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Controversy Proof Image
100% controversy proof, guaranteed to survive any scandal unhinged.

"Fear not. Our town has dodged disaster, and I have come out smelling like guestroom soap."
Mayor Joe Quimby, The Simpsons

Musicians from certain genres can survive scandals that would destroy or cripple other, pure mainstream, artists. For instance, any pop artist who said or did anything politically controversial, or something that was legally reprehensible and possibly career ending, could normally be survived by Alt/Rock, Heavy Metal, or Hardcore Hip Hop/Gangsta Rap artists. Pop artists come under scrutiny and they have to backpedal, clean up their image, etc. With the other aforementioned genres, it probably helps their image. Sure, the Moral Guardians will whine really loudly, but nothing will ever come of it. The artist's image and fanbase remain intact.

This could also be true for actors and athletes who are probably charismatic and charming enough that the general public won't care about whatever scandal is plaguing them — if they don't rally behind their idols for it. A good example is probably David Letterman, as opposed to Tiger Woods. Whether or not this is fair is up for debate.

Compare No Such Thing as Bad Publicity. Contrast Convicted by Public Opinion (where it doesn't matter if someone even was guilty of something wrong, everyone seems to hate him anyway), Contractual Purity. Somewhat related to The Tyson Zone, where celebrities get so bizarre that we stop being surprised about their latest escapades.

