Chai break

Chai Break: Is it okay to love the art but hate the artist?

Hiya, nerds!

Welcome to yet another discussion post here on the blog.

Today, we’re going to be discussing a topic that’s been plaguing my thoughts for the past few weeks.

Should an artist’s actions outside of their craft have an impact on how we perceive their art?

If you’re a part of our Banned Book Club Twitter group chat, you would’ve noticed that several of its members have been asking themselves the same question. That’s because our BoTM for May is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It’s a powerful book about a 14-year-old Native American kid who leaves the Spokane Reservation to go to a school attended predominantly by white students.

Sherman Alexie is obviously an excellent writer whose book is moving and opens discussions on intersecting identities. Sherman Alexie has also been accused of sexual harassment by several women.

Before I started reading the book, I was so sure I would hate it. I thought I wouldn’t be able to separate the author from his book. But, funnily enough, I was. I enjoyed reading the book. I gave it 4 stars.

And I feel super guilty about it.

In light of the #MeToo movement and the allegations of sexual assault in the publishing industry, this is something that needs to be discussed.

Is it ethical to like a book or appreciate a piece of art by an artist who’s morally reprehensible? If we do like their art, is it tantamount to almost shrugging off their actions, turning a blind eye to their atrocities? Or is art merely aesthetic and it’s entirely okay to appreciate it despite the artist’s actions?

Let me know what your stance is in the comments!

~ Shruti

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40 thoughts on “Chai Break: Is it okay to love the art but hate the artist?

      1. As much as I love Harry Potter Jo comes to mind . . . Because she clearly stated that Dumbledore was gay and he was romantically involved with Grinderwald then why not show it in Crimes of Grinderwald? Maybe it’s something to do with the plot but if they don’t show it at all then JKR was being a huge hypocrite : (

        Liked by 2 people

  1. This is going to be long.

    An art represents an idea, not the person who thought of it. It’s the idea you love, not the author. I think it’s essential to perceive art without bringing the author’s personal actions into question.

    People are complex. One’s idea does necessarily turn into their actions. Most inventors were a***oles in their personal life, to people. That doesn’t mean we should throw away all they gave the world and move back to the stone age.

    So, yes. I think, it’s completely ethical to appreciate art and still hate the author.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, this is the reasoning I followed to arrive at my conclusion too. I think it’s all right as long as the art doesn’t include the artist’s morals too. If the line between aesthetics and morals gets blurred, things can get quite messy, I believe.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This may be a controversial answer and a long one too 😃
    I do believe that art and artist should be considered differently.. there I said it!
    Why? Because what you create for the world to read is necessarily not the actual thinking of the author. Many people write the stories which the world would love. It is where rare when an author is sharing a part of their lives. And why do you have to hate the work if you enjoyed it? Wasn’t it the whole purpose of the book?

    This reminded me the case of Johnny Depp and JK recent news about Fantastic Beasts. Many people, specifically readers, said that they won’t watch it as JK is not removing Depp from the movie and he is an abuser. I don’t want to know about his personal stuff because in this age of media, I don’t know what’s true or what’s hidden. But I love Depp because of his acting. I love Pirates of Carribean and probably it is one of my favourite series all because of Johnny Depp. I can’t wait to see how his role will be developed in Fantastic Beasts. I don’t have any personal attachment to him but yes I do love his acting and that’s why I won’t stop watching his work.

    Same is the thing with each media. Art and artists should definitely be considered different 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wouldn’t call this a controversial stance, Sim! I was very well able to separate Alexie from The Absolutely True Diary. But I also feel guilty about doing so.

      But what you’ve said here is how I’ve rationalised it. I’m not in any way shrugging off what he did. I’m not making the women who came forward seem insignificant in any way. And I sure as hell won’t contribute to book sales if he ever wrote another one.

      Now about Johnny Depp, he’s an actor I’ve always loved. But when Amber Heard spoke up about domestic abuse, something changed. I was one of the people who was pissed that he was being cast in Fantastic Beasts. I still am. And I do despise him now, as a human being. But I will watch the movie because watching it doesn’t mean I condone his behaviour. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes exactly! Watching/reading and actually supporting the author/actor is different things. I have never supported Johnny Depp publicly or said anything wrong to anyone because I know whatever he did was wrong. But yes, not watching the movie is certainly what I won’t do.
        Same is with the writers. I truly enjoyed reading the book but I don’t support the things he has done.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yup! Also, I have a question. If Alexie wrote a new book would you read it?

          I think I won’t. I don’t want to contribute to his sales in any way. However, that doesn’t work with Depp, does it? I just said I will watch his movie.

          I guess it all boils back down to how involved they are in the art. Depp is just one of the main characters in the movie. Whereas if Alexie wrote a book, it’s HIS book. He’s the sole person who’s brought the story to life and that’s why I will not support him.

          Does that even make sense? 😅

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Haha interesting question but I don’t know the answer yet 🙈 Practically I shouldn’t but I am also eager what if the book is too good? But I cannot decide as of now, really 😐
            Oh yes, I’ll keep watching Depp’s movies 😂

            Liked by 1 person

          2. One reason why I think it’s better off not knowing an author’s personal life. Call me ignorant, but I’d rather enjoy a book for what it says than what I think the author says through it or form a bias against it for what the author did.

            Knowing an author’s actions would tend to make the readers relate their books to them. It happened when I read about Jeffrey Archer’s political life and then started relating his books to that.

