Separating artists from their behaviours

Why it’s acceptable to appreciate the work of people accused of sexual violence

According to several news outlets, Netflix has “completely dropped” actor and producer Kevin Spacey due to several sexual assault allegations. With this comes the question of whether supporting Spacey’s projects means you are supporting the actor’s actions.

It is not a new debate, as many famous individuals have been caught engaging in unsavoury and, in some cases, criminal activities. Despite all this, the accomplishments of these people have been and will be remembered more than the individual and their downfalls.

This is why, in my opinion, you can support great art despite the actions of the artist.

Before we talk about the most recent cases, like Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, we should look back at past examples. Arguably the most famous, or should I say infamous example, is French-Polish director Roman Polanski. Polanski was convicted of “unlawful sexual intercourse” in 1977 after allegedly drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. Originally, he was charged with five different crimes related to the incident, but eventually took a plea bargain and was convicted on the previously mentioned lesser charge. Despite all of this, Polanski is, and will likely be, recognized as one of the best film directors of all time, with classics like The Pianist.

Another example is Woody Allen. Despite the allegations of child abuse against him, according to BBC News, Allen is known as a fantastic actor, producer and director. It isn’t just figures in film though. Some athletes have had very troubling personal lives, yet are regarded as some of the best in their field.

People like Spacey and Weinstein are currently in the news for their despicable actions, but what I wonder is, will they always be? Spacey has starred in amazing projects, like American Beauty, Se7en and Netflix’s House of Cards. Weinstein has produced films like Gangs of New York, Pulp Fiction and won an Academy Award for his work on Shakespeare in Love.

I believe the heinous actions allegedly done by those in the entertainment industry will usually be overlooked in favour of their achievements. While this is an eye-opener on how our society views celebrities, it also points to why a person shouldn’t feel bad for supporting the project or accomplishments of these people.

Using Shakespeare in Love as an example, Weinstein was one of five people to share the Oscar for Best Picture. Should the four others involved in that film suffer because of his actions? Shakespeare in Love also won six other Oscars that year; should Weinstein’s actions muddle the accomplishments of the actors in his films as well? The same argument can be made for Spacey: why should the hard work of those involved with his projects be shunned?

With the fate of House of Cards up in the air, the city of Baltimore (where the show is filmed) is also at risk of suffering for Spacey’s actions. According to an article from the New York Daily News, the cancellation of House of Cards would result in the loss of thousands of jobs. Why should a camera-man or a craft services employee lose their jobs because of someone else’s misconduct?

When a figure involved with great masterpieces is revealed to have allegedly committed sexual violence, their work should not be what is shamed. A movie may star an actor or actress who has done horrible things, or the film could be produced or directed by a terrible person, but that person is not the only one involved in the project. The art will always outlast the character of the artist, and supporting great art means more than supporting one person involved.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth 

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