are major or minor.
When I told her about his suicide, she was in tearful shock. Puck had died! When I told her why (that he had bad pictures of children on his computer), her face filled with a different shock. She was confused, hurt, and upset. The tears stopped where they started. She was speechless. As an adult, it’s hard for me to reconcile something like this. But for an 11-year-old?
To her (and I’m sure other GLEEKS), she lost Noah Puckerman. And it’s ok to feel that loss. There is a difference between mourning a character and the actor who played him. The show ended a few years ago, and the character was a combination of writing, acting, and directing. To me, they can be separated, at least in this instance. It still doesn’t make it any easier to reconcile the two, though.
It gets more sticky if the actor’s work is still coming out. No one wants to support a criminal, especially if it involves sex-related offenses (add children, and the anger is multiplied by a thousand).
Lately there have been far too many examples of general sexual assault in Hollywood alone. And it doesn’t matter how high on the ladder they are (at least in this current moment; it was unheard of before). Movie producer Harvey Weinstein was the sex offender who broke the camel’s back, so to speak. Oscar winners Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Affleck, and Casey Affleck have also been accused. The consequences for all the accused are uncertain. But they are coming. Weinstein was fired and shunned. Spacey was fired from “House of Cards,” and his entire, finished performance in All the Money in the World was scrapped. His role was reshot with his replacement, Christopher Plummer.
With Salling, the crux of the situation is that he’s dead. The reaction of people on Twitter has been divided. Some say he got what he deserved; others think that a loss is a loss.
Tim Davis, the vocal arranger for “GLEE,” shared his thoughts on Twitter: “Yes, he committed crimes against children. Yes, it’s horrific. … Let me be clear. Having compassion for #MarkSalling in no way minimizes his crimes, nor does it minimize the pain and devastation of the victims of those crimes. I’m just saying stop adding to his family’s pain. This was their son.”
To answer my own question, yes, Mark Salling should be mourned. His family and friends have been mourning the Mark they knew since the allegations against him came out.
Now that my daughter knows (as much as she needs to) about what he did, she is mourning in her own way. She’s mourning the “GLEE” actor. The Puck she watches on Netflix will never be viewed the same way. He’s been replaced by a monster. And now that monster and the person he was before are both dead.
Those who think he got what he deserved have the right to believe that. I hope they can be kind, though, to those who are mourning his loss and trying to reconcile the man, the character, and the monster.