A while ago, I came across this one video. It’s from a YouTuber called Savannah Brown, which I highly respect by the way. I absolutely adore her poetry and inspirational talks. I love how she makes her viewers think and ignites a discussion. This video is no exception. Sav talked about a question I have been thinking about quite some times: Can art be seen separate from the artist creating it? (Click here if you want to take a look at the vid.) This created a huge flow of thoughts that I’d like to share with you guys. Within a shortened version tho. I’ll stick to 2 possible situations.
You like the art for a while (or long time), but the artist does something horrible.
To be fair, “horrible” is of course heavily subjective and is part of a broad spectrum of possibilities. What one might consider crossing the line, might not be that big of a deal for another. However, for the purpose of this blog post, let’s say this artist crossed the line completely. For example: you’re back in late 2008. You like hiphop a lot and are especially into Chris Brown. “It’s you, and me. Movin’ at the speed of light into eternity, yeaaah” (“Forever”, remember this?) A few months later the scandal with Rihanna pops up. He got charged, and later partially sentenced, for domestic violence. At that point, lots of fans kept defending him. Other people were shocked and responding in listening less to his music, or maybe even avoiding it at all. They did not want to contribute to the success of a man, who had done something like that.
I wasn’t that into Chris Brown to be called a fan, but I did like his music and often watched his videos on YouTube. Plenty of times I had danced through my room, attempting hiphop on his beats. However, when all of this information surfaced, I no longer wanted to listen to it, associating his voice with domestic violence. I refused to support his career even in the slightest way, such as watching a music video. I found this turn of event annoying, but that’s about it. Though, imagine being a real fan during all of this. Seeing someone you admire and maybe even look up to being sentenced for such an offense. I can imagine it’s completely heartbreaking.
Or is it? There could also be a bunch of people who are like “Yeah, don’t like the person, but I love his music. Why would I stop doing something that entertains me?” Could this be called ignorant? Or is this an example of putting art (in this case music) above the artist?
You know that the artist is a horrible human being, but you come across the art and actually like the art.
About two years ago a friend of mine told me the story of Ian Watkins. This man was the lead singer of a band called Lostprophets. He was also guilty of child sex abuse. This includes offenses from having the mothers of the children (women who were die hard fans of the band) touch their kids in front of a webcam for him to see, to attempted rape of a baby. Twice. I will not go into further details, but needless to say it’s absolutely disgusting. I’m getting chills just writing this down. I had never heard of this band before, and hearing the story behind the vocalist, I didn’t even want to hear it.
Due to an unfortunate series of events, I still heard a few songs of Lostprophets… and I liked them. Even though the lyrics had no relation to the events whatsoever, every time I heard his voice, it reminded me of the story. I have to admit, I sang along to those few songs when they came by on someone’s playlist and have even listened to a full album myself. Still, after a short while I quit. I feel super guilty listening to it. Apparently, Ian Watkins is super rich because a lot of fans refused to believe his conviction was just and kept supporting him. Also, he is still making money of merchandise and royalties on his music. When he gets out of prison (he was 36 in 2013 and was sentenced to 35 years in prison) he will be hella rich and live out his life in luxury. Brrrrr, I don’t want to be supporting this man.
But what if the music of this band means so much to you? What if you have been there through the entire 15 years of their existence, only to see it go down in flames like that? Would you never listen to their music again?
Both situations kinda imply, that the content of the music has no relation to the “bad behavior” (*uhum*massive understatement*uhum*) of the artists. Let’s take this into the extreme for a bit. To use an example Sav mentioned in her video:
Imagine an autor being extremely racist or sexist. This might have even been considered normal, considering the time period this autor lived in, but nonetheless, I do not consider that an excuse. Yet, this autor writes beautiful fantasy novels, not involving a single remark regarding a person of color or any classical genders as we know it, for those do not exist in his fictional universe. Therefore, his content is not related to his personal “bad behavior”. Can this be compared to the two situations previously mentioned? If the “bad behavior” of the artist does not influence the art produced in any way, does is still matter that much? Or rather: should it matter?
Most of the time, I do not know that much about the artists, whose art I love. In my case, this art is most often music, but also writers or visual artists fit the picture. I do not enjoy digging up information about that particular person: I am solely interested in the art. In that case, I might not even know that it’s an asshole.
Would I want to know? Would I rather not know? Is it a bad thing to not want to know? Can the artist be separated from his/her art? Or can he/she simply be forgiven after a period of time?
What would you do? Or would you not care that much? I’d love to here your guys’ thoughts on this. Lemme know by commenting below or send me a text!
– Katrin –