Taking the Art Out of Artist

By Amanda King

Voices Editor

In this glorious age of cancel culture, any step out of line can spell out the end of a career — whether it be the slightest slip of the tongue or a salacious scandal.

Words, in particular, seem to be the most specific incrimination insofar as the court of public opinion is concerned. Oh, you tweeted an offensive joke fifteen years ago and didn’t think anyone would see it?

Rest assured, we did. And now, just patiently await your social crucifixion.

Justice experts on Twitter will end you within a couple hours on the trending page.

Thus is the virtual world we live in sins are timeless and unforgivable and he who has sinned shall, in fact, throw the first tweet.

So really, it’s unsurprising that the controversial question of whether or not you should enjoy art without approving of an artist’s opinions is constantly ruminating even if you’re unaware of it.

Should you appreciate a song, a movie, a book or anything if the person who created it made some questionable choices or statements in the past?

Recently, as any fellow Twihard would know, Stephenie Meyer released a new book in the multimillion dollar “Twilight” franchise.

Quite immediately, reports surfaced from publications such as “PopCulture News” and “Showbiz Cheat Sheet” about why fans should boycott the novel.

As per Catherine Hardwicke, director of the first film in the book-to-movie adaptation of the series, Meyer put up significant roadblocks in casting more diverse actors for the main characters.

It didn’t seem to matter too many fans that Hardwicke further explained how Meyer resisted because she’d “really seen them in her mind,” and “knew who each character was representing in a way, a personal friend or a relative or something.”

As several fans declared, Meyer was just “racist,” and demanded people not give her any more money.

Should we boycott her books? And for another literary example, take a look at J.K. Rowling. The author — made a household name because of her Harry Potter empire graced headlines earlier this year when she made a remark that many thought transphobic. Should we boycott the fantastical world of Harry Potter?

Presumably not, because fan sites like MuggleNet still run smoothly — but have removed all references to the author.

Even an essay explaining her statement wasn’t enough to save Rowling from the hammer of “cancellation,” and, as “Deseret News” points out, she will remain under fire until she backs down from her own opinion.

Moving on to movies, how about Tom Cruise? The actor consistently appears negatively in the media for his devotion to the Church of Scientology.

While controversial in its own right, Scientology is still an established religion — which to many, is despicable to support. Should we boycott his films?

What about music? Kanye West constantly makes sacrilegious remarks and refers to himself as “Yeezus,” famously said “slavery was a choice” and made a music video featuring several celebrities photo-shopped in the nude. Should we boycott his music?

Is it right to support any of these celebrities at all?

Where is the line drawn? Is there even a line to draw?

When is it okay and when is it reprehensible to enjoy art from a controversial artist?

There is only one answer to all of these questions: It is entirely up to you.

You like what you like. You can enjoy any kind of art that you want to, regardless of whether you support the person who created it or not.

You are under no obligation to pretend that you don’t like something, or force yourself not to enjoy something that you once did, just because the person who created it establishes an opinion that you or other people don’t agree with and faceless usernames online tell you to.

Admittedly, it is true that by continuing to enjoy someone’s art, you do, in some regards, still support them. Your money does, in part, go to them.

This is enough for most people — or at least anonymous Twitter users — to cut the cord.

But truthfully, you probably have plenty of friends or relatives with different opinions than you. And you still support them, no?

In fact, let’s take a walk down memory lane and think about history — history is littered with monarchs, authors and philosophers whose viewpoints would be horrifying by our standards now.

How many people who shaped America held controversial opinions? As per “USA Today,” 41 out of 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence were slave owners.

Should we just burn the document? Stop studying George Washington in history class?

The truth is, we, as a society, are solely responsible for constructing this ideal of a “celebrity.”

Celebrities are just as human as anyone else; they have no supreme authority or supernatural ability that forces the general public to put them on a pedestal and swallow everything they say. We do that on our own.

Sure, celebrities might sometimes need to be held to a higher standard insofar as the age of their audiences are concerned but they are just as righteous in expressing themselves and their own opinions as the rest of us.

There is no reason that you should be ashamed of liking something simply because you or other people don’t like the person who created it.

If you, or anyone else, can’t separate art from artist, or can’t escape seeing references to an artist’s opinions within the art, then it is your prerogative to support it or not.

And supporting an art, doesn’t inherently mean you support the artist as well. It is quite possible to enjoy art, but disagree with the artist.

And no one has the right to shame you for doing so.

Other people have the same right to avoid it as you have to enjoy it.

And in fact insofar as tolerance for other opinions is concerned I heartily encourage you to give art y controversial artists a try.

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