10 Violent Men Who Are Always Forgiven Because Everyone Loves Their Art

celebrities domestic violence

In light of the recent developments concerning Woody Allen‘s alleged abuse of daughter Dylan Farrow at age seven, there’s been a rush of impassioned defenses of Allen. While this whole debacle gets hashed out in the court of public opinion, there’s been some interesting, albeit not new, conversations about bad people making good art. And finally, it’s brought up information about celebrities we’ve long forgotten in service of protecting their artistic reputations.

Allen isn’t alone. Plenty of celebrities have been involved in instances of repeated domestic abuse, violence, or rape, and we ignore it because of the disconnect between their public personas and private issues. We have a system in place for burying these stories in a surprisingly short time, and as such, we think of these people are great artists who also raped/beat up some people.

1. Sean Penn

Sean Penn Participates In Discussion Of Haiti On Year After Earthquake

Penn is a violent guy who spent 33 days in jail in 1987 for assaulting a photographer, and was arrested and charged with felony domestic assault after beating then-wife Madonna. Now, Penn is thought of as the leading guard of Hollywood liberals; he was an outspoken critic of George W. Bush and the Iraq war. He’s also painted himself as a great humanitarian–the first thing I picture when I think of Penn nowadays is him triumphantly on a raft in Haiti. With Penn, we haven’t necessarily forgotten his violent past, but it’s been rewritten and romanticized. Penn’s former violent streak has been morphed into a bad boy persona turned good, and it’s easy to ignore the past when the new narrative is so attractive.

2. Eminem

The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards - Roaming Inside

When Rihanna and Eminem’s duet “Love The Way You Lie” debuted in 2010, it brought up old stories about Eminem’s past issues with domestic violence. In talking about the song, Rihanna said that domestic violence is something that she and Eminem both experienced, “you know, on different sides, different ends of the table.” She’s referring of course to her experience as being the victim of Chris Brown‘s brutal attack, and to Eminem as the attacker of his ex-wife, Kim.

Eminem’s “Kim” gleefully recounts his violent feelings about Kim (who has accused him of horrific assaults) and details his desire to brutally murder her. In 2013, Eminem was awarded a Global Icon Award at the MTV EMAs. Everyone loves a redemption story, and I guess continuing to rap about how you beat up your partner counts.

3. Mike Tyson

Nevada Boxing Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony

Nowadays, Mike Tyson is a hilarious 80s throwback legend who has funny cameos in movies like The Hangover, with Bradley Cooper excitedly praising Tyson’s comedic abilities (this, I suppose, counts as art). Tyson is also a convicted rapist who served three years of a six year sentence for raping an 18-year-old woman in 1991.

In addition, Tyson was allegedly violent with his first wife, actress Robin Givens, although he clarified that he never hit her with a “closed fist,” because apparently all other hitting was fair game. He later clarified by saying “I grabbed my wife and hold my wife, you know what I mean? I shake my wife up. I never totally struck my wife.” Great.

But you know that part where he sings “In The Air Tonight?” Pure gold.

4. Jimmy Page

Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day - UK Film Premiere

If you went through a Led Zeppelin phase in high school, you might not have known that Jimmy Page dispatched a roadie to kidnap a 14-year-old. Richard Cole walked up to Lori Maddox and apparently said “Jimmy told me that he’s going to have you whether you like it or not. You fucking move and I’ll fucking have your head,” which he followed by grabbing her and forcibly putting her into their limo. Page carried on their illegal, sexual relationship for three years. Another term for that sexual relationship is “statutory rape.”

This has largely been forgotten or thought of as characteristic of the time, since it was all pretty anything goes back then. Unfortunately, statutory rape isn’t something that should be chalked up to the time, swept under the rug, or go unpunished.

5. Bill Cosby

President Obama Speaks At The National Action Network Awards Gala

As we learned earlier this week, Bill Cosby was accused by multiple women (upwards of 13) of sexual assault. As detailed in Tom Scocca’s piece for Gawker, many of the allegation included drugging. Four women came forward to give accounts of the assaults under their real names, which is both brave and rare, and multiple lawsuits were settled with gag orders on the victims. All of this information was available to the public in a 2006 People Magazine article, and yet, nobody remembers this, myself included. As Scocca put it, “[w]ith shocking speed, it was effectively forgotten.” He also points out that these lawsuits had little to no effect on his public perception or career:

In 2009, Cosby was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for his distinguished achievements in humor. In 2010, he was honored with the Marian Anderson Award, for “critically acclaimed artists who have impacted society in a positive way, either through their work or their support for an important cause.”

