Separating Art From The Artist

Everyone has had to face a point where they were disappointed by a celebrity. This can come from being against a popular icons' political views, actions, speech, and so on. I had this experience recently with Jennifer Lawrence. I, being Hawaiian, wasn't too keen on her story about scratching her ass on sacred places while shooting a film in Hawaii. Since then I decided that I don't want to watch her movies; which wasn't a big challenge since I hadn't exactly been a "fan" before the incident. Recently, Harvey Weinstein, producer of award-winning films such as Gangs of New York and Shakespeare in Love, has been accused of sexual harassment and assault. This has made some of us question re-watching movies we might already love because an actress was potentially assaulted in the making of it. This is as good a time as any to discuss how, or if, we should separate art from the artist.

It can be hard to have to decide whether or not you feel morally culpable by watching, listening to, or supporting certain celebrity projects, when they might be bad people. John Oliver, host of HBO's Last Week Tonight, talked a few weeks ago about the dismantling of confederate statues. Oliver introduced the segment by talking about Jimmy Savile, a British icon and alleged child molester (post-mortem). England knighted Jimmy Savile, named streets after him, and built statues of him. After Jimmy Savile's death, it was revealed that over 450 people had made complaints against him, mainly pertaining to molestation. England has since dismantled all of the public displays of honoring Jimmy Savile. When I watched this segment, I understood fully the English government would do that. But then I thought of all the people that grew up loving Jimmy Saviles' work, and still might love it. The fact that Jimmy Savile molested children didn't mean that his work was any less meaningful, only that he was. I felt this way after the reveal of Bill Cosby drugging women. The Cosby Show is still one of the best sitcoms of the 20th century, and his stand-up is hilarious, but Bill Cosby, the man, has forever been tainted in my mind.

With public displays, like the Jimmy Savile example, I think it's appropriate to dismantle them because people alive today who were molested by Savile might have to walk by them and be reminded of their abuse everyday. The Confederate statues are a different story only because there is a historical debate to be had with that. No one alive today will walk by a historical statue and have flashbacks of the actual human face of their attacker raping them, since they weren't alive to experience it. I'm not saying that people might not have valid feelings about disliking Confederate statues, but they aren't able to have the experience of physically being victimized by who the statue is modeled after.

The fact is that the decision to still watch something created by someone awful is a personal choice. I chose to not watch Jennifer Lawrence for something far less damaging than what Bill Cosby did, but it's because I had deep personal investment in Bill Cosby beforehand. I wouldn't begrudge anyone for liking Jennifer Lawrence films (many people do), just like I would hope I wouldn't be begrudged for liking The Cosby Show still. I don't personally agree with the NFL kneelings lately, but I don't think people who still watch NFL games and support their teams are bad people. Nobody can tell you where you have to set your moral compass, or if morality is even a part of deciding to watch a Harvey Weinstien produced film or not. I think we need to definitely hold the artists accountable for their crimes, but to judge others for still liking the art of a bad person is regressive.

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