Separating art from the artist

Louis C.K. is my favorite comedian.  

Kevin Spacey is one of my favorite actors and stars in my favorite movie, “American Beauty.”

Needless to say, the MeToo movement was bittersweet for me. I was so glad that women were sharing their stories and exposing the truth behind the abusive culture in Hollywood, but it has also made me disappointed in male figures that I once admired. Now every time I watch “American Beauty” or laugh at Louis C.K. self-deprecate, I can’t help feeling guilty. Guilty that I’m enjoying art created by morally reprehensible individuals and that I’m valuing my entertainment more than the ruined careers of their victims. Do their actions have any bearing on their art? Is it wrong for me to still enjoy it?

Ultimately, the answer is no. Art is separate from the artist. Art is an extension of the artist only to a certain degree. It’s difficult to separate C.K’s comedy from himself because his comedy draws so heavily from his life experiences, but the part of him that makes him a talented comedian is separate from the rest of him. Spacey’s words and actions are deplorable yet the fact that he is a talented actor who has given amazing performances remains unchanged. These individuals have done something awful and caused irreparable damage to the lives of their victims and need to be punished. But art is its own complete entity and should not be punished for the actions of its creator.

So what does that mean for us as viewers? It means there is no obligation to unlove something because the creator has done something wrong. A work of art that speaks to you is a work of art that speaks to you, and nothing can really change that. However, there is an obligation for us to be critical of their actions and acknowledge their wrongdoings. There is no fault in enjoying C.K’s comedy specials or watching “House of Cards,” but there is fault in denying that these individuals did anything wrong and defending their actions.

At the end of the day, it will be impossible to erase the guilt from my conscious, just like it is impossible for me to unlove the art these men have created. I struggle with the two conflicting emotional responses I have: profound admiration and deep disgust at their actions. How you choose to come to terms with these emotions depends on your own personal values and morals.

Whether you choose to no longer financially support these individuals or refuse to give them an elevated platform, it is completely up to you, the viewer, to decide what media you consume and why. It is imperative for us to be critical of content creators and their actions to uphold moral justice, but ultimately art transcends artists and is its own separate entity.

By Natalie Jiang, Design editor-in-chief
Editorial Cartoon by Amy Lo