The MeToo movement has seen an unprecedented amount of alleged abusers in the entertainment industry from Michael Jackson, John Lasseter, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K exposed for their wrongdoings.
Production companies have been supportive of the victims have been quick to blacklist these performers and entertainers, even going so far as to recast actors like Kevin Spacey at considerable cost. But does that mean the audience should stop listening or watching their art? What about classics such as Billy Jean, Pulp Fiction or Toy Story? Do we just ignore them or can we continue watching them without a feeling of guilt?
When asked this question, most people feel divided. They love these artworks and often times grown up watching them as part of their childhood. Such attachment isn’t so easily disposed of. When these horrible abuses come to light, it feels like a betrayal. When someone whose music or film we used to enjoy turns out to have hurt and abused people, often on a frequent and systematic basis, it leaves us in a state of shock.
Some argue if art has imitated real life. In the case of R. Kelly, Kevin Spacey and Woody Allen, their work reportedly details their sexual abuse and maybe even encourages it. In the cases of John Lasseter or Bill Crosby, their best pieces of work aren't about them as artists. Many fans still argue The Cosby Show and Toy Story are classic family entertainment. In the case of The Crosby Show it paved the way for other black family sitcoms, like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
One can separate the art from the person, after all the art is often the efforts of more than one person. Just because Pulp Fiction was produced by Harvey Weinstein’s company doesn’t necessarily taint the entire picture. Respecting a piece of art does not excuse or condone anybody’s actions as Weinstein or Crosby, two alleged sexual predator for decades.
Art is not free of the conditions of its production just because the conditions make us feel guilty about our consumption. If women got raped, assaulted and abused during the making of your favourite film that doesn’t necessarily diminish the movie’s potential for entertainment. But we might question the ethics of this enjoyment.
Think of Last Tango In Paris where Maria Schneider went public about the terror and philological torture she was put through by Marlon Brando and the director Bernardo Bertolucci. The movie has been portrayed as a classic but in recent years its reputation has taken a beaten. Bertolucci, for one, never fully escaped Schneider’s accusations as in the infamous butter scene where she is depicted getting raped by Brando. Bertolucci and Brando conspired to shoot the scene without telling Schneider what has going to happen. Bertulucci, in an interview before his death, seemed to express regret but he never seemed to grasp the full implication of the damage he did to Schneider who was 19 at the time.
Whether you enjoy movies like Last Tango in Paris, Pulp Fiction, or Toy Story is up to the individual. It is easy to gang up on viewers or listeners who feel particularly strong about whether it’s ethical or not to continue enjoying entertainment produced by sexual predators. However we should not condemn nor exonerate the art because of the artist.
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