When Great Artists Do Terrible Things

When Great Artists Do Terrible Things

Is it possible to condemn an artist for their actions while praising them for their work?

In the wake of the controversy surrounding quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest over race and the national anthem, there’s been some media attention given to the anthem’s obscure third verse, which celebrates the deaths of rebellious slaves during the War of 1812.

In entertainment news, there’s been an ongoing conversation about the upcoming film "The Birth of A Nation" (not to be confused with D.W. Griffith’s 1915 racist epic) regarding director Nate Parker’s 1999 rape case. The advance reviews have been extremely positive, but the director’s reputation hangs over the film regardless.

These two prominent stories have caused me to ask a question I’ve asked many times before: is it possible to separate a work of art from the artist that produced it? Francis Scott Key was quite the racist, but does that mean the national anthem is tainted? If "The Birth of A Nation" proves to be as good as the early reviews suggest, is it any less great due to the accusations against the director?

It’s helpful to start with the great works of the past, and the way they’re viewed today. People often like to view their own time period as the peak of history, with every other period barbaric, perverse, or insane in comparison. If any of us were to be judged by the standards of a future we cannot predict, our attitudes would probably look painfully outdated, or even bigoted. To what degree is it fair to judge the people of the past according to the standards of today? Should we judge them by the standards of their own time, or is that being too forgiving of the prejudice and oppression of the past?

The further an artist is removed from our time period and context, the easier it is to overlook potentially disturbing facts about them. We still celebrate the great works of the ancient Greeks, and give little thought to their acceptance of slavery and pederasty. We readily accept that these people are products of their time, and that their concept of ethics differed considerably from ours. As their culture and time period gets closer to ours, artists are judged more harshly. Take last year’s campaign to change the design of the World Fantasy award, which at the time was a bust of author H.P. Lovecraft. While Lovecraft is primarily known as one of the most influential writers in horror fiction, his intense racism and cultural prejudice made some people uncomfortable with the award. While some people protesting the award seemed to be motivated by total disgust towards Lovecraft, writer Sofia Samatar weighed in with a more nuanced opinion:

“I am not telling anybody not to read Lovecraft. I teach Lovecraft! I actually insist that people read him and write about him! For grades! This is not about reading an author but about using that person’s image to represent an international award honoring the work of the imagination.”

Perhaps this is how we should deal with these sorts of controversies. We can acknowledge that an artist’s image has become irreparably bogged down by controversy, but remain appreciative of their accomplishments. In this sense, we can separate our appreciation of a work of art from some unsavory aspects of the artist as a person, without fully demonizing them. The documentary "Wagner & Me," about actor Stephen Fry’s (who is Jewish) love of Richard Wagner’s (a notable anti-Semite) music provides a great exploration into this issue that I don’t have time to get into here, and is definitely worth watching.

Coming to terms with more recent artists and their work can be more difficult. One of the more difficult cases comes from Roman Polanski, the legendary film director who was arrested for drugging and raping a young girl in 1977. He fled the United States before he could be sentenced, and has lived free in Europe ever since. When Polanski was arrested by Swiss authorities in 2009, over a hundred filmmakers signed a petition demanding his release. I have quite a bit of respect for many of these people and I’m sure they had a variety of reasons for signing, but I can’t help but be bothered by the petition.

Polanski was treated very gently by the criminal justice system in the first place, has since been sheltered by several European countries, and still retains the respect of his peers. Polanski’s success as an artist has repeatedly protected him from facing any severe penalties for his crimes. I wish that such a person made atrocious films, so I could simply disregard them. The problem is, I can’t help but respect Polanski’s talent, even as I’m disgusted by his actions. If I were to boycott his films, I would miss out on classics like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘Chinatown,’ and my comfortable moral high ground would yield nothing.