Examples

  • Bill Clinton is the epitome of this trope. Beginning with his first presidential campaign in 1992, his opponents dug up a ton of dirt on him, revealing that he dodged the draft, was a huge pothead in college (which lead to the famous "I didn't inhale" comment, and technically true: according Christopher Hitchens, who was an undergraduate at Balliol while Clinton was on his Rhodes scholarship at University College, Oxford, Bill preferred edibles) and alleging that he had an extramarital affair with Gennifer Flowers (which he denies to this day); he still went on to soundly defeat sitting president George H.W. Bush. Then during his presidency he faced down a number of other scandals, the most famous being the Lewinsky scandal, when it was revealed that White House intern Monica Lewinsky was giving him blowjobs in the oval office, which got him impeached (not for the blowjobs themselves—there's no law banning blowjobs, even if you're getting them from an intern and not your wife—but for being economical with the truth about them while under oath). Not only was he acquitted, but he used the scandal to engineer the downfall of opposition leader Newt Gingrich (who was the driving force behind Clinton's impeachment) and went on to serve out his term and leave office with an approval rating over 60%. His popularity has endured and he continues to rank highly in opinion polls of former US presidents.
    • One thing that certainly helped Clinton was how Newt Gingrich and the Republican opposition used appointed attorney Ken Starr, who was investigating Clinton's involvement in the Whitewater scandal and the suicide of Vince Foster, as their personal dirt digger on Clinton; or, in other words they hoped Starr would discover something scandalous about him that could cause him to lose most of his support so the Republicans can take the presidency. Starr would uncover something that could potentially be controversial and Gingrich would manufacture a controversy around it in hopes of eroding Clinton's political support; the Lewinsky scandal was no exception. That is what saved Clinton's public popularity during his impeachment: he pointed out the aforementioned "fact" and portrayed Gingrich as a Corrupt Politician who was trying to undermine the presidency for his own political gain. It worked, and thus the only political consequence of the Lewinsky scandal was that the Republicans lost a number of seats in the 1998 midterm elections which lead to Gingrich being forced out of power by his own party in 1999. Amusingly, Gingrich himself was involved in an affair at the time which eventually resulted in Gringrich's marriage ending, with Gingrich marrying his mistress and was another factor in his loss of power; HIS political career never recovered.
  • Ronald Reagan, earning the nickname "Teflon Ron" because of how the numerous political scandals that surfaced during his presidency never affected his popularity. The most famous example has to be the Iran-Contra affair, involving the executive branch allegedly funneling money and weapons to not one but two groups which were enemies of the United States (specifically, Iran and the Contras, an anti-Communist militia movement in Central America). Any other president would have undoubtedly been impeached and thrown out of office over such a scandal, especially if they were already unpopular to begin with. However, despite the affair being one of the biggest political scandals in recent history, and possibly in the entire history of the United States, all Reagan had to do was make a television address apologizing to the nation and he was off scot-free. He would leave office with an approval rating above 50%, his vice president George H.W. Bush would be decisively elected to succeed him, and today he is a Republican icon who is considered to be one of the greatest presidents in history. Having Oliver North take the fall for the whole ordeal certainly helped; of course, Col. North himself eventually had all charges against him dismissed, too.
  • A definite example would have to be Black Metal. People like Varg Vikernes have had their images boosted (in the minds of fans) thanks to convictions for arson and murder.
  • Heather Locklear (the previous Mrs. Tommy Lee) publicly warned Pamela Anderson (the about-to-be Mrs. Tommy Lee) about Tommy Lee, on the basis that, as a bad boy rocker, Mr. Lee was controversy-proof and therefore had nothing to lose by doing stuff that could damage Ms. Anderson's career. One sextape later, Ms. Locklear could say "I told you so", although it doesn't seem to have done Ms. Anderson's career that much harm.
  • Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian both appear to have only become more famous after the sort of revelation that put Rob Lowe into obscurity for a decade.
  • The black metal episode of Bones had Booth offering to charge the various metal band characters with assaulting a federal officer and such in exchange for information. There was a similar bit in an NYPD Blue with a rapper who needed the "street cred."
  • Michael Jackson: Ever since 1987 Jackson's public image has been tarnished by his face lifts, ever whitening skin color and allegations of sexual intercourse with underage boys. In 2002 he bungled his baby son outside the balcony of his window, causing even more controversy. Yet, when a court case rendered him not guilty of sexual abuse of minors in 2005 this resulted in a public reappreciation of the man and his music. Radio stations who formerly had put a ban on playing his music started giving him airplay again. Many high profile people publicly admitted liking his music again, without having to distance themselves from his behaviour en even most black people hailed him again as one of their own, in high contrast with the scorn Jackson received by some for allegedly whitewashing his black skin. When Jackson died in 2009 he became a prime example of Dead Artists Are Better and Never Speak Ill of the Dead. All the hate, ridicule and scorn against the man's private life vanished and he was hailed as a musical innovator and hero again. It says a lot that his album Thriller turned up in many annual Album 100 lists, even on radio stations that had never had any Jackson record in those charts. Today Jackson remains controversial in some circles, but it's no longer embarrassing to express a likening to the man and his work.
  • R. Kelly is a good example. People thought his career was doomed thanks to his statutory rape/and child porn case. But then he released his album Chocolate Factory which became one of his biggest albums amidst the controversy - so much so the media stopped scrutinizing him when they realized he wasn't going to be another sensationalized Michael Jackson train wreck.
  • Madonna: Look no further than Madonna. This woman survived countless scandals, most of them created by herself, and is still on top of public appreciation. A prime example of No Such Thing as Bad Publicity.
  • Mentioned in Animorphs: When a Yeerk inspector comes to see how Visser Three is doing, they decide to run a major smear campaign, as this often works on humans "but not actors or politicians. They're like immune".
  • CM Punk was like this in his early Indie wrestling days: his willingness to cross several lines (insulting audience members with below-the-belt comments, homophobic references, casual swearing, and other mean-spirited insults and put-downs) in order to get the crowd to boo him didn't do much to hurt his standing as one of the top wrestlers in the country. Which in turn led to an incident in 2011 (when Punk's contract was about to expire and the WWE was deciding whether or not to renew it), when Punk yelled at a fan and called him homo and the video of the incident ended up on TMZ. The WWE and Punk quickly apologized and it didn't hurt Punk's image at all with fans or his standing with the WWE, who promptly re-signed Punk to a lucrative new contract.
