Do you (or should you) separate the artist from the art?

I’ve been thinking about this recently after conversing with some bloggers on WordPress. Without going into too much detail, I had some dialogue where I mentioned how some creators have done bad things that have been documented. Two different bloggers in separate conversations told me that they separate the art from the artist like how the creation is independent of the actions of the creator(s). They were both civil in their discussions even when we talked about heavy things.

For me, I can’t separate the two.

Whenever I hear something true about a creator or company doing bad things, I distance myself from the creation. The biggest one for me in recent memory was Rurouni Kenshin. That is an anime series that I enjoyed when I was in middle school and high school. I thought the action was great, had strong dramatic elements, and the Trust & Betrayal OVA was one of the best prequels ever. Just a couple of years ago, it call came crashing down when creator Nobuhiro Watsuki was caught with child porn in his house. Not only that, but all he had to do was pay a 200k Yen fine (roughly $1848 USD in current currency terms), got no jail time, and his Kenshin: Hokkaido Arc got to continue after being on hiatus with the news about this crime. When I heard about Watsuki being found dead to rights for his unspeakable crimes, I washed my hands of anything involving that manga-ka monster. I could name other examples of things I stopped liking because of controversies proven true, and you know what some of them are.

On the flipside, I wonder how selective people are when they talk about separating art from the artists. If someone wants to stop listening to Chris Brown because of him beating Rihanna, would they have to stop listening to anything from Phil Spector who straight up MURDERED his girlfriend? Trust me, you won’t be looking at “Let It Be” by The Beatles the same again (he engineered that song). If people don’t want anything to do with Bill Cosby, then would they have to stop watching anything from Roman Polanski who was found guilty (yet fled the country) of drugging and raping a minor? Also, you know he’s still making movies and won awards long after the fact? That’s what I can’t stand about so many people in their hypocrisy.

For me, I can’t stand it when people give others a free pass when they do horrible things that others wouldn’t get away with it. Not going to lie, it does hurt when I have to stop liking something because of their actions or if there are unfortunate implications that I don’t want to subject myself to. Someone’s creation whether it’s music, art, film, TV, etc. is connected to the creators in my humble opinion.

Now let’s talk. Do you separate the art from the artists? Why or why not?

41 thoughts on “Do you (or should you) separate the artist from the art?

  1. This is one of my favourite topics of discussion because its such an inherently personal thing. Simply put there’s no right or wrong answer for any of these things because its more or less a case-by-case basis. My fiance was a huge fan of the band ‘Lostprophets’ until it was uncovered what their lead singer was into (spoiler alert, it’s some of the worst shit you’ll ever read if you choose to Google it). For me personally, I can only separate art and artist if the artist isn’t present in the art. By which I mean if it’s an actor or singer who’s committed a greivous crime I’ll find it hard to enjoy that work again. But if the offender is behind the scenes in a writing or directing capacity it’s easier to ignore their presence.

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    • It’s great that you enjoy these topics. I know about Lostprophets and I know what the lead singer did. Trust me, it infuriated and saddened me hearing what he was caught doing for years prior to his arrest. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say that they do that with actors or singers let alone people who are in the spotlight. It’s certainly easier since there’s a face one can see. What if it’s a writer or director that you do know about?

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      • That’s very good at least for the things you like that you know of. It’s happened to me besides Rurouni Kenshin. If you know anything about my taste in movies, there’s one franchise I’ve been very open about in despising even though I used to like it when I was younger. Not going to lie, if some of my favorite creators did something horrible, I would stop cold turkey in supporting them.

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      • Not really, not that I can think of. But a lot of that is because I don’t keep up with news or information about creators and production staff. It’s not because I think ignorance is bliss. I’d rather know. I just don’t have the motivation to do the research… Also the only media I watch/partake in at this time are anime and some books, so if it’s anything related to movies and live action TV series, I definitely won’t know a thing about the creators.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Okay. I was just curious. With me, I usually follow who directs in addition to who acts as you may have seen on Iridium Eye. I do appreciate how you don’t try to succumb to ignorance. If live action media and movies aren’t your thing, than I get it. I’m the same way when it comes to mainstream media.

