Can you separate the art from the artist?

I recently saw the movie Blue Jasmine and really enjoyed it.

Cate Blanchett was quite brilliant and her portrayal of title character’s disintegration was fascinating to watch, in a car wreck kind of way.

Plus you simply can’t go wrong when Bobby Cannavale is in a cast, even if he’s playing a rather jerky grease monkey.

But with Woody Allen’s recent (and past) problems / indiscretions / crimes / whatever you want to call them everyone seems to be piling on the bandwagon to dis the director and his films.

Suddenly his movies are crappy, even though before he married his step daughter and was accused of child molestation they were considered genius.

As a longtime fan of Guns N Roses, I’ve gotten used to separating an artist’s work from their bad behavior.

Every time Axl Rose stalked off stage mid concert, or said something misogynistic, racist or just plain stupid, I’d find myself defending my enjoyment of their music.

“I don’t have to believe what they believe in order to listen to the songs,” I’d say.

And I still believe that you can consume the art without endorsing the artist.

I know the arguments… If you buy the music or go to the movie, you are providing the artist with financial support, thus offering a form of approval.

But aside from the fact that my cd and ticket purchases hardly provided Axl Rose or Woody Allen with great amounts of income, it’s frankly none of my business how they spend their money.

There are companies all over the world with offensive practices, things we can’t even begin to imagine, and we still give them their money.

Who hasn’t bought gas at an Exxon station? Does that mean you supported their actions after the Valdez oil spill?

How many people had their money with Lehman Brothers with no idea about their shady practices? Does that mean they were tacitly complicit?

Why should art be different?

Art can certainly be more personal than oil or investment banking both on the side of the seller and the buyer, but it’s still a business, a product.

And even bad companies can build good products.

Are the charges against Woody Allen disgusting and disturbing? Yes.

But what he does away from the camera doesn’t change the quality of his work. The art stands on its own.

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One thought on “Can you separate the art from the artist?

  1. I really enjoy reading your posts but totally disagreed on this one. I don’t believe you can separate an artist from his work or a company from their product. To stand for what you believe in means not supporting (even with the small amount of your ticket or cd cost) the person whose beliefs/actions/products you disagree with or can’t support.

    In 1994, during the O.J. Simpson trial, I was appalled to learn that Hertz had kept him on as a spokesperson even though they knew of his physical abuse of his wife, Nicole. All of this came out during his trial for his murder, including tapes of when she called the police while he is in the background screaming at her.

    At that time, my husband and I decided never to rent from Hertz again. The important thing is to let the company know what you are doing and why. If enough consumers act like that, it CAN make a difference. At first Hertz stood by O.J. (we even received a sort of snotty letter back from their PR office when we sent them our cut up Hertz membership card along with a letter) but before too long they did drop him as a spokesperson.

    I haven’t been to a Woody Allen movie since he married his stepdaughter. Does that matter to Mr. Allen? I’m sure not one bit, but it matters to me.

    There are resources to learn more about companies to help consumers make wise choices…The Better World Shopping Guide: Every Dollar Makes a Difference or The Ethical Consumer. I don’t have a connection to these publications but they provide valuable information.

    And to answer your question…I haven’t purchased gas at an Exxon station since the spill. It’s an easy choice to go down the street to a different station.

    Thanks for listening!

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