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Is it OK to Enjoy Music and Films by Questionable People?

American Beauty won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2000. The film follows Lester Burnham who is having a mid-life crisis and becomes obsessed with his daughter’s best friend. The film explores the heavy themes of love, materialism and death. This is my favorite movie of all time and the lead character just so happens to be played by actor Kevin Spacey.

Many of you are probably aware of the allegations against Spacey. Spacey has had over 30 accusers come forward, most notably Anthony Rapp, who all said Spacey sexually assaulted them. Rapp said he was assaulted at the age of 14 when Spacey was 26. Spacey said he did not recall the abuse towards Rapp. Although it was already a sensitive situation full of drama, Spacey also came out as gay for the first time publicly. His reveal unintentionally perpetuated the historical stereotype linking homosexuality to pedophilia.  

These allegations shocked and appalled me, as they did for most of the world. It also left me with an internal moral debate. How am I supposed to watch my favorite movie knowing what I know now? And how am I supposed to watch other movies or enjoy music by other people who have done awful things?

Chris Brown

Almost everyone has seen the famous photographs of Rhianna’s beaten and bruised face from her boyfriend at the time - Chris Brown. Brown pleaded guilty of felonious assault in 2009, but only a year later he was singing at the BET awards. He has also had countless hits on the Billboard charts since then. Though he was placed on probation and had mandated community service he seemingly got off the hook without much damage to his career considering the seriousness of his crime.

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp is undeniably an amazing actor and he stars in many of my personal favorite films such as Edward Scissorhands and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. The roles he played in these films, along with some of his more well-known roles like Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean, Willy Wonka in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory and Glen Lantz in A Nightmare on Elm Street gained his recognition as such a versatile actor.

In May of 2016, Johnny Depp’s wife, Amber Heard, claimed that Depp physically abused her and had a temporary restraining order placed against him. While many people did not initially believe in Heard’s allegations, more recent news regarding Depp may make them reconsider. In 2017, Depp was accused of verbally and physically assaulting the location manager on the set of City of Lies and this year he allegedly attacked a crew member on the set of his new movie, Labyrinth.

As these are all just allegations, we may feel justified in continuing to support Depp by watching his new films but what do we do when a favorite actor or musician has actually been charged with a crime?

Harvey Weinstein

Rumors of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein had been circulating around Hollywood for years. It wasn’t until 2017 though when the New York Times reported of allegations that Weinstein had been sexually harassing women with the promise of future success for the past three decades. He was fired days later from the production studio he co-founded. Allegations, including accusations of rape, continued pouring in from A-list celebrities. Weinstein was indicted by a grand jury this year for first-degree rape, third-degree rape and for the first-degree criminal sexual act. He has six charges against him in total and could potentially face life in prison.

It is refreshing to see Weinstein not only being held accountable for his crimes in court but to see repercussions in his career. Too often celebrities face criminal charges for violent crimes but they are able to continue on with their careers with little outcry from the public.

Louis C.K.

One of my favorite things to watch is stand-up comedy and Louis C.K. was one of my favorite comedians. His dry self-deprecating humor led to him selling out eight shows in Madison Square Garden and to the development of an Emmy-winning TV series.

Then women began to come forward in 2017 accusing C.K. of sexual misconduct. Women whom he worked with accused him of stripping naked and masturbating in front of them and C.K. publicly admitted all the accusations were true. He had then seemingly disappeared from the public sphere until just this month when he made a surprise appearance at the Comedy Cellar in New York where he received a standing ovation.

So Where This Leaves Us…

Some would argue it is immoral to show any support for these individuals. Others argue that the crimes or allegations of celebrities are separate from their career and thus the public should continue to enjoy their works as they please. I would take a stance somewhere in the middle of these two.

While I still can objectively say that all of these men are talented in their respective fields, I also recognize there are countless other talented individuals in the same industries. Individuals which haven’t sexually or physically assaulted anyone. So instead of reluctantly supporting questionable people’s music or movies because they are still funny or entertaining, we can put our support behind people who truly deserve it.

I’m not saying you can’t ever watch a movie or listen to music produced by anyone who has ever had an allegation thrown at them because I don’t think it is realistic to stop liking your favorite form of entertainment due to the actor or musician making bad choices. However, the real issue arises when the ongoing support of these individuals continues after proof of their poor actions. At that point, you are supporting the abusers after the fact.

While you may not condone or even find these individuals actions to be repulsive, supporting them with your dollar will indirectly tell their victims that abuse isn’t a big deal. You are communicating that those men’s careers should continue to flourish even when the victims have irrevocably been hurt emotionally and physically.