There really isn’t a simple answer to this dilemma, but if there’s any kind of closure, perhaps we can look to John Lennon. There’s been a lot of talk on the internet about Lennon being a hypocrite, preaching love and peace despite being abusive to the people in his life. While few traits are more aggravating, hypocrisy does not invalidate a meaningful, well-told message. As much as the details of his abusive tendencies are treated as a shocking revelation today, Lennon was fairly open about his failings. In a 1981 interview with "Playboy," he opened up about his past:

I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace. Everything's the opposite. But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.

Lennon didn’t bother with excuses, he simply admitted that what he had done was wrong, and that had grown as a person. We shouldn’t overlook the crimes and failings of artists, but judging someone purely based on their worst impulses isn’t entirely fair. Artists learn and change, just like anyone else, and even incredibly flawed people can accomplish great things.

Cover Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

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35 Major Life Facts According To Nick Miller

"All booze is good booze, unless it's weak booze."

Fact: If you watch "New Girl," you love Nick Miller.

You can't help it. He's an adorable, lovable mess of a man and you look forward to seeing him and his shenanigans each week. While living the infamous and incomparable life of Nick Miller, and obviously Julius Pepperwood— he has learned many valuable laws of the land. And, although Nick refuses to learn anything from anyone besides his mysterious, old Asian friend Tran, he does have a few lessons he'd like to teach us.

Here are 35 facts of life according to 'Nick Milla Nick Milla':

1. Drinking keeps you healthy.

"I'm not gonna get sick. No germ can live in a body that is 65% beer."

2. Dinosaurs never existed.

"I don't believe dinosaurs existed. I've seen the science. I don't believe it."

3. A paper bag is a bank.

"A bank is just a paper bag but with fancier walls."

4. Having sex is similar to delivering mail.

"I'm like a mailman, except instead of mail it's hot sex that I deliver."

5. Moonwalking is a foolproof way to get out of any awkward situation.

Jess (about Nick): "Now he won't even talk to me. I saw him this morning and he just panic moonwalked away from me. He does that sometimes."

6. Using a movie reference is also a great way.

Cece: "Come on, get up!"

Nick: "No, I don't dance. I'm from that town in "Footloose."

7. There's no reason to wash towels.

Nick: "I don’t wash the towel. The towel washes me. Who washes a towel?"

Schmidt: "You never wash your towel?"

Nick: "What am I gonna do? Wash the shower next? Wash a bar of soap?"

8. Exes are meant to be avoided at all costs (especially if/unless they're Caroline)

"I don't deal with exes, they're part of the past. You burn them swiftly and you give their ashes to Poseidon."

9. IKEA furniture is not as intimidating as it looks.

"I'm building you the dresser. I love this stuff. It's like high-stakes LEGOs."

10. You don't need forks if you have hands.

Jess: "That's gross. Get a fork, man."

Nick: "I got two perfectly good forks at the end of my arms!"

11. Sex has a very specific definition.

"It's not sex until you put the straw in the coconut."

12. Doors are frustrating.

"I will push if I want to push! Come on! I hate doors!"

13. All booze is good booze.

"Can I get an alcohol?"

14. ...unless it's weak booze.

"Schmidt, that is melon flavored liquor! That is 4-proof! That is safe to drink while you're pregnant!"

15. Writers are like pregnant women.

Jess: "You know what that sound is? It's the sound of an empty uterus."

Nick: "I can top that easily. I'm having a hard time with my zombie novel."

Jess: "Are you really comparing a zombie novel to my ability to create life?"

Nick: "I'm a writer, Jess. We create life."

16. All bets must be honored.

"There is something serious I have to tell you about the future. The name of my first-born child needs to be Reginald VelJohnson. I lost a bet to Schmidt."

17. Adele's voice is like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.

"Adele is amazing."

18. Beyoncé is extremely trustworthy.

"I'd trust Beyoncé with my life. We be all night."

19. Fish, on the other hand, are not.

“Absolutely not. You know I don’t trust fish! They breathe water. That's crazy!"

20. Bar mitzvahs are terrifying.

Schmidt: "It's a bar mitzvah!"

