Separating Good Art From Problematic Artists

An idea that has been lying at the forefront of my brain for the last few years is how can we separate genuinely good art, whether it be literature or film, from a problematic artist.

Where this all really started for me was with Kevin Spacey. He was once one of my favorite actors and his movies were some of my favorite of all time. But now I am forced to question whether or not I ever want to watch him onscreen again. And yet, I have. And I hate to say it, but I enjoyed the one film I watched. However, everytime I would look at his face I would get an almost sick feeling to my stomach because of what I now knew.

Which brings me to H.P Lovecraft, one of the most influential horror writers of all time. His works have inspired many, including Jemison. His depictions of his insane creations have terrified people for generations and he is accordingly recognized for it. The question that gnaws at my brain is, should he be though? I mean the man was an outspoken anti-semite, racist, and sexist. And yet, he is still read and his books are still cherished by many. People seem to be able to look past these facts about him because they love the worlds he has created.

Should we as a society be able to look past terrible acts when the people who committed them have also created wonderful things? In The Fifth Season, we see the Fulcrum do terrible things to orogenes in the name of keeping Yumenes and the rest of Sanze safe. And although they torture orogenes they do keep their country safe, for a while at least. Now, these are terrible acts done by terrible people, we can all agree on that I think, and they deserved their deaths at the hands of Alabaster.

So why is that justified and agreed upon, yet when it comes to the actions of specific people we reach an impasse? Some people will defend the terrible actions of others, we’ve seen this most recently in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. Much like the Fulcrum people like Kavanaugh and Spacey take unjustified, unconsented control of people to use them for their own means.

Jemison does a really good job on taking the idea of informed consent and making you wrestle with it in your mind while you read. It is very Octavia Butler-esque and I’m glad writers like her and Butler bring up these issues so that we can have an actual conversation.


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