Separating Art from the Artist
Cancel Culture or Accountability
Many artists across history are problematic, they have all done, said or live by ideals that are no longer acceptable in the eyes of society. Just to be clear, “cancel culture” isn’t a thing, it's called grown people finally being held accountable for their actions. Jk Rowling and Joss Whedon are two media giants who definitely deserve to be held accountable for their actions, but what does that mean for fans of their work?
With the fall of JK Rowling and Joss Whedon it's important to have a conversation about separating the art from the artist and whether or not that's actually possible. Stories and fictional worlds are what allow a lot of people to find meaning, that allow them to explore parts of themselves that are too difficult to analyze on their own. These two situations specifically are very impactful for me personally as I grew up with Harry Potter, Ginny, Hermione, Fluer, and Luna were role models for me. The books and the movies both offered and continue to offer me solace, hope, and safety. Joss Whedon in particular hurt my heart, because though it was very much white feminism Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the first time I had really connected to strong female characters. Buffy made me want to be a writer and director and it was the first world I got to lose myself in because I felt so connected. Now that will never be taken away from me, I am not going to stop loving Buffy and all the messages in it that I loved because the creator turned out to be a garbage person. You never have to stop loving the stories you love, but you do have to acknowledge its problems.
I think the conversation of separating the art from the artist needs to revolve around how we experience these stories. Blind entertainment is no longer a thing, not anymore. While there are still shows and movies that are not meant to be taken seriously and do allow for escapism and relaxed viewing (Gossip Girl, Riverdale, One Tree Hill, anything by Michael Bay) a majority of media is created by artists who have something to say and their stories need to be watched that way. You see you can’t really separate the art from the artist because their problematic ideals are entrenched in their work, you can very clearly see the prejudices and biases that they live by. This is where critical watching comes in, no one is saying that you can't enjoy the stories you love, we are saying however that you need to be aware of its flaws and acknowledge its problems.
The very ideals that these creators instilled in us are the reason that we as fans will not tolerate their mistreatment of the people that they taught us to accept. Both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter deal with themes of growing up too fast, standing up for those that can’t stand up for themselves and fighting against oppressive systems. So when it came out that these artists were in fact terrible people, what did they really expect? They literally conditioned their fanbases to disown them. And yet certain aspects of society act like “cancel culture” is society’s downfall when all it really does is establish and preserve ideals and values of the time.
Overall I think that you can’t really separate the art from the artist, but you can still critically enjoy their media. Critically being the operative word, blindly enjoying media doesn’t exist, and pretending it does only harms art and society as a whole.
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