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  2. Yes, I separate the art from the artist, for two simple reasons: (1) We all have our secrets, so even if I don’t know anything terrible or disreputable about an artist (or anyone, for that matter), I can bet that it nonetheless exists. Does the act become worse just because it is exposed? I think not. (2) A work of art–any type of art–is only half complete when its creator finishes it. For it to actually be art, it must have an audience, and that audience must interpret it. To wit, we each share in the creation of the piece because we each interpret and internalize it individually. What I experience might be utterly alien to what someone else experiences with the same piece–even its original creator. So while I certainly associate the piece with that artist, I by no means chain it to him/her. A work of art is inherently bigger, more expansive than its artist, and deserves to be recognized independently.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter. A nice, thought-provoking post, this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for checking out this post, David. I do agree that everyone has their secrets and sins regardless if anyone knows them or not. I’m not a saint nor have I hailed any creator I like to be canonized as such. Your point about art being incomplete without an audience was something I haven’t thought about. I certainly wish my audience was bigger when it came to my Ospreyshire music project and my fictional works, but that’s a story for another day.

      Let me ask you a question though. What if the art itself IS part of the bad things that the creators do? For instances, what if said art contains racist or sexist implications? What if it praises heinous crimes that the main character gets away with? What if the art itself is a work of plagiarism?

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      • Each of those possibilities represent situations different from the original question–as I read it, at least–and from each other. But such works would still have life beyond their original creator. As is manifestly evident, there is sadly no shortage of audience for hate. . .

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      • Sorry if I did diverge from the original questions a bit, but that was something I legitimately wondered. I can see that there would be more readers or viewers even after the creators die, but it’s not always a good thing. What does bug me is that some more obscure people have their works buried even when they haven’t done as wrong as some more popular people. I didn’t want to come off as some rampant hater. I just wanted justice to be done for some of those examples.

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    • This applies to sports, too. I should’ve mentioned that in the article. This logic certainly applies and I agree with how racism affects sports. Since you bring up the NFL, how is it that Ben Rapist-berger…I mean Ben Roethlisberger still has a career yet Colin Kaepernick isn’t on a team for daring to kneel during the National Anthem to protest against police brutality? Oh, wait…the answer is quite obvious.

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  3. Sounds like a lot of great banter for intellectual minds…but I am no intellectual so I’m steer clear of this one (hehe). Great read, I certainly respect your take on this. I do agree with Cactus there’s a case by case argument to it, and a lot of feelings towards this might be finding where you lie with the ‘auteur theory’ or ‘The death of the Author’ theory spectrum when it comes to consuming art/media.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, K. No need to underestimate your intellect though. It’s cool that you respect my opinion on here and with other posts you’ve seen from me about similar issues. I certainly believe in the Auteur Theory with various aspects. I’ve even used the term auteur to describe Yoshitoshi ABe and Jafar Panahi in my reviews. Haha! Besides that, it’s really tough for me to separate the art from the artist not just because of the things you know about me, but also because I’m one of those guys who researches directors in their free time even outside of my reviewing hobby on Iridium Eye.

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  4. Many talented entertainers are not the nicest of people. If I boycotted everyone who did something wrong I wouldn’t have much left to enjoy. Most of the time when an artist has a wrongdoing exposed their career takes a big hit or dies outright, so I don’t have to make moral decisions. Surprised to hear than someone caught with underage porn would get let off with such a weak punishment.

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    • You’re certainly right and I’m aware that so many people in entertainment, sports, or at least in the public light are total jerks. Whether I know who they are is irrelevant. I understand that if you boycott everything who did wrong, we wouldn’t have anything to enjoy. In my opinion it depends on the severity of the crime and/or if they get away with it. I feel like so many people get away with things most people never would. Also, there’s the factor of people being falsely accused of things like what Nate Parker dealt with when he came out with Birth of a Nation [2016] since the media smeared him with fake rape accusations as a reaction to his movie being about the Nat Turner Rebellion.

      You have no idea how furious I was when I found out about Watsuki’s crimes since he got a tap on the wrist when others would’ve gotten decades in jail and be registered as sex offenders. The fact he still got to continue serialization of the Hokkaido Arc was even more infuriating.

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  5. For me, the difference comes between appreciating and analysing the art. In analysis, it’s usually important to understand the context the artwork was made in to be able to properly understand and analyse it. However, this seems more applicable towards, let’s say, historical classical art, compared to modern day fan art. (That’s not to say I look down on the latter — I enjoy them both!)

    As for appreciating the art, I think it depends on how much of the artist’s context/motive bleeds into the art. For example, let’s take a well-crafted price of hate art. I could notice the refinement of technique and details, but I would not appreciate the artwork and the artist because it’s intention is bad.

