The Art VS the Artist
Last night, I wrote a post for the blog. It was only about seven hundred words, and it took me probably an hour or just over that to write it. In the post, I was talking about how much I liked a piece of media, and telling all of you to consume the media, too. However, after completing the post, I told my friend what it was about, and they informed me that the creator of said media was kind of a bad person.
I had known the creator wasn’t, like, an ideal person, or someone to really look up to, but after learning about this heinous thing they did, I decided I simply couldn’t post something that was promoting them or giving them the spotlight in any kind of way.
And so comes the age-old question; how much can you separate an artist from their art? Are you a bad person if you enjoy the creations of a flawed creator? Can I still watch Baby Driver even though Kevin Spacey is in it? Can someone enjoy a Woody Allen movie or does that make them complicit in his awfulness? Can I still love a book series even if the author turns out to be really problematic?
If you consume the creation and enjoy it and don’t know about the bad deeds of the creator, does that make it okay because you simply didn’t know? And then if you find out and continue to enjoy that thing, does that make you a bad person? What if it’s been years and years since said celebrity got “cancelled”? After a certain time period, is it okay to enjoy your problematic faves again? If you acknowledge that the creator is flawed and keep that in mind while consuming their media, does that make it acceptable, or worse?
If we got rid of every single piece of media ever made that had someone problematic star in it, direct it, write it, sing it, or create it, how much would we have left? How many people are actually bad and problematic, how many were falsely “cancelled”, and how many people have more complicated cases that we don’t know all the facts about?
For example, Johnny Depp. Here’s a celebrity that has starred in pretty much everything, and has done a good job, and became widely loved by the public. So when it came out that he might be an abuser, a lot of people were completely shocked. Some swore off Johnny Depp movies forever, and some adoring fans stood at his defense. Then, recently, when it was revealed maybe he was actually the victim, those same fans said they knew he wasn’t bad all along, and suddenly all those people who had banished Johnny Depp movies from their lives could watch Pirates of the Caribbean again without feeling guilty. But his case is ongoing. Is he the victim, the victimizer, or both? During this ongoing case, should we continue to enjoy his movies in good faith that he is a good person, or steer clear of his work just in case he isn’t?
I can’t get on a high horse and say “you shouldn’t engage with this media because so and so is a garbage human” but then turn around and consume media from people I definitely think are a problem. Is piracy a viable option in this situation? If there’s a movie you want to see but don’t want to put money in the pocket of the problematic director, is that fair to subsequently be taking money out of the pocket of all the actors, producers, and others who worked on the film? Maybe you could just borrow a copy of the DVD from a friend who already purchased it, or get a copy from your local library? Same with books from problematic authors.
On the other hand, old books that are now seen as kind of bad, the ones where the authors are long dead, if you buy a copy, where does that money go to? It’s okay to buy it if it isn’t supporting the racist/sexist/homophobic dead author, right?
I don’t really have the answer to any of these questions. I think it’s okay sometimes to like art made by problematic people, but also to make sure you don’t give them a platform or showcase them to others like I almost did with my post last night. And maybe don’t buy the problematic person’s merch. There are some cases where you’d literally have to be living under a rock to not know what someone did, and then there are cases where you really had no idea that this person did a bad thing a decade ago. It’s okay if you didn’t know, I think. It’s not your job to keep tabs on every single creator and celebrity in the world. Ignorance is okay, so long as it’s not willful.