            A book has it’s own identity. An author does don’t cover for it. Same applies for movies. We love the character called Jack Sparrow, not the actor.

            It’s purely upto you to decide how you feel about it and whether you’d read a book from Alexie. But there is a chance you might actually love it or maybe hate it. You’ll never know till you read it.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I understand what you’re saying. Another commenter mentioned that going in not knowing anything about the artist works too.

              But I’m too curious for my own good. Sigh. Let’s see how I react the next time something like this happens.

              Like

  3. Interesting question and one which I have considered before and am not quite sure where I stand. I can separate the art from the artist in my mind, but is buying a book ethical if its author did/does things I don’t agree with? And should I make it my business to investigate every one whose work I read before reading them? Is ignorance an acceptable screen to hide behind? I can’t set myself absolute rules because for every one I decide upon, I can think of an exception. It’s a real minefield 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s my problem with it too! It’s not black or white! Should you contribute to the artist’s bank by buying/viewing more of their work even when you know of their transgressions? Is art merely aesthetic and it’s okay to do so? Ugh. I’m so confused.

      Like

  4. Yay the chai break is back! OK let’s do it! Firts if I learn something deeplu unsettling about an author and it’s been confirmed I won’t read her or his books anymore. BUT I did make an exception for our book. How so? By not reading anything about him before diving in. I wrote my review (I’ll publish on time promise) still without reading anything about him. Only now will I go read about him. I just know that my opinion will be tainted. If I am aware of what the person has done I will “read between the lines” and interpret the story, trying to find clues of what a horrible person he or she can be. I have difficulties separating the art from the artist as I think that the art conveys who the person is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes, I remember you saying you wouldn’t read about him until after you’d finished the book. It’s a good coping mechanism.

      But here’s the thing: I did what you said you avoid. I read all about him and then read the book. I read between the lines. I tried not to like it, but I ended up liking the book. I WAS able to separate the artist from the art, and that kinda scares me. 🙈

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  5. My stance on this tends to be that I won’t pick up a book if I don’t like what I’m hearing about the author. However, if it’s something I’ve already read, and then I hear things I don’t like about the author’s behaviour, it won’t affect how I feel about the book…

    I guess it’s that I won’t support an author who’s behaviour I don’t like, but if I’ve already read their book, I’ve already read it, and I can’t change that, so I’m not going to stop liking the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But you wouldn’t support the author anymore, would you? That’s the question I’m grappling with right now. There are so many gray areas about this topic and it’s just confusing. On the one hand, you don’t want to contribute to the author’s sales in any way because of their actions. On the other hand, there’s the school of thought that art has nothing to do with the artist’s morals.

      This topic is just a minefield. 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I still don’t know how to behave aswell on this point … I have 13rw on my shelf and, I’m not sure what I shall do with it – It was on sale and I only knew afterward, which of course I now felt guilty about.

    makes me think of actors who did awful things and frowned upon.. when their actor’s skills are great, let’s say it. Can we both like their work, and frown the author’s behavior ?? Many ties them together; but however, I don’t know ..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, this topic is such a mine field. On the one hand, there’s the fact that you’d actually like the book. And on the other, there’s your conscience making you feel guilty about reading the book.

      Ugh. There really is no one answer to this.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. There are so many great opinions above! Honestly, I’m torn. I sometimes think it’s hard to separate an artist from their work especially in the book and movie industry. However, it’s still art and it should be enjoyed because it’s only the artist’s idea that you are buying into. The reason I’m torn is because it feels wrong to support an artist that has done something so terribly wrong and by buying their book you are promoting them in a way. Now, I haven’t read any books by the artists of recent allegations, so I’m not entirely sure if I would be able to separate it. I would like to say I would, but I’m not sure.
    This is definitely a lot longer than I intended, but your post truly made me think about this topic. I’m still unsure. Sorry if this was a confusing response!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think we’re all very confused about this! This is how I’ve rationalised it for myself: It all boils back down to how involved the artist is with the art. If they’re one of several contributors, it’s not all them and it’s completely all right to not avoid it. If it’s just the artist that’s responsible for the art and it involves their morals too, I’d probably avoid it.

      But even this is not set in stone. I’m as confused as ever. 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I avoided reading about the charges against Alexie and your blog post until I finished the book, and now I’ve read both and I think…it is okay if we like the art and not the artist! But I know I couldn’t have stood it if this book had been something preachy like advice for men against sexual harassment or …something that completely contradicts the writer’s behaviour in real life, you know? That I couldn’t allow. Does that make sense?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It totally does! That’s what I said in another comment too! It all depends on how involved the author was with the art and what kind of art it is. If it’s something where the author’s preached something and then turned around did the exact opposite in their life, I’d definitely not read their book.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, I didn’t know this about him. I actually tried the book years ago, but didn’t enjoy it at the very start and DNFed. But when it comes to judging the book by the author, I think what matters is whether they push an agenda on you or not. When they don’t, I believe it’s very possible to enjoy the book and let go of the author’s mistakes. We all make mistakes, sometimes big ones. But if an author is also pushing that agenda on you (for example, if he was talking about how it’s okay to harass women) then it would be a totally different case…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I always try to keep the art and the artist seperate. I think it’s easier to do this with film though, because a film is made up of many people’s contributions rather than just those of the wrongdoer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yesss! I said this to someone recently! I’d be okay with watching Fantastic Beasts because Johnny Depp is not the main contributor. Whereas, if he was solely responsible for the script, direction, and everything, I’d be uncomfortable watching the movie.

      Like

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