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Controversy-Proof Image

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"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 have survived it if they were 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; and with those people opposing you, you're almost guaranteed to look even cooler. The artist's image and fanbase remain intact.

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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. Values Dissonance can also play a part: if you did something long ago enough that you can shrug it off with "It was a different time", or if you have the kind of fans who are not offended by much and indeed expect you to behave a certain way, your target audience will be happy to look the other way. In some cases, this has to do with the kind of image a public figure has. The more honest your appeal and popularity is, the greater the Overton Window for any future scandal, at least in theory. Controversies and scandals are greater when there is something to expose and reveal after all.

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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

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    Comic Strips 
  • 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 was an ex-missionary nun from Calcutta, and they studied the Bible all night. His career is ruined for being so wholesome, but the woman gets a Pepsi endorsement.

    Literature 
  • Mentioned in Animorphs: When a Yeerk inspector comes to see how Visser Three is doing, they decide to run a major smear campaign to make it look like their resistance movement is far more active than it is. They mention that this often works on humans, "but not actors or politicians. They're like immune."
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    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 NYPD Blue with a rapper who needed the "street cred."
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has this tension between Will Smith and Carlton. Carlton because of the pressures of being the good son and maintaining reputations suffers greatly for any deviations from his image, while Will can impress and charm people by only a minimal level of charm and intelligence since he invokes lowered expectations.
  • 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 "Killa Diz" 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.
  • 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 the lighting for his shows to ensure that he gets a good mug shot.

    Music 
  • Eminem has had a decades-spanning career as a massively selling artist despite his whole persona, especially at the beginning of his career, being to just say the most outrageous, morally disgusting things he could think of (Played for Laughs). At the beginning of his career, people in Congress were sincerely calling for his music to be made illegal, something he was happy to respond to by making his lyrical content even worse. Repeated calls for him to stop using homophobic slurs and rape jokes in his music - and a fairly inept campaign by teenagers to 'cancel' him over his comparatively tame and radio friendly Destructive Romance ballad "Love The Way You Lie" - did eventually result in him dropping the slurs from his live performances in 2018, but have done nothing to stop him selling. A significant part of this is because his music is mostly Black Comedy, rapped as Slim Shady, an alter-ego character who is a deranged, Ax-Crazy Heroic Comedic Sociopath Anti-Role Model, and he has always been very careful to separate out the opinions of Slim from his own in interviews, as well as within the music itself.
    • Of particular note is his Diss Track towards Mariah Carey, "The Warning", which involved him rapping back and forth with clips of what he claims are sexually explicit voice mails that she sent to him, and threatening to release pictures and videos he had of their sexual encounters. Despite how this is by far the most morally reprehensible thing he has ever done in a song, it passed without notice - pro-Em outlets like Rolling Stone cheered on Em for destroying Mariah, and anti-Em commentary focused on his general history of Misogyny Songs and sexist slurs. It's impossible to see an absence of a backlash about a threat to release revenge porn if any rapper had done it other than the one who made his name with controversy-bait songs about murdering his wife.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Unhallowed Metropolis, any aristocratic character has to deal with the crap surrounding the Victorian aristocracy... except the ones who take the Untouchable advantage, which gives them some form of immunity to any but the direst scandals. Whatever the reason (being a Black Sheep with panache who lives in The Tyson Zone, a network of agents who hush things up, or sheer luck), this aristocrat will come up smelling like a rose after anything less.

    Video Games 
  • 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.

    Webcomics 
  • 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."

    Websites 
  • Chuck from SF Debris relays a tale about a character he once played who had this as a literal superpower. He contrasts this against Wonder Woman from Wonder Woman (2011 pilot), who seems to have this ability as well, but isn't meant to be a comic relief character.

    Western Animation 
  • The Boondocks: 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 famous "Homer's Enemy" episode from The Simpsons revolves around how Homer's actions are controversy-proof within Springfield and he never really suffers undue actual real-world consequences (such as unemployment, abandonment or death) for his actions, whereas any attempts to imitate Homer, as in the tragic case of Frank Grimes, will lead to real-world consequences.

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