The Lens

Harvey Weinstein’s disgraceful downfall seems to have been a tipping point; an inevitable avalanche of sexual harassment allegations has surfaced thereon in the entertainment industry. Icons such as Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey have been at the receiving end of severe backlash following statements made by fellow comedians and actors respectively. Thankfully, in the current scenario, the truth in some of these matters have come out whereas others are currently allegations. The depravity of these acts shall justifiably haunt them for the rest of their lives, keeping potential legal consequences aside.

All the perpetrators that have been warped into this vortex of perversion are, however, creators. This is where the age-old question regarding the separation of the art from the artist torpedoes into the picture. In this age, consumers of various art forms face this conundrum: Should art be viewed through a lens of the artist’s personal life?

Harvey Weinstein, scum of the Earth though he is, helped distribute classics such as ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Good Will Hunting’. Louis C.K., as perverted as he is, has churned out hilarious stand-up specials faster than any comedian working currently. Kevin Spacey, as disgraceful as he might be, has been one of the finest actors in the industry over the course of the past two decades.

Creation is a by-product of the creator. Any art is undeniably borne of an artist; it is definitely interlinked. However, creating and consuming are two different processes. In the case of the latter, the subject’s moral beliefs and ideologies often make the difference. The act of watching any media linked with these figures becomes the decision of the viewer. If one’s personal ideologies allow the maintenance of a gap between fiction and reality, said person can enjoy the art yet abhor the artist. At the same time, one’s beliefs might dictate the entire opposite. This, of course, results in an individual boycotting or opting not to watch a particular work.

Whether the art should or should not be viewed through this filtering lens is another debate altogether. This thought brings up the matter of economic health, in the minds of some. If you are consuming the ‘tainted’ art of the departed, you are not bolstering their economic health.; Michael Jackson is a good example. Amidst several claims of paedophilia, the man himself might have been sickening, yet the art he’s left behind is undeniably ridden with talent.  From this perspective, the consumption of art does not affect the artist positively, but the consumer might be benefitted.

There are many actors who have taken on repulsive roles in cinema. Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins in ‘Silence of the Lambs’ is a striking example: a seemingly good-natured and excellently mannered cannibal. In a flip perspective, one could argue that Anthony Hopkins himself is a cannibal, as he is able to portray one with such power. Of course, one opts to distinctly separate the artist from the art. The character portrayed by Hopkins is, in spite of his well-mannered persona, unforgivable. But the artistic impersonation from a third person is laudable. Entertainers committing detestable crimes must not be forgiven for their acts; nor should their personal lives be embellished with a celebrated body of work in a meek endeavour to minimize the damage they have caused. Of course, the art in itself might be free from this if viewed solely as what it is – art. Learning to act from Kevin Spacey’s films and learning moral values from Kevin Spacey are arguably two different things. It almost goes without saying, yet it all boils down to personal judgement.

The art created, it must be noted, despite being brilliant must not in any way attempt to redeem the originator.

– Author: Abhay Bhudki


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