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Should We Separate the Art From the Artist?

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily express those of The TV Ratings Guide.  


Over the past month, sexual predators in the entertainment industry have been knocked off their high horse. Women and men alike have come forward to expose their disturbing actions and put an end to their despicable behavior. The series of scandals that began with director Harvey Weinstein ignited a domino effect throughout the industry. In an instant, once-beloved actors lost their credibility and appeal to the public alongside their ties to Hollywood. While the focus should be bringing these offenders to justice, this leaves the fans in a difficult position. Should we cut all ties with the predator in question? Or should we simply separate the art from the artist? To answer this question, one must look at both sides of the spectrum. 

In the 1985-86 television season, The Cosby Show was the highest-rated program on television and it would hold that title until 1990. For thirty minutes a week, millions sat down and enjoyed the antics of Bill Cosby's Dr. Huxtable. For nearly a decade, he was America's favorite father. That iconic status was the reason his fall from grace was so disastrous. Countless women came forward and accused Cosby of sexual assault and his wholesome image was permanently tarnished. People who grew up watching his programs were forced to understand that Bill Cosby was a sexual predator. But does that take away the joy that many felt while watching his shows? For some, the answer is no. The Cosby Show was iconic in its depiction of a successful and stable black family. Even with the details we know now, I can not deny the impact that it made on the country during its eight-year run. With that said, it is tough to look at the show the same way again. There's no way to escape the fact that Bill Cosby is not a good person and that his friendly image on camera was just that, an image. So, while the show's influence remains intact, its legacy has been demolished because of Cosby's heinous actions.

Furthermore, the Cosby situation connects to the recent scandals surrounding directors and actors alike. House of Cards is a beloved, Emmy-winning drama that will soon come to a close due to the inexcusable actions carried out by Kevin Spacey. Like Cosby, some will continue to enjoy it while others will stop viewing his work due to Spacey's abusive ways. Ultimately, I choose not to separate his image behind the camera from the one on screen. His acting may be exceptional, but he has lost the trust of everyone who enjoyed his content through his actions.

For many, television and film act as outlets that help us escape the struggles and stress of the real world. For thirty to sixty minutes, viewers admire, enjoy, and connect with the people they see on-screen. While they are just playing a role, many grow fond of these characters and treat them like virtual friends or family members. That is why this type of news has a brutal impact on the public. Sure, the average individual never knew Spacey, Tambor, or CK personally, but they created a persona that many admired and related to. For us to find out that these seemingly good people abused their power and hurt others is a betrayal of what they represented.

Additionally, whether we continue to enjoy their work also depends on how big their presence was in the productions they made. For example, John Lasseter recently joined the long list of men who have abused their power. So, does that mean that people should boycott the upcoming release of The Incredibles 2 and stop watching past Pixar features? No, because while Lasseter may be the head, there are still many voice actors, writers, and animators that put in the time and effort to make a great film. In retrospective, it would be the equivalence of a teacher punishing the whole class because of the actions of one individual. We should not discredit the hard work of others because of the actions of one. Nevertheless, that does not take away the fact that Lasseter's actions are unacceptable and that he should be punished accordingly.

In the end, the answer is NO. We should not separate the art from the artist. The artist created the art and holds responsibility for how they act and present themselves when the cameras are off. To continue to view and purchase their work would make it seem like their actions were acceptable. Yes, there are instances where the person is only one part of a whole, but the general rule should be to detach ourselves from their work. Nevertheless, we will always feel let down that the people we once looked up to were really just playing a part.


What did you think of this article? Did you agree or disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.