Separating Art From the Artist

The year is 2018. Kanye West has been blacklisted from a Detroit radio station for the comments made in his TMZ interview, R&B singer Sabrina Claudio has dropped off the map, Roseanne Barr just lost her reboot on ABC, and countless other household names have suffered consequences from controversial statements. 2018 has been the year where we finally decided Twitter apologies were not enough for famous people to atone for their reckless comments and actions.


But why is this happening? A lot of people would argue against supporting art from people who do or say bad things because it’s saying that you support them But is that fair? In my opinion, it is and it isn’t. This year in government class I learned that how we spend our money falls under the umbrella of free speech. In a way, spending money is like a form of expression. That’s why we try to put money behind music and other types of art we love. It’s because we want that art to succeed, and we want more, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we support that artist. It means we support the art, and want to consume that art.


One must also define how harmful someone has to be before you stop supporting them. When Kanye West came out as a Trump supporter, a lot of people decided to stop listening to his music. Can an artist’s opinions and words be harmful enough for someone to decide to boycott their work? I personally decided to stop listening to Kanye West after his comments because I felt that the fact that West supported him meant that he didn’t have much concern for the wellbeing of his muslim fans.  Because of this, I, as a Muslim decided that I couldn’t listen to his music anymore. That being said, I wouldn’t say someone else who continues listening to Kanye West is supporting his sentiments. Boycotting his work was a personal choice of mine, and I don’t think we should force these decisions on other people. I wouldn’t classify his opinions as something harmful enough to where he deserves to lose a career, because it was an opinion, and it didn’t seem like he was actively trying to hurt anyone.


Roseanne Barr and Sabrina Claudio are different story. Both women were flamed after making racist comments, and as a result Claudio’s singing career has fallen off the deep end and Barr ended up losing her television show. They both intentionally made hurtful comments, especially Barr, whose statement was aimed at a specific person, while Claudio targeted an entire group of people.


The network cancelling Barr’s show and the people online who started to boycott her music are examples of people deciding that they couldn’t separate art from the artist, that it wasn’t worth supporting after what the artists said and thought. Is this right? In my opinion, this is something people have to decide for themself. I do want people to keep in mind that their money and support has meaning, but at the end of the day whether or not we should consume art from problematic people is up to us.


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