    However, if the art has zero connections and correlation to the artist’s wrongdoing, I’ll just ignore it and keep enjoying the art (though I’d never look at the art the same way again).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I see. I do look at intent and context, but there are other factors that can ruin it like unfortunate implications, plot holes, etc. That’s fine if you enjoy both. I know I’ve put some fan art on here even though the ones have been featured involve anime characters beating up their rip-off counterparts so far. Hahaha! 😛

      It’s something I do wonder. Then again, researching things in my own free time has either improved or sullied the art itself depending on the piece. “Hate art” is a term I’ve never heard of. I agree if I can tell what the intent is.

      Is that so? Do you have any examples of art that you couldn’t look at the same after finding out what the creators did?

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      • Oh yes, plot holes and implications do ruin things for me as well.

        Whoops, ‘hate art’ was just a phrase I pulled out of thin air to help make my point (like hate speech, but it’s art).

        One example would be Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The author, Lewis Carroll, wrote the first story for this girl named Alice. He was also (quite recently) discovered to be a pedophile. If you know both of those things, it’s quite hard to imagine that his motives were pure/wholesome, haha.

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      • It’s good you feel the same way in that regard.

        Okay, I just wanted to be sure what you meant by that term. That makes sense now. Thank you!

        Whoa, I didn’t know that about Lewis Carroll. That makes the original books and other adaptations creepier in hindsight now for me. [shudders]

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      • No problem, Reed.

        That is disheartening knowing about that. It reminds me of the aforementioned Rurouni Kenshin example I had on the post. Not going to lie, I’ve stopped liking creative works from people who did horrible things that weren’t that heinous (I did an opinion piece on one big example a couple of months ago).

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      • Thank you very much. Yeah, things don’t look the same once you know the hard truth about different things. There’s a quote I remember hearing: “Never look up to your heroes because they will always disappoint you.”

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  6. I do think there is something to be said for being able to realize that bad people can make good art, but I do find that a lot of people take that mantra to a rather… unhealthy extreme. Indeed, I think a lot of people who say that end up putting total scumbags on pedestals without any care for those they victimized – as you say, it’s like how cinephiles have nothing but admiration for Roman Polanski (or A24 after they catfished single men on Tinder to promote one of their films). It’s a rather difficult subject to take a stance on because many of these works are collaborations; by banning their work, you’re probably also punishing their victims. I find I personally don’t have an answer, but I do think that people who continue to place these creators on pedestals need to accept that there is a lot of baggage that comes with that choice – and I can tell in many cases it’s not a consequence they’re willing to accept.

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    • Interesting comment, Red Metal. I do agree that bad people can be talented and their fans idolize or in some cases deify these same people whom can do no wrong in their eyes which is unhealthy. I do agree with you about that statement. I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees the blatant hypocrisy by putting a Roman Polanski on a pedestal or giving a free pass to A24 with their catfishing marketing campaign for Ex Machina. There are other examples I can name when it comes to actors, directors, films, musicians, patent thieves, etc.

      You’re also the second person to mention the concept of collaborations in a similar conversation on one of my reviews on Iridium Eye. You’re right in that there’s other people involved in the creation of film for example with producers, actors, writers, makeup artists, composers, etc. I will pose a question to that concept. Do these collaborators know about the bad things the directors do, and if so would they be considered complicit?

      I do see where you’re coming from because I don’t hold people on pedestals. If someone is wronged or falsely accused, I’ll defend them. Besides that, I really don’t have any heroes so to speak.

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      • Yeah, I’ve said this numerous times, but I think it bears repeating because it’s a truth that critics aren’t willing to accept: their approval of the Ex Machina marketing campaign was their “jump the shark” moment. With that single gesture, they effectively gave the audience the middle finger when they were hurt the most, which is part of the reason they don’t take critics seriously these days. And you know what? Good for them. Continuing to take critics at their word after a stunt like that would be like staying in an abusive relationship. Folks like Owen Gleiberman and Bob Chipman complain about audiences not seeing eye-to-eye with them, but they don’t want to accept that the masses took the high road when they decided they want nothing to do with them.

        And that is kind of a grey area as well, and I tend to take that on a case-by-case basis. Oftentimes, the subordinates have no idea of their boss’s transgressions whereas other times, they were indeed complicit through inaction. Then again, it’s also possible that they simply didn’t say anything so they wouldn’t risk their careers. If they ticked off the wrong person, they’d be out of a job – permanently. It’s a sink-or-swim business too, so if actors or technicians are on the wrong side of a public dispute, that’s it, the end. As much as gamers like to complain about their own industry (and they’re perfectly in the right to complain about their shady practices), I still say when it comes to this kind of manipulative behavior, they have nothing on the film industry.