Nick: "I am NOT watching a kid get circumcised!"

21. ...so are blueberries.

Jess: "So far, Nick Miller's list of fears is sharks, tap water, real relationships..."

Nick: "And blueberries."

22. Take your time with difficult decisions. Don't be rash.

Jess: "You care about your burritos more than my children, Nick?"

Nick: "You're putting me in a tough spot!"

23. Getting into shape is not easy.

"I mean, I’m not doing squats or anything. I’m trying to eat less donuts."

24. We aren't meant to talk about our feelings.

"If we needed to talk about feelings, they would be called talkings."

25. We're all a little bit too hard on ourselves.

"The enemy is the inner me."

26. Freezing your underwear is a good way to cool off.

"Trust me, I'm wearing frozen underpants right now and I feel amazing. I'm gonna grab some old underpants and put a pair into the freezer for each of you."

27. Public nudity is normal.

"Everbody has been flashed countless times."

28. Alcohol is a cure-all.

"You treat an outside wound with rubbing alcohol. You treat an inside wound with drinking alcohol."

29. Horses are aliens.

"I believe horses are from outer-space."

30. Turtles should actually be called 'shell-beavers.'

Jess: "He calls turtles 'shell-beavers."

Nick: "Well, that's what they should be called."

31. Trench coats are hot.

"This coat has clean lines and pockets that don't quit, and it has room for your hips. And, when I wear it, I feel hot to trot!"

32. Sparkles are too.

"Now, my final bit of advice, and don't get sensitive on this, but you've got to change that top it's terrible and you've got to throw sparkles on. Sparkles are in. SPARKLES ARE IN."

33. Introspection can lead to a deeper knowing of oneself.

"I'm not convinced I know how to read. I've just memorized a lot of words."

34. It's important to live in the moment.

"I know this isn't gonna end well but the middle part is gonna be awesome."

35. Drinking makes you cooler.

Jess: "Drinking to be cool, Nick? That's not a real thing."

Nick: "That's the only thing in the world I know to be true."

Cover Image Credit: Hollywood Reporter

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6 Ways To Decorate Your Dorm Or Apartment For The Holidays On A Budget

Baby, it's cold outside.


As the holiday season approaches, it's easy to get sucked into the Pinterest vortex of holiday decorations, party favors, clothes and more. Unfortunately most of us college students don't have the money for all of this cute stuff so we have to watch for bargains or DIY it. Here are my six recommendations to get into the Christmas spirit:

1. String some festive lights in your room


I have Christmas lights hanging up in my room all year around because I love them so much, but you can find some cheap lights at Target or Walmart. You can get snowflake lights, lantern lights, normal Christmas lights or anything else that you want. Use command strips to hang them up, and soon it'll feel more relaxing and you'll be more in the Christmas spirit.

2. Use window clings


I love window clings! You stick them on from the inside (obviously) and then you can see them from the outside. I have different window clings for almost every season. If you have some old window clings that don't stick anymore, just put a little bit of water on the back of them and they'll stick like they're brand new.

3. Raid the Target dollar section


So, this depends on where you live and how often your local Target changes out their dollar section, but you would be surprised in what you could find there!

4. Hunt around for a mini tree (real or fake)


I used to have a fake little green Christmas tree with cute little ornaments but sadly I don't have it anymore nor do I have room for it anywhere in my room. A little Christmas tree in your room or on your dresser just makes everything a little bit more festive. I used to have my little Christmas tree on my dresser until my cat found it. Yeah, you know where that is going.

5. Make easy DIY decorations


Pinterest is the best website for this, well actually they're known for DIY projects. Why spend $50 on one Christmas decoration when you can do a DIY and spend only $20?

6. Use Winter themed candles


I love Bath and Body works because they always have the best sales and you can usually get something half priced or sometimes something for free! Plus everything smells so good in that store and it's so tempting to buy everything but if you come into the store with a goal, you'll leave with your goal.

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