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cookieman's avatar

Are you able to enjoy the work of an artist, performer, or musician after you’ve learned they’re not a nice person?

Asked by cookieman (36618points) March 3rd, 2019 from iPhone

Can you separate the person from their art? Does their bad behavior change your opinion of their work or your ability to enjoy it?

I’m specifically thinking of Ryan Adams (whom Gary @whatthefluther introduced me to) who’s been in the news recently — but of course, there’s many examples that span years.

Baroque painter Caravaggio was a murderer, but I love his paintings. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was an all-around ass, but I can appreciate his genius and have been a life-long Apple customer. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was a belittling, control freak, but I adore his designs.

Today though, I am having trouble listening to Ryan Adams music.

What are your thoughts on this fellow Jellies?

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22 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Well, I do purposely avoid any movies involving Mel “Adolf” Gibson and Clint “Leni Riefenstahl” Eastwood.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Art and music stand on their own and are not necessarily the attitude propagation of the artist or musician. It can be though when examining things like lyrics or symbolism in art and architecture. I basically ignore lyrics in music myself so it’s very easy for me to overlook the fact that the artist may be an asshole.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Sure. Easy.

Wagner was a Nazi, but he wrote great classical music. And as others will answer, there are any number of odious people who make great art.

The ones who I avoid are people like Mel Gibson, who was a nasty drunk and a vicious anti-semite, and a crappy actor besides. He revelled in being an asshole.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I find that I can’t buy that dr. Huxtable is nothing other than a rapist.

Mimishu1995's avatar

It’s actually quite… complex. It depends on the nature of the bad things they did.

- Exhibit number 1: Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, a writer and a Nazi. He is most famous for his novel Will O’ the Wisp, which was the basic of two famous movies. The man was actually against Nazi initially. If you dig deeper, you can see a sense of hopelessness that haunted him throughout his life. He seemed to turn to the Nazi in hope that it would grand him a new sense of meaning, because he was already pretty disillusioned about the French society before WWII. He mistakenly thought the Nazi would improve France. In this case I can root for both the man and the novel, because the novel reflected his inner struggle.

- Exhibit number 2: Roman Polanski, the director of Chinatown. Chinatown is an absolute masterpiece, except for the fact that it seems to be a portal for Polanski’s fantasy. Polanski was accused of raping a minor, and Chinatown also has a woman who was raped by her father and gave birth to a child, and in the end the father was never caught. I had quite a mixed feeling toward this. On one hand, Chinatown is a thought-provoking movie about corrupt businessmen and greed, but on the other hand, the director is also a person he wanted to portray in a bad light. It’s unclear whether he wanted a justification for his action or a mockery toward himself through the movie.

- Exhibit number 3: Ruggero Deodato, the director of Cannibal Holocaust. Cannibal Holocaust started off as a satire toward the media and how “civilized” people look down on other races. But the production process of the movie was hell on Earth. Actors and actrices were mistreated, animals were killed, everyone on set was forced to perform certain dangerous scenes without any safety precaution. Deodato even pushed his movies on bootleg markets just to get more sale. I just can’t enjoy that movie. It seems like an exploitation movie in an art disguise, and I despise the director too. I would never want to be near him.

So yeah, the relationship between the art and the creator to me is quite complex, and they are not mutually exclusive. I base my judgement on their behavior and the art they produce, whether there is any connection between the two.

hmmmmmm's avatar

I have a difficult time listening/watching/viewing if it has come out that the person is awful. If someone has bad politics or is accused of sexual assault or harassment, there is little pleasure in consuming the art.

However, I’ll readily admit that much of the art/media I consume are probably created by people that I would find repulsive if I were to learn more. But my current ignorance goes a long way in allowing me the product.

canidmajor's avatar

I think it depends on the degree of separation, how much the work is tainted for me. An author I used to love badly abused her children, but it was barely made public. I was, for a time, acquainted with her daughter and can no longer read her stuff. Cosby’s humor will always be tainted. I never liked Woody Allen, so I don’t care about his work, although I tend to be outraged by a system that lets money and position outweigh the good of a child.

