Separating artists from their art
With many Hollywood-based award shows like the Golden Globes or the Oscars being in season, the internet has fueled heaps of celebrity drama. In the midst of all the talk, however, the debate on the separation of art and the artist always comes up.
To elaborate, some may say that they will not support a certain film if there is an artist as a part of that production that they dislike for a certain reason. These days, someone may not support a certain artist because their work is bad, they have alleged sexual assault/harassment allegations against them, or offensive remarks they have said about other communities.
There are two sides of this debate: some believe that you can separate the art from the artist,others don’t think you should. Several news publications like the New York Times, the Stanford Daily and BBC have covered the same argument due to recent occurrences of misconduct from Hollywood celebrities.
Recently, the argument has been reignited due to “Bohemian Rhapsody’s” Golden Globe award for best drama motion picture. Director Bryan Singer’s past accusations of sexual assault resurfaced in the same week that he left his job on “Bohemian Rhapsody” before the film was completed. The public was fuming because although Singer was not acknowledged and did not attend the Golden Globes to represent the award, he was still indirectly rewarded for his contribution to the film.
According to CBS News, the public was outraged at the fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) honored a man for his unprofessional manner on the set of the film and for his sexual misconduct in the past. At the same time, the HFPA did not credit Dexter Fletcher who finished directing “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Even after the evident backlash that the HFPA received for even nominating the film, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has received five Oscar nominations in total. Although the academy and the cast of the film have tried to avoid Singer as a topic of conversation, some may argue if it is morally correct to even credit the rest of the cast and crew, more specifically Freddie Mercury portrayer Rami Malek, for working with Singer.
Malek is getting praised for his nomination for “Bohemian Rhapsody” when he does not even acknowledge or address the issue of being tied and working with Singer. Malek says that he “never really looked up” Singer during the auditioning process. The public has turned Malek’s ignorance towards Singers situation into a matter of not supporting the lead actor along with Singer.
Juniors Campbell Flint and Kerry Matthews defend Malek as they argue that, in this situation, it is ideal that many can separate Malek’s acting on “Bohemian Rhapsody” from their association with the director of the film. Matthews labels Malek as “his own person, and his job is acting” which should not affect his image or work because of Singer. Flint also claims that since Malek did not “commit the assault,” his career should not be affected.
When sexual harassment allegations against Woody Allen had surfaced, the public expected every artist that worked alongside Allen to apologize for being apart of his films that were produced around the time he had been accused. For example, several actors like Ellen Page, Mia Sorvino, Greta Gerwig, Rebecca Hall, and others publicly addressed their mistake of working with Allen.
Why isn’t this the same situation with Malek?
Flint feels that it is unnecessary for actors to “apologize for working with with a controversial person” because it “does not take away from their talent.” Opposingly, Matthews believes in the ideology that “you either demand an apology from every artist who has worked with controversial figures or you demand it from none of them.” Overall, both Flint and Matthews feel that Malek was not required to apologize for Singer’s mistakes.
Some argue that since Allen’s characters in his films are disturbingly reflective of himself, it is easier to protest Allen’s work. For example, in Allen’s films “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan,” the characters he plays are prominently revealed as having sexual dysfunction. Unlike other cases, this fact makes watching Allen’s art far more uncomfortable than others. However, it seems slightly hypocritical to support Malek acting in Singer’s movie, while criticizing the likes of Timothée Chalamet for his participation in Allen’s film at the same time.
Along with the public’s hostility towards the HFPA and the Academy for their nominations and winners, Kevin Hart was recently announced as the 2019 Oscars host. The internet later dug up homophobic tweets from Hart’s past which fueled a particularly negative response to his chosen role as the Oscars host.
Hart initially resisted giving the internet an apology because he had already given one in the past. Eventually, Hart gave in and even rejected the opportunity to be the host for the Oscars. He revealed that he did “not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists” and apologized, yet again, to the LGBT community.
Some may argue that since Hart has apologized for his past several times, he should not have had to step down from the “opportunity of a lifetime for [him] as a comedian.” Not only that, Hart’s $103 million success with his film “Night School” has been overshadowed by his past tweets that resurfaced. In this situation, when you separate the artist from their work when the artist has admitted to past mistakes, it takes away from their career.
Although the surface level debate on separating artists from their art goes two ways– separating or not separating–there are many factors to consider when determining whether to support an artist based on their actions or not.
Going forward, when choosing what artists to support, we should keep in mind that as long as the profit of any art or film is not directly going towards assault, choosing not to support an artist, but crediting their art should not necessarily be frowned down upon. As the people, we should not use fame to justify any type of assault, but I feel that there should be a middle ground when separating the support for artists from supporting their art.