Why We Cannot Separate the Artist from Their Art

In the past few weeks (and months and years, but especially these past few weeks) I’m sure we have all experienced something along the line of getting a text from a friend, or reading through Tweets, or getting a notification from your preferred news source about some male celebrity being accused of committing some transgression (typically sexual). I’m talking Kevin Spacey, Johnny Depp, Louis C.K., Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Andrew Kreisberg, Brett Ratner, Andy Dick, etc. And I’m sure many of these cases made you groan and say, “Really? Him?? Ugh,” because you love his work, or always thought he seemed like a great guy, or even identified with him.

I’m also sure this wasn’t the first time you’ve experienced this! I mean, hell, corruption and sexual assault in show business has been around since its creation. But recently these stories have become more and more frequent. So what do you do when one of the accused (or convicted, or confirmed) is an idol of yours? Someone whose work you adore? What do you do when they are coming out with more work, and soon? Do you consume that art? Do you continue to support their work because, after all, you really like what they’ve previously created!

Many people would argue, absolutely! Go see Louis C.K.’s new film; check out whatever Kevin Spacey ends up doing next; rally for Johnny Depp to be featured in Fantastic Beasts 2. They will argue that what you’re supporting is their art, not the artist! You can despise someone as a human being and still respect and appreciate what they’ve created and what they will create!

Truthfully, I wish this is what I believed. I wish that I could shamelessly listen to The Beatles, or watch Johnny Depp’s films, or read F. Scott Fitzgerald. But I don’t believe that we can separate an artist from their art, ever. No matter how you spin it, or how you think about it, the artist is the person who created that art that we love and admire. All of these men went from creating their art to doing something horrible and back to doing their art - sometimes they did both at once.

Art is intrinsically connected to the person who created it. Art is special in this way - not a lot of professions or hobbies or activities are so directly connected to the person doing it. But creation is a reflection of the creator - this is true at the most basic of levels. Nature vs nurture aside, there is some part of your mother and your father within you, even if only at a DNA level. You cannot ignore your parents when you think about your own existence. In this way, we can’t ignore the artist as we consume their art because, when it comes down to it, there is a part of the artist in their art.

And I know this is not something that is easy, or something that anyone is perfect at. I still watch Johnny Depp movies; I can still appreciate every artist who has done something horrible for the fact that they are good artists. But that doesn’t mean any of that appreciation isn’t tainted. Every sentence that includes praising of their work should include condemnation of their deeds. If we do not openly, consistently, and constantly state our disgust and complete rejection, it tells the artist and other potential artists that it is okay to do what they did; that their actions will not impact how people view or consume their art, and that is where their power comes from.