Long dead writers and artists with bad stuff don’t really affect me.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I read an excellent article about this question very recently. I searched to find it to link here, and the search turned up dozens of articles about this question. I was unable to find the exact one I’d read.

The article’s writer came to this conclusion: if the art in question in any way reflects the bad behavior of the maker, then that art should not be consumed.

Jean Jacques Rousseau was a reprehensible father abandoning his children to orphanages, but that does not change the fact he wrote some brilliant philosophy that says nothing about child rearing. Analogous things can be said about many artists.

The art has to be taken piece by piece.

Darth_Algar's avatar

If I couldn’t separate the art from the artist I’d have nothing to watch, read or listen to.

mazingerz88's avatar

Yes I’m able to enjoy. Already loved their work before their supposed bad if not criminal behavior were revealed.

I would probably have no problem getting turned off and giving up appreciating and admiring the works of these artists if not for the fact that they were…extraordinarily gifted…and as artist and fan we have a long history together so to speak.

I’m talking about Woody Allen’s and Roman Polanski’s films and Michael Jackson’s songs.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Absolutely not an issue for me, completely seperate, art and artiste. Some of my favorites were complete rogues.

YARNLADY's avatar

I have trouble with some of my former favorites because it makes me sad to think about them.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I am completely off of Bill Cosby now.

hmmmmmm's avatar

^ RIght. I also can’t watch Louis CK without thinking of the many accusations against him and how he responded.

It’s not that my assumption is that these people are decent, and then it gets shattered. Rather, I assume they are likely horrible – I mean, many of them are multimillionaires, so I am bound to disagree with them politically. But having it come up in some scandal or some tweet or something just brings it up and I can’t get past it.

People recommended that I watch Westworld. But I couldn’t watch it because of Jeffrey Wright, who has horrible politics. I had been interacting with him on Twitter, and I just couldn’t watch the show. When you watch fiction, there is some suspension of disbelief required. You’re allowing yourself to forget that you are watching a show/movie. But seeing someone who is in your mind for something horrible and extremely nonfiction on screen takes me out of that mode, and I just can’t watch.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I was in love with Tyreek Hill. He’s a running back with the Chiefs. That guy is so fast he could get a speeding ticket running through a school zone. I used to love to watch him play.
But then I learned that when he was in college he punched out his pregnant girlfriend, and I haven’t watched him since.

cookieman's avatar

Nice, thoughtful answers everyone. Seems like if the artist is long dead, it’s easier to get past. If the artist is alive and active, maybe less so — particularly if you can see a connection between their work and their bad behavior. Overall though, a case by case basis.

I definitely see the point about Bill Cosby and Louis CK, as the intent of their art is to you laugh, and there’s really nothing funny about their actions.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Art is their product.
Do we follow Burger King employees home to see if they lead pristine lives? No. We eat their greasy, drippy, delicious food and think nothing of who put the meat in the bun.

rockfan's avatar

I really like John Mellencamp’s music, but I’ve heard that he’s a really big jerk and arrogant. I can still enjoy his music though, mostly because I agree with his politics and activism, so that kind of evens everything out.

JLeslie's avatar

It depends. If an artist is really offensive in how they conduct themselves their art will change for me. It’s like seeing someone who doesn’t look very pretty at first glance, but then you get to know them, and if you like their personality or their heart, they become more attractive. It happens in the reverse to.

It has to be extreme for the art to turn sour on me, but it can happen.

As far as Bill Cosby, I would still watch his TV show, but I wouldn’t want to see his stand up.

kritiper's avatar

There are other factors that make me decide I don’t like someone. Like Mel Gibson being so damned religious!

Demosthenes's avatar

It’s certainly possible that I might come to feel too negatively about an artist to be able to enjoy their work anymore. It would have to be an artist whose work I felt a strong connection to and then later discovered they were not a great person. So far that doesn’t apply to any artists whose work I enjoy. For example, I’ve long known that Richard Wagner was an anti-Semite, plus he lived generations ago so it’s not exactly a shocking revelation. I can understand people who refuse to listen to his music outright, but as a fan of his operas, knowing that about him doesn’t change my opinion toward his music.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I found the article I was looking for. Link

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