Opinion: Can we separate the art from the artist?

     Whenever there is buzz about a celebrity messing up and facing the consequences for their actions, fans will say something like: “I do not support their actions, but I will still support their work. Separate the art from the artist!”


    But can you really separate the art from the artist? Can you support their work without supporting their actions? The answer can be complicated. 


   Some believe that refraining from spending money on celebrities’ products and instead interacting through other sources is an acceptable way to continue consuming art without supporting the artist’s actions. In that case, the fan revokes their financial support, but monetary gain is not the only benefit artists get from fans. 


   Fans can support artists by helping them become more popular by sharing social media posts to promote the artist’s content or otherwise praising their work. By advertising problematic artists’ work in this way, former fans help the artist gain more attention and publicity which ultimately draws in new fans who might financially support them and their behavior. 


   However, one might wonder if it is solely the fans’ responsibility to hold the celebrity accountable. Why does the industry not do anything to stop promoting problematic celebrities?


   The industry may not always be willing to punish the celebrity due to financial and legal issues. For example, domestic violence allegations about Justin Roiland, the creator of the hit adult cartoon “Rick and Morty,” came out. The charges were made in August of 2020; however, Roiland’s success as a voice actor, writer, and producer remained largely unaffected despite facing charges due to the popularity of the show.


     His TV show won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program in 2020 and received a sixth season in 2022. Only in January of 2023, was it announced that Adult Swim was cutting ties with Roiland and recasting his role. 


   When fans become aware of an artist’s inappropriate behavior, they should question if they will continue to support them. It may take months or years for the industry itself to stop supporting them if it happens at all.


   Another example is actor Brad Pitt, who is currently facing abuse allegations from his former wife, Angelina Jolie. 


   According to the article “Brad Pitt’s abuse allegations were the elephant in the room at this year’s Golden Globes”, the author states, “The other celebrity guests welcomed him with open arms, tacitly ignoring the domestic abuse allegations leveled by his ex-wife Angelina Jolie. Intentionally or not, this creates the impression that Pitt and Jolie’s Hollywood peers are uniformly Team Pitt, hand waving the distressing nature of Jolie’s accusations.”