This post is going to be a discussion of the separation between an artist from their art as inspired by the video made by Chelsea, Ophelia Dagger,’s video a few days ago title The Art of The Asshole, I would recommend watching that before reading this as I will be commenting directly on some of the points that she make in this video, plus, you know, its just a good video.
Chelsea in the video overall makes the argument that it is perfectly reasonable to enjoy the art from someone who you find morally dubious because the art and person making the art are not the same thing. She equivocates this to the movement of #problematicfav and her own love of Bukowski’s poetry.
I have to agree with her. Though this is definitely a controversial opinion. For many people, if one disagrees with a person it is one’s duty not to support them in any way. Now this is understandable as well. If a person is going to fund organizations that are antisemitic, homophobic, misogynistic, etc. and you are not, as one hopes any reasonable person would be, then you wouldn’t want to be lining of the pockets of that person. However, they may still create something that you really enjoy. If you really love science fiction and you haven’t read Ender’s Game and everyone raves about it but you know Orson Scott Card is homophobic, what do you do?
One suggestion Chelsea puts forth is getting the book from a second hand shop (or if film is your medium of choice then to stream the movie instead of buying it). I think this would be the best way to experience the art without contributing to the artist. If you are really worried about funding an asshole. However the bigger question is are you allowed to enjoy it, knowing the person who made it is so irrevocably shit.
Chelsea states, “An artist will always be an intrinsic part of their own work” their thoughts and opinions are going to be undeniably tied to the art as well. Does that make it impossible to enjoy or morally wrong to enjoy?
I can’t say for sure. I know that for me, my knowledge of an author, their past work, their ideas that I know to be present can color the way I view a piece. We spoke of this often in my seminar on Toni Morrison. Do we believe that God Save the Child must have a deeper meaning in its simplicity because Toni Morrison wrote it or is it just a simplistic kind of mediocre book written by a great author and there isn’t any more to that. Do we expect certain things from certain people. I think we do because we look for patterns. If you know that the other has certain views you might be looking for those views to make an appearance at some point in the work and miss other things.
I’m not sure what to take away from all this. I guess part of it is to do your research. If there is anything you need to know about an artist before going into it, then maybe check. Then seek out second hand copies, or library copies so that you don’t fund something you disagree with. Try and read something objectively, even if it is impossible. If you are destined not to like it because of that then you won’t like it. If you want to boycott everything ever written by that person, that is your decision as well. I don’t think we are obliged to do that though. Even the worst people in history have something valid to say on one subject or another even if they are morally ambiguous with everything else.
What do you think? Do you think its possible to enjoy something after you realize the person who made it is a retched human being? Has something you once loved been ruined by that?
I’ll be back tomorrow with a video review of Paper Towns by John Green with Gretchen! Hope you enjoy looking forward to that and have a lovely work week!