Can You Hate the Person and Still Love the Art?

On being continually disappointed by artists

Photo by Getty Images

It seems almost a weekly occurrence that we hear about yet another celebrity or artist who has severely transgressed against someone.

Sometimes it’s disappointing: accusations that a women felt pressured to be physical with Aziz Ansari. Sometimes it’s horrific: I’m looking at you, R. Kelly.

In the last year or two, it has been an endless cycle of celebrity men, even women, behaving badly. It usually results in fans having to participate in a full on boycott. No more movies. No more streaming. No more music. Concerts cancelled. Refunds given.

In most cases this hasn’t been a difficult reconciliation for me. The boycott doesn't really affect me as I never really invested much time in the artist.

Louis CK? Whatever. He’s funny but I can live without him. Kevin Spacey? I have admired his work but if I had to give up his movies I could probably move on with my life.

The boycott is not only a means of denouncing the artist but also a demonstration supporting the victim(s). But what happens when the victim is collateral damage?

Boycotting Harvey Weinstein also means that you’re not throwing your support behind the people that were victimized by him. No Harvey = no Frida = no Salma. That doesn’t feel good either.

And what happens when you truly love the art?

When news broke last month about what Mandy Moore and Ryan Adams’ relationship was like and all of the women who came forward to say they were victimized by him on some level, my heart sank.

Photo of Ryan Adams via Getty Images

I goddamn love Ryan Adams’ music. Listening to him has been a near daily occurrence in my house. I still contend that Oh, My Sweet Carolina is a goddamn great song regardless of his behavior.

So, it begs the question: can you hate the person and still love the art?

As he was one of the highest grossing performers of all time, I am sure that in the aftermath of Leaving Neverland, there are millions of Michael Jackson fans asking themselves the same thing. Does the fact that he’s dead change the landscape a little? It is possible to listen to Michael Jackson in clear conscience but not Ryan Adams?

Then there’s the acts of contrition. When the text messages emerged between Aziz Ansari and his date, he was clearly contrite, acknowledged his behavior, apologized. Does that make it okay to start watching Parks and Recreation again? Because a world without Leslie Knope is no world for me.

It’s a first world problem, for sure. I can’t be the only person torn by pressure to acknowledge things that only indirectly affect us by virtue of just sitting like a pit in our stomachs. And we have so many other things of our own to worry about. But still… I don’t have an answer to the question. Maybe you do.

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