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Jocelyn Hsu / Spoon

Can We Separate the Art from the Artist?

Trigger warning: sexual violence, transphobia

Cancel culture has been rampant these past few months. Either people have been bored during quarantine and crave the drama or people just have had more time to uncover past mistakes of celebrities. Either way, many mistakes or “problematic” behavior of celebrities have been revealed across social media. What is crazy though is that certain celebrities are dethroned in their celebrity status, while others are allowed to continue producing content. So who is to say whether problematic celebrities should completely lose their platforms, or whether we can still enjoy the content of these problematic celebrities?


The most prominent examples of problematic celebrities are 6ix9ine and J.K. Rowling. Both figures have been canceled on social media for extremely hurtful things. 6ix9ine admitted to raping a 12-year-old girl and J.K. Rowling has shared transphobic rhetoric. Yet, both individuals are still producing content and making money from their art. 

For J.K. Rowling specifically, many people hold the Harry Potter series close to their hearts due to their childhood connections to the material. Across social media, many people have condemned Rowling while still loving Harry Potter and making fan content of the series. On the other hand, transgender fans of the series no longer feel a part of the community due to her comments. They aren’t afforded the same privileges as cisgender fans and often feel like they can no longer support any Harry Potter content. In this case, some people are able to separate the art from the artist in order to maintain a connection with books that are special to them. However, it’s obvious that not everyone has that option given that they are the ones ostracized by the author.

When it comes to 6ix9ine, many influencers are making money to create content with the rapper in spite of the rape charges. In fact, there are many celebrities who currently face sexual assault and grooming allegations that still hold their massive platforms such as Shane Dawson and Tony Lopez. Many people choose to remain fans of these creators simply because they are attracted to the celebrity or just like their content. The content has no special connection to them, so they shouldn’t feel conflicted when deciding whether to support the artist or not. Nevertheless, they remain fans despite the horrible actions of the celebrity. 

Unsplash/ NorWood Themes

Why are certain celebrities continuing to make money from their content even when they do some seriously bad things, while others who have made mistakes and shown they’ve learned from them are still canceled?

In today’s world, when we are all so connected to each other with information and education at our fingertips, it’s hard to say we can separate the art from the artist. Every celebrity has the chance to educate themselves about the world around them. When they maintain their hurtful stances on subjects that can ostracize fans they don’t deserve to have their platforms. Also, when consuming their content still means putting money in their pockets it’s hard to say you can truly ever separate the art from the artist. 

This is a hard thing to internalize because many of us hold certain songs or books or movies close in our hearts. They have helped us through difficult times or have helped us connect to our childhoods, but we can’t continue to give massive platforms to people who spread hate and use their power to hurt others. It’s always up to the fans to decide whether they want to continue to support an artist. I am in no way telling you to throw out your Harry Potter books or delete songs from your playlists, but rather to be more critical of the content you consume.

I truly hope you consider what it means to support a problematic artist and whether it is truly possible to separate the art from the artist.

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MyChalia is a freshman majoring in English Education in the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University. She has a passion for education and social justice, as well as creating a loving and accepting community for all regardless of race, gender, sexual identity, etc. MyChalia also has a passion for reading and creative writing. She can be found lost in the isles of a Barnes n' Noble or chilling in a random Boston cafe drinking iced coffee.
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