This afternoon I was listening to an old Beatles’ song and thinking about sacred cows. It wasn’t because in their later years, some members of the band subscribed to Eastern mysticism. It was because I tried to imagine anyone having the audacity to claim that another rock artist or band was better than the Beatles.
The Beatles are like sacred cows – those ubiquitous cattle that can be seen roaming the streets in India because they are not allowed to become Big Macs. There are quite a few people in arts and entertainment that seem to be equally immune to attack. Some that come to mind are Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and Woody Allen. No matter what they do, they are presumed to be brilliant even before their work comes out.
And it goes without saying that an actor who died tragically and suddenly is a sacred cow. It just seems like bad form to give a negative review to the work of a Heath Ledger or Philip Seymour Hoffman, especially if it airs posthumously.
In the political sphere, there are many sacred cows. Former presidents, for example, largely get a pass or are even viewed more glowingly than when they were in office. For instance, I have only heard one critic have the nerve to speak ill of Ronald Reagan since he left office and most especially since he passed away.
That critic, Bill Maher, has made a career out of attacking sacred cows in the political sphere. Other political sacred cows that Maher has had in his crosshairs include religion and the military. But Maher’s outspokenness has come at a price. He was fired from his breakout series “Politically Incorrect” after his comments regarding 9/11 outraged viewers.
Herein lies the problem with sacred cows. It is a threat to free speech to in essence declare certain subjects off limits to criticism. A robust democracy needs to allow for open discourse about all subjects, no matter how contentious. And it’s wrong to accuse people of being unpatriotic because they criticize these hallowed aspects of American society.
So I reserve the right to voice my belief that Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson always just act like themselves in movies; to opine that “Midnight in Paris” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen; and to come out against abuse of power and injustice no matter where they may come from.
But let’s face it. The Beatles are the best rock band ever.