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    • Samantha Escobar


      • DuBois

        Read the Zeppelin bio “Hammer of the Gods.” Let’s just say that Jerry Lee Lewis has nothing on those guys…

    • Lindsey Conklin

      Charlie Sheen has quite a violent history (he shot kelly preston). It’s sad how long this list could be. Quite the double standard

      • Alishmcmalish Dayum

        I think the point of the article is to point out men people forget have violent pasts. I wasn’t even aware of more than half of these men. People like Charlie Sheen, Chris Brown, Mel Gibson, OJ Simpson are all well known to be crazy. These guys are a little more unexpected.

      • Lindsey Conklin

        No I know, I completely agree with Julia. I just think it’s sad how long this list is.

      • Julia Sonenshein

        You’re right! I think we could have gotten like twelve more posts out of this, easily.

      • JLH1986

        Man I totally forgot about Charlie Sheen shooting Kelly Preston. I knew he was a nut and misogynistic but I forgot he was violent because it’s never brought up anymore. Like Sean Penn

      • Tina

        And also Charlie claims he left a loaded gun in his pocket and and Kelly picked up his pants and the gun went off

    • http://ThePeppercat.com/ Candace

      Wow, I had to keep myself from laughing at that Sean Connery quote, because it’s so fucking absurd it seems like a joke.

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      • Beanspeak

        he’s got a point, though : women really do like to run their mouths a lot and honestly a lot of the time the bitches can see it coming, they KNOW they should shut their mouths but they have to be impish and clever and just nag a guy to that point where it’s not even funny. I’m proud to say I’ve never hit a woman because I picked a good one, but i also have no pity for any woman who goes to court talking about being abused because i know the truth – she started it. End of story.

    • Kristen

      “But I wouldn’t call myself sadistic.” – Sean Connery.


      Yeah, I’d say you’re fucking sadistic…

      • March

        Unless you infer from what he said that he definitely ENJOYS hitting a woman, and that that is his main or sole reason for doing it, then no, technically we cannot call the man sadistic.
        What we CAN call him is deluded, but that is different.

    • MerlePerle

      This is going to give me nightmares. I just recently read an article about R. Kelly, who’s basically a serial rapist yet an outspoken feminist like Lady Gaga sings ‘do what you want with my body’ to him! That song disgusts me.

      • Julia Sonenshein

        I know that drives me crazy, too. The R. Kelly things is unreal.

    • Kathy

      Here’s what I remember about the Roman Polanski thing: he claimed at the time (1978) that it was consensual sex between himself and the girl. He actually made a deal with the girl’s mother and the mother consented. So Polanski didn’t feel it was rape, because nothing was forced on the girl. I haven’t read her book so I don’t if that’s the story she tells now. But that was the rumor going around at the time, and I believe that’s why people defended him. In those days he got a lot of sympathy anyway because his wife had been murdered by Charles Manson. I guess I’m older than most of you so I remember this stuff. ;-)

      • Jessie

        Rapists make up all sorts of reasons for why their assault was justified. That doesn’t NOT make it rape. Regardless of what deal he made with her mother (something I’ve never heard, and I’ve done some reading on this issue), the girl was 13. He got her drunk, drugged her with Quaaludes and raped her vaginally and anally while she clearly told him “no.” He is a piece of shit and he doesn’t get a pass just because Sharon Tate was murdered.

      • Bunny Lucia

        Yes, let’s make a deal with the girl’s mother to have sex with the girl, drug her, and then “Have sex” with her while she’s incoherent. But at least the mother consented, so it’s not rape, right?

    • elle

      Thank you for including Michael Fassbender. I try to tell people about his history all the time but nobody believes me! I don’t know why. How about Josh Brolin? His and Diane’s marriage started with spousal abuse but nobody blinks an eye about working with him and lauding him either.

      • Samantha Escobar

        SAME. Fassbender is just another person who is really, really attractive (and talented) so he gets away with being “charming” even though he’s an asshole.

        Also–did not know about Josh Brolin, whoa x2.

      • StephanieTruth

        Somewhere in an attic a portrait of Michael Fassbender is getting very old and ugly…

      • SDS

        I’d add Christian Bale to the list too.

      • E. D.

        Did not know about Fassbender. Terrible.

      • Annie

        You don’t know about Fassbender now, E. D. You have now heard about unsubstantiated allegations that did not stand up to investigation. No evidence, no photos, no police report, no arrest. If we want to be serious about this, we can’t include people who have been falsely accused. Do some checking.

