This week, we have lived the saga of The Guy Who Draws Those Cute Little Alien Cartoons. Is the guy who draws that cartoon where the aliens put human life in simple terms that show how weird it is anti-choice? Do we have to stop following him now? He has now attempted to clarify his beliefs, and you can decide for yourself how much you consider him to have been redeemed—indeed, how much you consider him to have been in need of redemption in the first place—but this sort of thing happens so often that we have a term for it. That we need a term for it.
There are those who would respond that everyone has something in their past that would cause us to be the most recent Milkshake Duck. I do not actually believe this to be true. There are plenty of people around without a history of homophobic or racist Tweets—and I’m not just talking about those of us whose sole interaction with the Twitter has been the automatic posting from this site. I’ve never posed ironically with a Confederate flag, nor has anyone I know—not least because no one I know has a Confederate flag around to pose ironically with! I firmly believe that you can only scratch the surface of maybe ten or fifteen percent of people you think of as good and get a Milkshake Duck.
Note this is specific to the ones people think of as good. No one’s going to argue that, say, the Unabomber was a Milkshake Duck, because the Unabomber was, uncontroversially, not known for the positive aspects of his nature. He wasn’t known for charm and whimsy, is what I’m saying. Even to the people around him. There has to be something to the person going in that makes them appealing to the average person. Indeed, something that makes them particularly appealing. Not everyone has that who isn’t awful, but I’d argue that fewer awful people have it. I could be wrong, but I hope I’m not.
But yeah, I do think some ten to fifteen percent of people with a good surface are hiding some pretty awful stuff. Or, in some cases, not particularly hiding—in some cases, it just took “learning something new that was already out there,” because after all, this is a lot of idolizing of random people. It ties in to discovering that, say, a celebrity supports a homophobic church because “they were cool with his divorce.” Or seeing someone you admire as an actor wearing an Ayn Rand shirt when they were young.
I also feel that, as in that latter case, some Milkshake Ducking can be exaggerated. I suppose, if you’re somewhere that has a lot of Confederate flags around, you might pose ironically with one. If you were given a Fountainhead T-shirt by a relative, it might be the only clean thing you have on laundry day, I suppose, or you might be wearing that ironically. And sometimes, the awful aspects of a person themselves turn out to be false, because that sort of thing does happen. Now, I still did not need a friend of a friend going on at me about separating the art from the artist, because as I’ve written about before, you need to make your own decisions there and I personally believe that full separation isn’t possible anyway. But your level of separation is your own choice.