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any of us were to be judged by the standards of a future we cannot predict, our attitudes would probably look painfully outdated, or even bigoted.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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A Playlist From The iPod Of A Middle Schooler In 2007

I will always love you, Akon.

Something happened today that I never thought in a million years would happen. I opened up a drawer at my parents' house and I found my pink, 4th generation iPod Nano. I had not seen this thing since I graduated from the 8th grade, and the headphones have not left my ears since I pulled it out of that drawer. It's funny to me how music can take you back. You listen to a song and suddenly you're wearing a pair of gauchos, sitting on the bleachers in a gym somewhere, avoiding boys at all cost at your seventh grade dance. So if you were around in 2007 and feel like reminiscing, here is a playlist straight from the iPod of a middle schooler in 2007.

1. "Bad Day" — Daniel Powter

2. "Hips Don't Lie" — Shakira ft. Wyclef Jean

SEE ALSO: 23 Iconic Disney Channel Moments We Will Never Forget

3. "Unwritten" — Natasha Bedingfield

4. "Run It!" — Chris Brown

5. "Girlfriend" — Avril Lavigne

6. "Move Along" — All-American Rejects

7. "Fergalicious" — Fergie

8. "Every Time We Touch" — Cascada

9. "Ms. New Booty" — Bubba Sparxxx

10. "Chain Hang Low" — Jibbs

11. "Smack That" — Akon ft. Eminem

12. "Waiting on the World to Change" — John Mayer

13. "Stupid Girls" — Pink

14. "Irreplaceable" — Beyonce

15. "Umbrella" — Rihanna ft. Jay-Z

16. "Don't Matter" — Akon

17. "Party Like A Rockstar" — Shop Boyz

18. "This Is Why I'm Hot" — Mims

19. "Beautiful Girls" — Sean Kingston

20. "Bartender" — T-Pain

21. "Pop, Lock and Drop It" — Huey

22. "Wait For You" — Elliot Yamin

23. "Lips Of An Angel" — Hinder

24. "Face Down" — Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

25. "Chasing Cars" — Snow Patrol

26. "No One" — Alicia Keys

27. "Cyclone" — Baby Bash ft. T-Pain

28. "Crank That" — Soulja Boy

29. "Kiss Kiss" — Chris Brown

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30. "Lip Gloss" — Lil' Mama

Cover Image Credit: http://nd01.jxs.cz/368/634/c6501cc7f9_18850334_o2.jpg

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Warcraft 3: Reforged - A legend returns

One of the top 100 games of the century makes a comeback in an epic way.


17 years ago, the legion invaded the realm of Azeroth, forcing the different races of Humans, Orcs, Night elves, and Undead to make the most unlikely of alliances. There were those who fought for the light while the others wished to banish it. Night and day, the furnaces of Lordaeron burnt bright as the loyal dwarves of Khaz Modan hammer away the swords and shields that would aid the fight ahead.

17 years ago, the young orc warchief Thrall foresaw the fate of his people as meteors of green flames crash upon his lands. He saw the upcoming demise of his clanand ordered a mass evacuation towards a new continent where they shall be safe for generations to come. 17 years ago, the night elves felt a corruption within the Tree of Life, causing them to split into opposing factions: one fought in the name of the Goddess, while the other fought in the name of personal hatred. 17 years ago, a legion of undead came upon the shores of Lordaeron, plaguing the land and defiling the life force of the realm. That was the story of Warcraft, one that spanned continents and races only to join them together for a crucial battle of their history.

Warcraft 3: Reforged - Cinematic Trailer Youtube

Warcraft was a monument to an entire gaming generation, ranked 2nd best game of all time by German games magazine "GameStar." Its fate, however, was ultimately sealed as computing technology became better and overshadowed the old giant. Plus, with the rise of gaming consoles and handheld gaming devices, PC gaming lost its appeal slowly, and games like Starcraft or Warcraft eventually faded into oblivion.

But over on the horizon, Blizzard Entertainment came to the rescue. Following the success of their previous release of Starcraft: Remastered, they decided to come forth with their next great project: remastering Warcraft 3.

Using a new and revamped engine built over the foundations of the old one, they have rebuilt the world we once loved. Adding to that are new, high definition voices and sound effects that they recorded just for this old game. For the blurry characters of old, the team decided to upscale and remodel all present units to give them the 2019 high-def treatment they deserved. For the old user interface (UI), the development team settled on one that resembled the "Starcraft: Remastered" interface, offering more room for players to look at the gorgeous 4K character models. Also, to fit the new continuity from World of Warcraft, Blizzard opted to alter the story by a small margin, showing promising changes to the revived game.

Warcraft 3 – Original vs. Reforged Trailer Graphics Comparison Youtube

However, not everyone was hyped when the game was announced. Many gamers expressed disappointment at Blizzard's move of remastering old games instead of developing new ones. Many, feeling uncomfortable at the company's decision, took to the internet and into forums. Some fans expressed concerns over Blizzard's decision to retcon a game they hold dear Some are unhappy with the graphics not being consistent with characters: unit models look too detailed while buildings look cartoonish.

Despite all this, the general population loved the announcement at Blizzcon. As the game slowly reaches its release date of December 31, 2019, the hype can only go up from here. For those of us who can't hold their excitement, here's a video of the crowd's insane reaction to the announcement:

Warcraft 3 Crowd Reaction Youtube

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