      • Shelley

        The Fassbender case was investigated, even after she dropped her allegations. No arrest was made, no charges were filed, there was no trial and thus no conviction. The ex (who is actually well-connected in Hollywood) has a history of making false allegations in at least one other case. To add Fassbender to this list is false and misleading. We don’t find people guilty on the basis of an accusation without evidence, particularly when the allegations have been dismissed.

    • thisshortenough

      Everyone mentions eminem but I can find no actual thing anywhere but gossip sites that claim he ever actually abused anyone

    • Mandie

      Most upset about Sean Connery. I mean, that’s not even an allegation. That is a declaration. JAMES BOND IS RUINED! Caps of sadness, not sarcasm. Ugh.

      • Gangle

        I always suspected James Bond would be a violent douche to women. I never realised Sean Connery, by his own admission, recommends beating women. Because, you know. When you get frustrated with someone your legs get cemented to the ground, making it impossible to walk away.

    • NYCNanny

      I know my comment is going to be so unpopular, but I literally LOVE half the men on this lost. And I love Sean connects quote. Hysterical and honest and I think he’s awesome.

      • CMJ

        Yep! Nothing is more hysterical than a man giving a woman a good ‘ole open handed slap.


      • Misenhammer

        I lovED half the men on this list. Now I feel really uncomfortable and upset with them.

        And also, I feel grossed out because you said hitting women is hysterical and awesome.

      • March

        Honest, yes, very true. Because what he is actually doing is admitting his weakness regarding hysterical/bitchy/unreasonable/shrewy women. He doesn’t know how to deal with them, so he resorts to mindless caveman methods. That is weak, and for a man like Connery to admit that kind of weakness takes some guts.
        Well, it WOULD take some guts, if so many people (men AND women) did not still agree with his views…

    • Misenhammer

      Omg literally every other article on David O. Russell makes constant mention of his TRANSGENDER (or worse, TRANSGENDERED) niece. LITERALLY EVERY ONE. What is happening???

    • Elizabeth Aspen

      I’m glad I found this list. More “artists” whose work I don’t need in my life.

    • Muggle

      The fuck?! I had no idea about Bill Cosby.

    • Lerie

      As for the Jimmy Page thing, yes he WAS with Lori Maddox when she was a teenager, but she knew all about how he was pursuing her and hung out on the Sunset Strip scene in those days and was known in those circles as one of the main groupies of the time. There were even magazines back then specifically about the L.A. groupie scene (“Star” being one of them) that she and her friends were featured in. Posing topless no less, as a thirteen yeard old. This is where Jimmy first saw her, and then proceeded to find her the next time then band came to L.A.

      That Cracked article makes it seem like he actually kidnapped her and held her for three years against her will somewhere a la Ariel Castro, and no one knew about it. It was common knowledge that they were a “thing”, but only when he was in L.A. as of course he was based in England. They would plan “secret” meet ups at his hotel when he was playing L.A., and that went on for three years. She was into it from the first day, and has gone on record in many interviews saying it was consensual and a very beautiful thing at the time. She has said he had met her mother and used to call her mother to ask to take her out, and he mother was totally fine with it. Crazy, I know.

      Having said all that, it was still illegal, which is why he “hid” her in his hotel room. Probably something he is definitely not proud of, but it really was sort of common back in that time with rock bands. I could list a whole bunch of rock stars that slept with teenagers. It is still very creepy, the age difference and the fact that it was definitely illegal, but that article just blew it all out of proportion. I think it’s pretty fucked up actually, mostly because a girl that young can’t be expected to male adult decisions and have adult feelings and relationships, but was definitely not the only one doing this back then. I am a fan, and I honestly do think that I would not have turned him down either at that age. Sorry for the long post, but that story has reached urban legend status and it is mostly bullshit.

      • Cee

        All you had to say is that you are a fan. This is mostly apologist bullshit.

      • DuBois

        The fact that other rock stars were guilty of disgusting behavior back then too doesn’t lessen how much disgust Page merits for his own behavior.

    • kj

      Since I read this article like, 4 days ago, I have been trying to figure out why I hate all of them except Eminem…. I think it might be because he has acknowledged his violence and talked about it in his art, whereas the rest of them seem completely unrepentant.

    • Bee

      Ok, the Fassbender one seems to have little to no proof. I’m not denying it, I’m just saying, a random Hollywood report?

      As for Cosby – literally had no idea.

      Why do we give these people awards?

    • kel

      No idea about Bill Cosby. Where is Woody Allen, though?