The art, the artist and separation anxiety

Kellie Nock

It’s one of those questions that comes up every time a musician, actor or director does or says something that is clearly wrong: Can you separate the art from the artist? It happened a lot back in late 2017, when the #MeToo movement really began to gain some traction, and male celebrities left and right were being ousted as abusers. A lot of folks began to question whether or not they could still enjoy those celebrities’ works. 

For instance, is it OK to go back and enjoy all of “House of Cards” knowing that Kevin Spacey is an abuser? 

Well, maybe for some people it is easy to ignore the “personal life” of a celebrity. I’m hesitant to call it a personal life without quotation marks. As a public figure, most aspects of your life are anything but personal. And it’s not just an odd hobby or trying to get some private time away from paparazzi. It’s sexual abuse of a minor. 

Spacey is a bit of an extreme example here, but, like I said, this was happening a lot in late 2017. “Brand New” frontman Jesse Lacey had been ousted as well, taking advantage of underage fans online. So how does a longtime fan of the band reckon with the reality that their lead singer is an abuser? Do they stop listening to the band?

Going to a more recent and far less extreme example, are you able to listen to an artist who you disagree with politically? Maybe in other scenarios, you could, but with a president as divisive as Donald Trump and a character as unpredictable and troll-ish as Kanye West, how do you decide whether you should still support an artist? 

It’s a moral question that everyone has to ask themselves individually. But consider the support you give when you decide to put everything aside and enjoy the art for itself, without taking the artist into consideration.

Whether you admit to it, you are, in some way, shape or form, supporting the artist who may have done something or said something that is either illegal or that you disagree with.

Streaming numbers on Spotify, plays on YouTube; it all contributes to the support you give. Maybe it’s easy for some to ignore it, to turn a blind eye and set their priorities, but for some it is a struggle to choose. The least you can do, before making a decision, is to weigh the pros and cons of consuming art you enjoy while continuing to give a platform to someone whose values and beliefs directly clash with yours.

Kellie Nock is a columnist. Contact her at [email protected].