The idea of speaking no ill of the dead probably originally comes from the idea that the dead might come back and haunt you if you did. These days, the haunting comes from the fans, who will have words with you if you say bad things about their idols. However, that can be stressful for people who are aware of actual bad things about the dead person that mean their fans really ought to consider their fandom. However, just after the person died seems the most unlikely time for them to do that, and it’s certainly true that “I am dancing on this person’s grave” doesn’t tend to resonate in the case of an actor, no matter how toxic.
In fact, finding stories about the toxicity of certain beloved figures isn’t difficult. James Caan, for example, referred to sexual harassment charges as “hitting on women” and didn’t understand the difference, which is why plenty of women in the industry have stories about his awful behaviour toward them on the set. He also described himself as an arch-conservative, and all the Dad Twitter vibes in the world don’t change that. I’d long made the decision that I wouldn’t write a tribute to Sean Connery, because there was a lot I could say that was positive but a lot more I could say that was negative.
Sometimes, it’s complicated; David Bowie springs to mind here. Because he did have sexual relationships with minors in the ‘70s, and “that happened a lot in those days with rock stars” doesn’t really excuse it. It had been decades, but I don’t know if he ever showed remorse for it and I certainly understand anyone who didn’t like him because of it. Likewise, I have a friend whose reaction to the death of Anne Rice pretty much was dancing on her grave because of Rice’s handling of fan fiction. Given how much fan fiction my friend has written over the years, you can understand her opinion about that.
Ideally, some of these people would have faced consequences well before their deaths. Sean Connery literally never walked back from his stance that sometimes, you just need to hit women. My animosity toward Tom Cruise is well documented, and I maintain justified, and one of this year’s big hits still has him in it. Harvey Weinstein, at least, seems likely to die in prison, but quite a lot of other celebrity rapists and serial harassers won’t. They will live long, possibly productive lives, and maybe even win major awards, and the rest of us will just have to deal with that.
The one consolation I can give is that someone, somewhere, will understand your “dancing on their grave” feelings. No matter whose grave you’re dancing on. Possibly even if you’re dancing on the grave of a beloved icon. You’ll have to do a lot of looking, but they’re out there. And if you think you really have reason to hate Bob Ross, well, I’ll listen. Even though it’ll be the first reason to hate Bob Ross I’ve ever heard beyond his instructor who claimed Ross had ripped off his technique, something demolished beautifully on the Wikipedia page that pointed out it had been around for centuries.