Can You Separate the Art from the Artist?


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Does the artist taint the art?

In recent years, many celebrities have been “canceled” for transgressions such as sexual assault allegations and generally offensive dialogue. When an artist is considered canceled or is controversial, it can be hard to consume their art without also consuming their biases. 

One example is the author JK Rowling, who has recently been outed as a transphobe. Many people have also noted racist undertones in the Harry Potter series. Her character Cho Chang has been criticized for not only being the singular Asian character in the series but also a stereotype, as are the Patil twins. Is it possible to continue reading the series knowing that the author’s own biases may have influenced them? 

There are also many different musical artists who have multiple sexual assault allegations against them. Artists like Call Me Karizma, who has been accused of sexual assault, confirmed to have sent inappropriate pictures to minors and engaged in inappropriate conversations with them. Even when it doesn’t directly affect the art, can you morally consume that music knowing the creator is a sexual predator? The question becomes tougher knowing that they are directly benefiting and making money every time you stream their music. 

Even with deceased artists, is a separation between their art and their misconduct permissible? Micheal Jackson is immensely famous, but he’s almost equally infamous for being a sexual predator. Knowing the acts he committed during his life changes how you hear his music and how you interpret the lyrics. Consuming Micheal Jackson’s art is no longer directly contributing to him, but that doesn’t necessarily make continuing to listen to his music morally correct. It is easier to ignore the biases of your favorite artists than to acknowledge them and potentially stop supporting and listening to the music that you love. This warrants the question: at what point do you stop consuming art?

No one is perfect, so where do you draw the line? Multiple sexual assault allegations or membership of a white supremacist group may be a clear cause to stop supporting an artist. However, if you happened to find out your favorite artist had made homophobic comments in the past would you still be able to support them? What if they had made several apologies? Celebrities seem to be held to a higher standard than the regular public, simply because they are constantly observed. So how do you measure the severity of their actions, and when do you stop supporting them? 

Because of the reach of celebrities, their actions have a greater impact than regular people’s. Continuing to support them sets a precedent, it makes other celebrities, and regular people think those actions are acceptable. Their position in the public view causes their actions to hold a lot of power, so it is important to hold them accountable.

More often than not you should leave it up to the impacted party whether or not to forgive an artist. Continuing to support an artist after the harmed community or individual has deemed their actions unforgivable is not only ignoring their wishes but also allowing others to believe they can commit the same transgressions without any consequences. 

Even when an artist’s apology is accepted, if you decide to continue to consume the art of harmful people, it’s important to pay attention to the intentions of the art. Take everything they say and create with a grain of salt, and try to avoid unintentionally absorbing their biases, or further harming the communities and people hurt by the artists.