    • Subverted with several wrestlers: Chris Benoit's reputation turned to mud after he killed his wife and son and then himself; similarly, Steve Austin's image never quite recovered when he was arrested for spousal abuse. The latter claimed it was an incident born of 'roid rage, running before the cops arrived.
  • The backlash against Body Count for their song Cop Killer was initially No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, leading their debut album to go gold. Long-term, though, they quickly faded from the mainstream, although they have released several albums since.
    • Former lead singer Ice-T now enjoys a second career as an actor, most recently on Law & Order: SVU, where he plays...a police detective. Although it could be argued that his solo career was damaged by the controversy as most major labels didn't want to have anything to do with him. On his Behind the Music episode his original label said they regretted not standing by him.
  • Rapper T.I. still has a very strong career despite all of his run-ins with the law, though his latest arrest is certainly taking a toll on his fanbase.
  • Child porn and other crimes overwhelmingly viewed as heinous by the public will kill the career of most. The few exceptions like Pete Townshend and Pee-Wee Herman still carry the stigma of the accusation.
  • When Margaret Cho appeared on Dancing with the Stars, some tabloid ran an article about how the stars were scandalous backstage, and she was included. But since this is Margaret Cho we're talking about, the effect wasn't really the same.
  • Chris Brown is managing to pull his career back together after his arrest for assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna and his sentence to five years probation. His image is not completely as clean as it was before, but he definitely still has a fanbase despite being in and out of jail/rehab.
  • Charlie Sheen has proven to be incredibly resilient to bad press and controversy. What would kill most other actors' careers dead just made Sheen a greater celebrity. His first run-in with drug issues came in the '90s, when his father Martin Sheen had to hold a live press conference to beg his son to stop using. Many people thought he was burned-out...and then he came back with a vengeance on Two and a Half Men, where he essentially played a caricature of himself (and wound up become one of the highest-paid actors on television). Then he went on a tear by sleeping with hookers, hiring two porn stars to live with him as his "goddesses", took potshots at CBS and TAAHM creator Chuck Lorre (which got him fired) and generally went batshit crazy (so much so that he was a media punchline). The end result of that was CBS paying him an incredibly handsome sum of money for the unproduced episodes of his show, Sheen becoming an internet hero thanks to his first televised interview after his meltdown, praise from fellow celebrities and fans, and a lucrative deal with the FX Network to develop a series based on the 2003 film Anger Management. Apparently, it's good to be Charlie Sheen.
  • The trope is played with in The Defenders court drama, coming to an aversion. A rapper is suspected of killing a rival musician, and it doesn't help his name is "Killer D." The next day while performing on stage, he raps about how he killed the guy. The police accept that as a confession and take him in.
  • A similar incident occurs on The Boondocks when rapper Gangstalicious is charged with assault and possibly raps about it in a song called "Play it for the Jury", which the judge allows into evidence and is indeed played for the jury.
  • The Telltale Games game Hector: Badge of Carnage has the main character bribe a street punk by offering to frame him for various crimes that will help his street cred. You end up stealing his pants and charging him with indecent exposure. He is quite happy since a sex crime is much better than a run-of-the-mill assault and battery.
  • Mario Lopez has continued to host numerous TV shows (such as Extra) since his Saved by the Bell days ended even though he infamously cheated (if not well throughout the relationship) on his wife Ali Landry virtually a day after their wedding (the marriage was annulled shortly thereafter).
  • Sports announcer Mike Tirico is one of the top personalities on ESPN (calling Monday Night Football, the PGA Tour, the NBA, etc.) even though back in the early 1990s, he was suspended by ESPN for sexual harassment. In fact, Tirico's perverted tales have been documented in several "behind the scenes" books regarding ESPN.
  • The Dixie Chicks made the mistake of publicly announcing their distaste for the current president overseas. For reference, the Dixie Chicks are a country music act, and the current president at the time was George W. Bush, who at the time had broad national appeal with the type of folks that listen to country music. On the other hand, Willie Nelson gets far less controversy for his political views (especially as a strong advocator for marijuana legalization) despite having many of the same views as the Dixie Chicks, primarily because of his "outlaw" image.
  • Jesse Ventura is an actor and former professional wrestler who entered politics and ran for Governor of Minnesota. During the campaign, it became known that he'd spent a weekend with one or more prostitutes. This kind of sex scandal would be the death of any normal, clean-cut political campaign, but in Jesse Ventura's case it almost seemed to help him get elected.
  • Played with in Bloom County. Bill the Cat is a heavy metal rock star who gets caught in a hotel room with a woman. Only the woman is an ex-missionary nun from Calcutta, and they study the Bible all night. His career is ruined for being so wholesome, but the woman gets a Pepsi endorsement.
  • Mentioned in the webcomic Kevin & Kell. His father is in a minimum-security prison. How low is security? "In the next block there's an empty cell for rappers who want to fabricate a criminal past."
  • In one episode of Castle a rapper is suspected of being the murderer. He turns out to be innocent but is perfectly fine with them holding him while they investigate since it helps his "street cred". He even brings along the guy who handles lighting for his shows to ensure that he gets a good mug shot.
  • Zigzagged with Lindsay Lohan; while her career opportunities have been negatively affected by her run-ins with the law, she still gets more offers then you'd think and pretty much anything her name is attached to will get plenty of attention. For example, out of all the SNL episodes in 2012, the one Lindsay hosted got the highest ratings. In some ways her controversy makes her a selling point — her latest film "The Canyons" (penned by Bret Easton Ellis and directed by Paul Schrader) probably wouldn't have gotten nearly as much attention if she wasn't involved.
  • Probably the first example of this was Robert Mitchum, whose conviction and brief imprisonment for cannabis possession in 1948 was expected by some to destroy his career. It caused nothing of the sort, proving for the first time that actors known for playing anti-heroes and villains can get away with the odd legal hassle.
  • In Unhallowed Metropolis, any aristocratic character has to deal with the crap surrounding the Victorian aristocracy...except the ones who take the Black Sheep disadvantage. While they start with a trashed reputation, they can build up a reputation of their own if they have the panache to do so, and the book mentions that they're pretty much immune to minor scandals because they're exactly what everyone expects of someone like that.

Be All My Sins RememberedFame and Reputation TropesConvicted by Public Opinion

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