It's a question as old as time and it's one that probably comes up on Twitter at least once a month. An artist, musician, writer, or filmmaker does some awful thing and then the discussion begins. Can we still watch their films, read/buy their books, or listen to their music? Sure, we can but should we?
Does the art have the same effect after you learn what the artist has done? Should it? Does genius stay genius no matter how awful the person is?
In my opinion, the answer is a resounding no. You can never separate the art from the artist. You can still listen to, read, and watch their work but, unfortunately, it can never have the same effect it once had.
Believe me, I have tried. I have been burned way too many times by people who turned out to be the worst. As soon as I learn about whatever they've done, it's impossible for me to feel what I once felt about the work. It doesn't hold the same spark. It's mainly due to the fact that now I know they carried that hate or awful behavior in them while they made the piece of art I love. No matter how much I love it, I know that some part of that awfulness is in the novel, movie, or song whether I like it or not.
This is especially difficult to acknowledge when the song, book, movie, or painting spoke to us when we needed it most. It almost feels like shame. Or, at least, it does for me.
So many questions come up once you realize the artist is not who you thought they were. Is there another interpretation of the work that you didn't realize? Are the characters saying what you thought they were? Is the inspiring message you got from the piece of art actually there at all? Was it all just an act?
Nothing feels good about realizing that someone you admired or even idolized is not the person you thought they were. And yes, there is something to be said about putting people on a pedestal but when someone's art speaks to you, it's difficult not to believe that they are inspiring too.
I won't mention any names. I'm sure each person that reads this will have a different name that pops into their head but whatever name it is, chances are you've had the fight with yourself about whether it was ok to still read or listen or watch. That decision is up to each individual person.
Whether you listen or read again or don't, it doesn't really matter. You still cannot separate the art from the artist.
Art comes from the soul. We writers know that better than most. You don't pull your hair out and cry over something and not have it contain a part of you. That goes for the artists that have done or said something truly heinous as well. They are in their work and if they have done or said something awful, that's part of that work as well.
What do you think? Do you think the art can ever be separated from the artist? If so, how?
About the author: Sarah Perchikoff is an entertainment, food, and content writer as well as a book reviewer. When she's not writing, she is stocking up on sour candy, books, and blankets, and playing with her miniature dachshund, Gracie.