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Separating the Art from the Artist

By Allan Kupersmith, AWP Development Intern

Whether it’s film, TV, books, or music, audiences are often confronted by artists who are in some ways troublesome. This can range from having “un-PC” lyrical or literary content to being an abusive criminal. For many years, viewers would shrug off their hero’s less than reputable actions by saying that “you should separate the art from the artist” and enjoy the music, movie etc. while ignoring its creator’s shortcomings. However, tides seem to be shifting and audiences are more willing to turn away from abusive, criminal, and troublesome artists. In particular, charges of rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment are being taken seriously, and the perpetrators are being held accountable. In my own experiences in school, everyday interactions, and reading content on the internet, society tends not to take these problems seriously. As such, fans holding their heroes accountable is a step in the right direction.

In 2012 Stereogum writer Chris DeVille stated that, in regards to domestic violence allegations against Chris Brown, and Surfer Blood’s John Paul Pitts;

“(a) Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, and (b) if the song is good enough, I will bump it no matter who made it.”

Essentially, he argues that an artist’s work can be separated from their misdeeds and enjoying someone’s work doesn’t mean that you condone their actions. He also stated that;

“There’s a wide world of creation out there, and once I start rooting out the creators whose character offends me in some way, I quickly find myself rocking out to silence on an exceptionally high horse.”

However, a recent article by the same author, criticized ‘Lil Dicky, an Elkins Park born comedy rapper, for working with Chris Brown. Deville argued that because society doesn’t take crimes like rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment seriously and refuses to hold perpetrators accountable, viewers have to take initiative and do what they can to make a difference;

“Especially after watching so many men (including our own president) escape consequences for these kinds of actions, it feels right to hold presumed perpetrators accountable in whatever small, personal way I can, even if it’s just by denying them a few streams.”

However, change takes a long time to happen. Rapper/Singer XXXTentacion was able to attain the #1 album in the country despite being accused of beating up a pregnant women and other heinous charges. While, the hearts of one music journalist may change the same can’t be said of millions of music fans, and voters.

Looking from a personal vantage, while progress is slow and hearts and minds take time to shift, change does happen. I’m a fan of indie and alternative music, which considers itself a progressive genre which values inclusiveness and political activism. However, problems with sexism, racism, and other issues persist. From my experiences on music sites and forums, in cases involving prominent musicians and rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, or sexual harassment, the white elephants in the room would be ignored. If there was a reaction, fans would largely side with their heroes and denounce the accusers. If indie fans were critical of mainstream pop artists like Chris Brown, the same couldn’t be said of figures like former Queens of the Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri, or Happy Monday’s dancer/percussionist Bez[1].

However, when Spin revealed sexual misconduct allegations against former Real Estate guitarist and sole Ducktails[2] member Matt Mondanile last year, the artist was swiftly condemned and Ducktails’ albums were removed from streaming services. While hearts and minds take long to change, progress is happening. Hopefully movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo will continue to expose predators and the audience will no longer separate the art from the artist.

–Allan, A Woman’s Place Development Intern

[1] Since Happy Monday’s are not well known in the US, I thought I would provide some background. They are a band which formed in Manchester UK in 1980 and have a member Mark “Bez” Berry who is dancer/percussionist.

[2] Ducktails are a solo project fronted by Mondanile, while Real Estate are a band with multiple members.



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