Freshman Voice: Can We Separate Art from Artist?

From iconic films like Pulp Fiction, to nostalgia-inducing series like The Cosby Show, it seems as though nothing is sacred in the world of television and movies. The plethora of writers, producers and actors being convicted left and right of sexual assault has raised an important moral question – is it possible to separate art from the artist?

The birth of the #Metoo movement has made one thing very clear, passivity can be lethal. Without active resistance, an accusation becomes something the assaulter must overcome rather than something they must live with. For myself, it is simply impossible to support art created by offenders of sexual and domestic abuse without suffering some moral decline.

Some may argue that simply watching an illegally downloaded version of a film with a known assaulter is the morally sound way to consume such controversial media. Supporters of this argument assert that this is a valid way to absorb this type of media because the artist receives no financial gain in exchange for their viewership.

While illegally downloaded movies and television shows solve the economic aspect of the issue, it is not a comprehensive solution because it fails to consider a much more fundamental aspect of the #Metoo movement – the victims. The ultimate decision to overlook an artist’s involvement in sexual harassment and consume their work, even if doing so does not provide financial gain, does a great disservice to the victims who are often left to be treated as liars or villains in the wake of their accusations.

It is still imperative to the movement, however, to resist supporting productions involving abusers. This was made clear in 2016 when Manchester by the Sea garnered $79 million in the box office even though the lead role was portrayed by an accused assaulter (who later won a golden globe for best actor). If movies starring known predators do well in the box office and during award season, studios may have little to no motivation to deny assaulters these roles.

While it may seem difficult to resist seeing new releases, think of it this way: would you willingly give money to a convicted harasser under any other circumstance? If the answer is still yes, consider this: by standing with victims of assault in Hollywood, we can empower more victims to come forward. Next time you’re thinking about seeing that new movie or binging something on Netflix, consider using Rotten Apples before you decide what to watch.  

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