Oct 11 2017

How Do I Deal With My Own Hypocrisy When Separating The Artist From The Art?

Published by at 11:28 am under Blog

For a number of years now, I’ve proudly exclaimed that I’ll never watch another Woody Allen movie while he’s alive. It was my bold statement of intent, a declaration that I would no longer financially, socially, morally support a man who (allegedly!) abused his own child. It was a difficult move, I felt. I was a huge Woody Allen fan and have often counted some of his films among my favourites. But I made the decision and felt delightfully self-righteous and went on about my life, smugly assured I was now a better person.

But that’s a fierce amount of bullshit and I really wish someone had called me out on it. I’ve had many conversations on this and I’ve defended my viewpoint many times. No one has yet called me a pompous, arrogant ass for taking this stance. And yet, that’s what I am. I’m a hypocrite. I’m preaching morality when it suits me. And that needs to stop.

The problem is… I don’t know what is the right thing to do. I don’t know how to separate the art from the artist. I don’t know if I should. I don’t know where to draw the lines and when I should forgive. I don’t know if it’s my place to forgive. I don’t’ know if it’s anyone’s place to forgive. But if no one is accountable… then no one is accountable. And that is the seed from which society’s moral degradation grows.

And breathe!

Weinstein

This week, the long standing rumours of Harvey Weinstein’s (CBE!) abuse of power and abuse of women ceased to be rumours and have led to a number of incidents coming to light and his ultimate sacking from his own company. Harvey Weinstein has directly produced some of my favourite films and has been executive producer on far too many films to recount. Will I stop watching his movies? Um.. well… ehh… no. No, I won’t. And I’ve been trying to justify to myself why this is.

I won’t be watching Victor Salva’s new movie. He’s a child molester and I should not support him.  Jon Hamm hospitalised a frat house pledge in college. Will I be watching Baby Driver this weekend. Yeah, it’s likely.

I don’t listen to the work of R Kelly (underage girls) or Chris Brown (domestic abuse), but I am a Beatles devotee despite John Lennon repeatedly beating up his first wife.

What is bad?

What is bad? Where’s the line? Are there socially acceptable crimes? Half of Hollywood shoves every kind of drug up its nose. Most of my favourite movies, TV shows, music and books probably wouldn’t exist without coke, weed, ketamine, mdma, LSD. I am aggressively anti-drugs but clearly I’ve found it easy to put that aside when it comes to entertainment. Even when the artistes are caught or are open about their drug use, I let it slide.

Murder and child abuse? Yeah, that’s usually enough to put me off. But I watched Roman Polanski’s Venus in Furs earlier this year. Polanski has been famously avoiding the US since 1978 when he was due to be sentenced for “Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a minor”. I’m a hypocrite.

How about moral infidelities or general bad behaviour. The violence of Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Eminem, Colin Farrell, etc. doesn’t dissuade me from appreciating their work. The misogyny, anti-semitism, racism or homophobia of Schwarzenegger, Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Alec Baldwin, Azealia Banks, Lars Von Trier won’t have me rallying against them.

And what about Joss Whedon, the torch-bearer for modern male feminism. The inherent hypocrisy in how he treated his ex wife and other women in his life has certainly tarnished my view of him, but it’s not enough to stop me craving the next thing he produces.

Forgiveness?

So, how am I subconsciously (or consciously) justifying this to myself? Do we forgive them? Am I forgiving their crimes and misdemeanors to allow my enjoyment of their work or am I just ignoring them. Where’s that line? If the delightful Chris Pratt were to murder a mall full of shoppers, would I protest the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie? Um… I dunno.

People can change and people can atone. I’m not sure what Jon Hamm or Mark Wahlberg did in their younger years reflects what they are today. But Mel Gibson seems to be just as bad as ever. I know none of these people personally, so I can’t say what their true feelings, opinions, actions are. But if someone has served their court decided time in prison, should we accept that as reason to move on. Jeepers Creepers director Victor Salva served prison time for his child molestation, so is it ok to watch his latest movie?

Wanted dead or alive?

The grey area get’s easier to navigate when the artist in question is dead. And easier still if they’re long since gone. It’s very easy to gloss over Wagner and Elliot’s anti-semitism, Dickens’ and Hemmingway’s misogyny, Byron’s incest, Elvis’s penchant for underage girls, Burrough’s and Carravagio’s murders. Why is that? The crimes still happened and the art still exists, but whenever I discuss the haunting beauty of Carravagio’s The Taking of Christ, I don’t preface my conversation with “well, I could appreciate this more if he hadn’t killed a man”.

I’ve told myself that I will revisit Woody Allen’s work when he dies (I really thought it would happen last year – there was something in the air). Oddly, I’m looking forward to seeing the movies he’s made in recent years since my righteous boycott.

The art from the artist

This boycott of mine really is pathetic. But do I abandon it and start watching his films again? Do I truly accept that the art and the artist are two separate things? No, that doesn’t settle well with me. I’m uncomfortable with my current stance – I’m so much less self-assured than before. Perhaps I should be uncomfortable. The topic is so vast and complicated that maybe discomfort is an important part of keeping the conversation alive. I’ll keep on thinking about it and I’ll keep on having the conversations, but maybe I’ll try be a bit more ‘woke’. I’m open to criticisms. I’m open to suggestions. I’m even open to being told that I’m just a pompous ass.

What do you lot think?

 

 

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