Woodward: The invisible line between the artist and their art

An artist’s work should not outshine their history of abuse.

Woodward: The invisible line between the artist and their art

Samantha Woodward

I was 13 years old when I left the Southhampton Cinema. I had just watched the premiere of “Magic in the Moonlight,” a Woody Allen film starring Emma Stone and Colin Firth. Between the dreamy, pastel color scheme and the witty plot, I wanted to be transported back to the ’20s and turn a con artist into husband material. I did my routine research on the film after I got home, and it led me down a rabbit hole of information. I was shocked to read about the sexual abuse allegations against Allen made by his own daughter. I felt so gross. I thought the popcorn I just scarfed down was going to make its way back up my throat — I was never going to watch that movie again.

I’ve always been very careful about the artists I follow on any medium. After becoming less naive about the people I once idolized, I became more critical of the content I was consuming. I have never been able to enjoy XXXTentacion, no matter how many recommendations I’ve gotten from my friends or the constant media buzz that surrounded his career. After his ex-girlfriend came forward will allegations of domestic abuse and aggravated battery, the last thing I wanted to do was listen to his posthumous album. Instead, I donated money to a GoFundMe campaign to help support domestic abuse survivors, which included the rapper’s ex-girlfriend.

I’ve found an abundance of Pulp Fiction fans in college. In conversations, I couldn’t bring myself to talk about how iconic the film is without also bringing up the director, Quentin Tarantino’s, multiple sexual assault allegations and history of racially controversial depictions in his films. Actors that choose to be in movies, as well as artists who choose to collaborate with these people, leave a bad taste in my mouth. It speaks more to their desire for money and a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame than the need to do what they believe in right.

I’ve found that I lack the ability to separate the artist from their art. I would rather sympathize with those they’ve hurt rather than make up an excuse for their actions. Since the rise of the #MeToo movement, many have questioned the legitimacy of accusations made against many celebrities. I do not separate the artist from their art because I know that a victim cannot separate their abuser from the abuse. If we, as a society, do not stand in solidarity with survivors and show them they are supported outside of their pain, we are standing in compliance with the artist. I think that if I were to be in the shoes of the survivor, having been mistreated by someone who others idolize, I would feel alone in my belief that they are not the mask that they show to the public. I would want someone to believe my story and make that the defining factor. 

We are not defined by our worst moments, but I do believe that there are people more worthy of praise than those who confess to harming others for the sake of power. We are better than that. I don’t know if that means I have a lack of complexity for art, am sensitive, uptight or just stick to my morals. Who I support goes farther than how the music sounds, how the movie makes me laugh or what the art makes me feel.