Should we separate the art from the artist?

separate the art from the artist

In the aftermath of President Trump’s abhorrent Muslim Ban, #DeleteUber trended on Twitter because of Uber’s attempt to profit from the protests at JFK airport. Thousands upon thousands of people expressed their disgust at the taxi company, and vowed never to use them again.

A few days later, Uber’s CEO stepped down from the Trump advisory council, proving once again that boycotting things does work.

At the same time, the internet went mad over the trailer for the new Beauty and the Beast live action remake, despite the fact that Disney’s CEO is also a member of Trump’s advisory committee. Apparently, people only want to boycott companies with an association with Trump when it suits them.

The relationship between art and the artist is an issue that comes up time and time again. Every time Woody Allen gets nominated for an award, Twitter reminds people that he is a sexual abuser. When it was announced that Johnny Depp – a known perpetrator of domestic abuse – had received a prominent role in the Fantastic Beasts films, thousands of people vowed never to go see the movie in the cinema.

And yet, these films still prosper. These abusers still have careers. Enough people are happy to ignore their crimes for the sake of art. They are willing to separate the art from the artist.

But should we really separate the art from the artist? Should we watch films made by rapists and abusers because we like the films? Should we listen to music by men who beat their partners because it’s good music?

Personally, I think not.

We live in an age where everyone and their Nan is a creator. Anyone with a smartphone can create films. Any teenager with a laptop can write books. Any girl with a ukulele and a microphone can create music.

And that’s wonderful! That means that there is more art to consume than ever before. And – more importantly – there are more artists to support financially than ever before.

We don’t have to go see the latest Disney film if we disagree with Bob Iger’s political stance, because guess what? Someone somewhere without a dodgy political viewpoint has created a film that’s just as good – if not better! We don’t have to go see Chris Brown in concert, because there are plenty of amazing rappers around who haven’t beaten up their partners.

This is, of course, easier said than done. When it comes to franchises such as Disney and Harry Potter, it’s hard to boycott their films, because they remind us so much of our childhood. We don’t want to boycott Disney, because Disney was once a source of joy. We don’t want to boycott Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, because Harry Potter saw us through our darkest days.

There is, however, a difference between consuming art created by or starring a problematic artist, and financially consuming it – as many of my wonderful followers on Twitter pointed out:

I think Ellen has an excellent point here. It is possible to consume problematic art without financially supporting it. You can listen to music by shitty musicians for free on YouTube. You can stream Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on your laptop (although it the law enforcement officers ask, you didn’t hear that from me).

Some might argue that this defeats the point of boycotting something, but in a world where money shouts louder than anything else, I don’t think it does. Refusing to give your money to problematic corporations and artists – even if you later go onto to consume the thing they create – sends a clear message.

#DeleteUber has proven that.

What do you think? Should we separate the art from the artist? Is it okay to watch films made by abusive directors? Let me know in the comments!

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4 Comments

  1. February 15, 2017 / 02:36

    Hey Liv I’m with you all the way on this issue. I don’t think you can seperate art from the artist and the sooner people admit this, and stop using smoke and mirrors as a method of self denial the better it will be for both art and humanity.

    Best Wishes
    Gayle X

    • Liv Woodward
      February 18, 2017 / 13:31

      I agree. I think people want desperately to separate the art from the artist because it’s easier than changing your media consumption, but really if we keep financially supporting abusive creators, there’ll be no impetus for people to change.

  2. March 25, 2017 / 08:14

    Love this and I AGREE too much.
    I think this is much easier to do with music (it feels like I’ve been avoiding Chris Brown for most of my life) than film as you can boycott an album but at what point would you boycott a Depp film: if he was the lead? A walk on role? Anywhere in the credits? It can become bit of a grey area, but (as a philosophy student lol) I’m all for plastering your morals everywhere so I support the principle.

    I was also thinking about art which promotes racism or homophobia etc, but perhaps the creators haven’t been tried for sexual assault etc yet the end result is equally toxic- ‘comedies’ like 40 Year Old Virgin, Anchorman, Hall Pass all have a hypermasculine tone, use ‘gay’ as an insult and make endless jokes about how rather boring or hot women are throughout (because we only have two sides remember!!) and so I think it’s just as important to judge films by their content as it is their creators otherwise you could let films slip through the net and accidentally support them because you’re like ‘oh that director wouldn’t be oppressive he has a good track record’ and then suddenly you’re paying £27 in the cinema to see that trash.

    • Liv Woodward
      March 29, 2017 / 09:52

      You’re so right that you should judge a film by a content as well as its actors. A film can be full of good people and still be problematic as fuck. I think we all just need to think more about the media we consume. These days there is so much independent media created by amazing, diverse people that we can support amazing creator and creations without missing out.

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