The moral dilemma of whether people should separate art from the artist has been around forever, but today I'd like to offer my two cents on it.
Recently, I came across an Odyssey article titled "When You Support An Artist, You Support Their Behavior As Well" and it struck a chord with me. In the article, the author argues that the decision depends on the individual, but personally chooses to dissociate herself from "problematic" artists. To further prove her point, she gives a hypothetical of whether you'd support art made by a Nazi.
First of all, most cases aren't such so black-and-white. The degree to which a certain artist is "problematic" is variable and dependent on the individual's beliefs and values. More often than not, it is a grey area. Therefore, this hypothetical does next to nothing to address the reality. I agree that people can separate art from the artist only to an extent, but the extent that she seems to portray is far too narrow.
Also, if a Nazi did really paint a visually stunning piece, my support would depend on whether or not it brought incompatible political and personal values into the frame. If not, the art would still garner my appreciation, independent of the artist. That's because art isn't some bridge to befriend or idolize the artist. The artist is simply there to present the art. And if an artist does so exceptionally well, why deny the art?
The art should speak for itself, and if it coincides nicely with your likes and beliefs, why should the artist be part of the equation?
It's true that artists who use their position of power and wealth to overshadow their inexcusable behaviors are problematic, but keep in mind that they didn't become artists to preach good morals to the world. People say that good art that originates from terrible people shouldn't be supported. But here's a thought: is that art a result of the terrible actions of that person? No.
If we start going around eliminating art from artists who do not meet our relative standards of morality, we are essentially depriving the world of witnessing great art. It is completely unfair to judge a person's art based on their behavior.
Celebrities in the public eye are constantly being scrutinized by the media for their actions. This rings especially true for child actors growing up in front of the cameras. Every slight mistake they might make is completely blown up and shunned by their audiences. If they do not maintain their squeaky clean image well into their adulthood, everyone quickly jumps on the train to ramble on about how they've "changed" or "gone off the rails." Isn't adolescence the time to make mistakes and slip up? For all the people criticizing such artists, they should take a look at their own lives and realize that celebrities aren't so different from the rest of us. The only difference is that they have cameras to capture every moment of their lives. Thankfully, we do not.
Not only is the judgment completely unfair, but it is totally hypocritical.
If the people who claim that they only support clean-slate artists take a step back, they'll soon realize that it is completely ridiculous and absurd to do so. Unless they have a way of running thorough background checks and suddenly becoming best friends with every celebrity to truly understand the day-to-day behaviors in their lives, they will never know enough to judge their character. So, stop feeling entitled and take the art for what it is worth.
Sure, there's a lot of dirt that the media exposes about celebrities and a good portion of the time, it is true. The only problem is that we don't always know the context of the issue or the reasons behind their actions. But, of course, that's irrelevant in our minds. We're just eager to eat up anything the media throws at us and draw up the worst possible assumptions and conclusions.
This is not to say that major felonies or crimes by artists should be given the benefit of the doubt. The decision of whether such actions change your perception of an artist is entirely up to you. Because in such situations, your opinion of the artist changes and inadvertently, their flawed character seeps into their art. You lose respect for the artist and form a distaste for their work.
Regardless, you cannot claim that you only support "good" artists because you never know what goes on behind the scenes. Who knows what happens in a particular artist's life when the cameras aren't rolling? They may not have committed massive crimes or errors, but they can still have awful personalities and have engaged in questionable acts that we are totally unaware of. Are they off the hook just because these faults went unexposed?
It is time we stop placing artists on such a high pedestal and view them alongside the rest of us. Of course, we are naturally in awe of the luxury and awesome lives of celebrities, but when you choose to support an artist, do so for their art because that's all you can really do. Sadly, it is not your place to judge them based on the few, problematic instances that the media has highlighted for you. You claim to be more righteous, but really you're just feeding into the hysteria created by the media.
Just like how you would not want to be judged in your business based on your personal life, it is only logical to separate artists from their art. If business is kept separate from the personal, why should art be any different?
Once again, if the art is clearly bringing personal values into the picture to which you are completely opposed to, it makes sense to dissociate yourself from the art and the artist. But, if an artist has recently become "problematic," you do not need to feel pressured to stop listening to their music or watching their movies. There are a hundred different reasons why you might love a particular song, but what the singer is doing in their personal life shouldn't affect your reasons.
Just because you support a particular artist's work does not immediately entail that you also support their sexist, racist, or homophobic beliefs as well. Again, it is your choice, but never feel like it's the "obvious, right" thing to do. Because logically speaking, it isn't.
I seek art to appreciate the talent, not to idolize the artist.
Artists aren't made to be idolized. They're here to showcase their art and talent. We have become used to treating artists a certain way: we aren't afraid to judge their character quickly, bash them publicly, and treat them like objects.
Imagine doing the same with the everyday people in your life. Think back to the times that you've messed up in your life, and imagine if your worst mistakes were scrutinized by the entire world and the reason that your talents went unappreciated. It brings a whole new perspective, doesn't it? Remember people, artists are human too, and once in a while, they should be given the benefit of the doubt.