Should we separate the art from alleged sexual abusers?
via AP

Should we separate the art from alleged sexual abusers?

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Kevin Spacey joins the list of alleged sexual predators being outed in Hollywood, with actor Anthony Rapp accusing Spacey of sexual assault when he was 14 years old. Spacey apologized for the alleged sexual assault, came out as gay and is now being criticized for linking homosexuality with sexual abuse of minors. Like R. Kelly's music or Woody Allen's movies, skeptics are debating if they should continue to watch Spacey in the acclaimed "House of Cards." Should we separate the art from abusers?

The Votes Are In!

Bill Cosby, Bryan Singer, Casey Affleck, Nate Parker, R. Kelly, Woody Allen, Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein are just a few of the powerful men in Hollywood who have been outed in recent years as sexual predators in Hollywood. The conversation and actions on sexual assault of women in Hollywood and across society is arguably more mobilized than ever. Some of these men's careers continue to flourish, others have been dented. As the list of famous men being outed as sexual predators continues to grow, skeptics are debating if we should separate the art from these artists or boycott the art too. 

Some skeptics argue if art has imitated real life. In the case of R. Kelly and Allen, their work reportedly details their sexual abuse. In the cases of Cosby or Parker, their best pieces of work aren't about them as artists. Many fans still argue "The Cosby Show" is a classic family sitcom which paved the way for other black family sitcoms, regardless of Cosby. And respecting a piece of art does not excuse Cosby's actions as an alleged sexual predator for decades. Cosby as a sexual abuser will hopefully be held accountable in other ways. Others argue the work is tainted and supporting the art is only enabling abusers. Still, some skeptics agree that these cases vary from artist to artist. 

Indiewire asked different critics if art should be made separate from the abusers. Here's what a couple said:

Candice Frederick (@ReelTalker), Hello Beautiful, Birth.Movies.Death, The Mary SueI think this answer will vary from person to person, and I don’t necessarily think there is a wrong answer. For me, as hard as it is sometimes, I can separate the artist from his/her film. I do, however, think there is often a clear agenda an artist has when it comes to his/her work, which can influence the narrative they choose to present and their characterizations. But in the case of Weinstein and even Allen, the thought is always in the back of my head; What were the circumstances around the making the movie? What drew the actor to work with this person? But do I judge the film based off the filmmakers personal actions? No. Do I judge the filmmaker outside the film? Absolutely.
Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@chrisreedfilm), Hammer to Nail/Film Festival TodayThe simple answer to the question is that the art should speak for itself. It is never that simple, however. Am I able to watch films by Roman Polanski or Woody Allen without considering their makers’ deeply problematic histories? Perhaps some can; I cannot, though since I grew up appreciating Woody Allen before his own scandals erupted, I have a harder time dismissing his pre-1990s work than I do all of Polanski’s movies, since the experience of watching them was part of my growth as a cinephile. And therein lies part of the problem: it is very hard to disassociate oneself from past pleasant memories, even when they become tainted for the most legitimate of reasons. Witness the difficulties faced by accusers, not only of public figures but also within families, when they come forward. No one likes to be forced to change their mind about someone.

Some are struggling with whether or not to separate the art.

Critics are done hearing "separate the art from the artist." Boycotting the art of the artist can be an action to render sexual abusers powerless. 

Critics have pointed that famous white men in Hollywood have gotten off the hook more with sexual assault. Casey Affleck won an Oscar in 2017 following sexual assault allegations. Nate Parker's film "The Birth of Nation" tanked in 2016, and his career is arguably over after rape allegations from the late '90s resurfaced. 

Boycotting art is a complex situation for some people. But supporters believe if you boycott one sexual abuser, you should boycott them all—even if you originally liked the artist.

"Separate the art from the artist" can also help the sexual abuser still thrive. 

But in the case of Spacey, "HOC" fans argue his character Frank Underwood can be killed off the show—creating an interesting perspective on how to properly "separate the art" that you love from problematic artists. 

Some say the art is not the artist. The artist might be horrible, but if the art is good and has an impact then that's what it is. 

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