        It’s fine to admire someone – you just need to accept that they’re not deities; they’re human just like everyone else – warts and all.

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      • Don’t feel bad about repeating that issue. There’s a certain plagiarism controversy (long with other unsavory things related and unrelated) that I’ve talked about multiple times on this and especially my film review blog, so I understand your frustrations on that matter. That is an apt metaphor with the critics vs. A24 when they pulled the catfishing stunt just to promote Ex Machina. Seriously, shame on them for doing that.

        I’ve noticed the term case-by-case basis has showed up. Sorry, I’ve seen others here and other places use that terminology. It is certainly plausible that some people didn’t know, but you do bring up the point about careers on the line. The mainstream film industry is extremely shady and people’s jobs can be lost at anytime. Just look at the Harvey Weinstein scandal (saying nothing about him getting a slap on the wrist) let alone the concept of the casting couch as sick as it is. It’s horrific how so many evil people get away with their vices and also make lots of money doing so.

        I do admire a few people, but even I know they are still human. It can be really hard to trust others and there are times where I’ve been hesitant to use the term “fan” in some cases when it comes to things I like.

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  7. So this is something I’ve been struggling with in light of Nobihiro Watsuki, Mel Gibson and Bill Cosby. I come down pretty much on the side of separating the person from his work. It is interesting where this is applied and where it isn’t though. We generally will forgive politicians, but not teachers or police officers for transgressions that occur outside of their work.

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    • First of all, thanks for checking out and following my blog.

      Going back to the subject at hand. I do see a double standard with who this applies to or not because Watsuki’s works are still being shown and he’s still writing the Hokkaido Arc. Same with Mel Gibson still having a career. Bill Cosby’s shows have been off the air for years now, so why this double standard?

      I partially agree with you when it comes to politicians. You’re right that there are some who get away with so many things, but usually people in the same party as the politician give them a pass for their wrongdoings.

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      • I think what they’re known for factors into how harshly they’re judged. Bill Cosby was the Jell-O pudding guy, and Cliff Huxtable. The fact that he’s a rapist seems worse. Whereas Roman Polanski made Rosemary’s Baby (I think), of course he’s a little screwed in the head.

        Not saying it’s right, but I do think it factors in.

        And no problem on the like and follow. I’m trying to rebuild my blog, so I’m trying to find as many fellow bloggers to chat with.

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      • There’s certainly the perception of what they are known for, but I think it’s only part of the equation. Another aspect would certainly be racial because no Black person would be able to get away with what Polanski did especially in America. I could go on with others like Woody Allen, Rob Lowe, or Jimmy Savile, but I think I made my point.

        It is good to know that you’re not excusing their behavior nonetheless. I sometimes wonder if some people give carte blanche to horrific actions because they like the creation if they separate the art from the artist.

        Sure thing, Iniksbane. I’m glad to have checked out some of your posts so far.

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      • Yeah. I thought about the racial component. Though there are black artists that get forgiven their sins. Which is likely an entire different issue.

        Woody Allen got away with it twice too.

        So I think about it this way. I like Hemingway, but I’m not a fan of bull-fighting, cigar smoking, fascists or misogyny. I can still enjoy the simple way he constructs a sentence.

        I could say the same thing about pyramids and slaves. I don’t have to support slavery to appreciate the pyramids.

        At it’s simplest form, all art is applying a craft creatively. I can enjoy the craft even without liking who or what made it.

        Though I do think an earlier commenter had an interesting idea, when he or she said they couldn’t separate the physical performer from the artwork. I think that’s a valid point too.

        And I’ve spent a lot of time seeing what these crimes do. I’m not a fan.

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      • There certainly is a racial element given how color-coded the American (in)justice system works. Just look at all these people getting only 10 years probation recently for crimes that in any sane system would get 25 to life for. There are a very select few Black people who get forgiven, so that’s rare, but we’ll get back on track here.

        That’s right. Good on you for knowing about Allen’s crimes.

        I wasn’t aware about some of those facts about Hemingway. While I’m not a fan of his work, but it does dull my opinion of him.

        I certainly see where you’re coming from and bad people can be talented, but I have a really hard time separating the art and artist if I know someone’s dirt and how bad it is. It’s partially how my mind works with how I’ve been discriminated and bullied in my life or how people freak out when I make minor mistakes while others do far worse and all they get is a shrug.

        I see. It’s quite infuriating and you can see that in some of my older posts when I talk about news stories or other opinion pieces.

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