Can We Separate Art from the Artist?

When I was 6-years-old, I really wanted the movie “A Bug’s Life." Colorful cartoon bugs and puns? I was sold. Unfortunately, like many parents in the late 90s, my parents accidentally picked up the animated Woody Allen movie, “Antz."

They're very similar, tbh. 

Despite the mix up, I loved it. I played that movie on repeat. I was certainly way too young to appreciate the snappy dialogue or the impressive animation, but there was something about that I just couldn’t get enough of. It wasn’t until I was much older that I really connected to the message of destroying a social order that puts you at the bottom. The neurotic, lovable, dorky protagonist of Z spoke to me as a child.

When Z said, “the whole system makes me feel insignificant," it reminded me of every single system that has made decisions for me my whole life.  

It reminded me of the military that told me where I was going to live every two years. It reminded me of the bullies who deemed me “dorky” and bullied me for years. It reminded me of every single unfair thing in my life that I had no control over. It made me believe I could change things.

Now fast forward years later, I’m 15-years-old, and I just heard about Woody Allen marrying his own adopted daughter from a friend of mine. Yikes was an understatement. I was downright horrified. It disgusted me that a man whose movie played such a large influence in my life could do something so awful.

Years have I passed and I haven’t dusted off my old “Antz” videotape any time soon. Now with the entire nation being shook to its core with the Harvey Weinstein controversy, we must ask ourselves, should we separate art from the artist, especially in regards to sexual misconduct?

We’ve seen this time and time again. Casey Affleck, R. Kelly, the list goes on and on. It seems that every year, like clockwork, someone is accused or revealed to be a pervert and we must throw out every single piece of work that the artist has ever touched. Sometimes it can feel tiring and we try to reason with ourselves.

“Well, just because the person is bad doesn’t mean their art must be burned.”

“No one is perfect. Even MLK cheated on his wife.

These thoughts are incredibly tempting to give into, but let me tell you why I think this is a flawed way of thinking. In my opinion, buying into their work only reiterates that the way that we treat women is excusable enough to overlook all the bullsh*t that they’ve done in the past. It let’s them know that they’re treatment of women comes in second place to the work they produce.

It reinforces a system that makes us all feel insignificant.  

A woman's sexual autonomy does not take a backseat to the man's ability to create. Stating this does not solidify men as the only perpetrators of sexual assault, and women as the only victims of it. It only brings attention to the large role that misogyny plays in overlooking men's sexual misdeeds for the sake of "art appreciation." We never let Kim Kardashian West forget her sex tape, yet Rob Lowe's containing a minor goes unspoken about.

A man's sexual crimes does not automatically make the art null and void, but our choice to partake in said art is of our own volition. 

Roman Polanski being a piece of sh*t who raped a 13-year-old girl, does not negate the fact that he pioneered influential directing techniques. 

But you won't catch me watching a Polanski film. Why? 

Because he raped a 13-year-old girl. 

We, as consumers, need to think harder at the message we send when we buy these peoples' works. Ironically, it may be Allen's film who instilled this virtue in me as a child. This social order is not carved of concrete, but it will take hard work to change. 

But hopefully with time, women's sexual safety can be seen as a little less insignificant. 

Photo credits: cover, 1, 2