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Separating the art and the artist in films and TV


BossSaru
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Separating the art and the artist in films and TV  

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Things were much easier in the olden days. We could overlook that many actors and directors had dodgy pasts and views simply because nobody talked about it, there was less public outrage, and we lacked social media to share information so freely.

 

These days, however, Mel Gibson's rants are easy to find and are indefensible to non-racists. Details from Johnny Depp's court cases relating to Amber Heard were live-Tweeted. And the Weinstein revelations have shown a number in the film industry in a very bad light, even if they were not directly involved, for the blind eye they turned to his behaviours. The Harry Potter series' popularity is also tainted by the views that its creator has freely shared on Twitter.

 

On the smaller screen, Graham Linehan has burned his bridges with the creative industry, even if his catalogue of work remain broadcast. And Laurence Fox may find it hard to get a serious acting gig in the future since becoming an anti-Woke/vaccination/BLM campaigner.

 

Does this affect people's habits with regards to what they watch and enjoy? Do people find themselves feeling a bit awkward watching The IT Crowd now, or would they avoid a new Mel Gibson film at the cinema as he starts getting starring roles again? Or is the view that we should not conflate the art and the artist? Acceptance that the creators can be seriously flawed, and concerns that expecting moral standards from creators could see the works of Disney and Wagner being removed from the marketplace?

 

Of course, this topic can relate to any form of entertainment, film, TV, music, games, and literature. But, given the very public face of film and TV stars it feels most appropriate to use this as the focal point.

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Even within the monolith of Hollywood’s corporate entertainment “art”, you could decide to never watch the same actor twice and still never run out of meaningful work to explore. I skip movies based on whether they look kind of boring, or watch them because they have a cool monster on the poster. The idea that it’s bad or wrong to make viewing decisions for entirely legitimate reasons, that all worthy media deserves your attention just by existing, is inane.

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If you're going to not watch a film because of the actions of one person, should you not have to then vet every single person connected with the making of every film. To make sure the everyone is of an acceptable standard?

And then where do you draw the line, rape, murder, sex offenses. Sure, they're bad people. How about a conviction for drink driving when a teenager. or selling spliffs to an off duty cop ?

 

I think if you went through the entire list of people with even a passing interest in a film these day, from the catering crew, set designers, runners, to the talent on the screen at the end. You'll find someone loathsome enough to put you off the whole thing.  

 

Sure, don't watch a movie because you dislike an actor.  But you can't then claim all the other movies are perfectly fine. 

 

 

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Loved Shane Carruth. Upstream Color is in my top 5. Then news broke about his alleged abuse of Amy Seimetz which just sickened me really and has completely tempered my view of his work. He sounds like he shouldn't be near sharp objects, let alone running a shoot. I admire amazing art - and Carruth has made amazing art - but fuck that guy.

 

 

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It definitely changes my relationship to the work. It doesn’t necessarily mean I boycott things completely. I’ve seen Shane Carrith, Louis CK, Woody Allen stuff again but I definitely feel very differently about them when watching them. How could I not? 

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Yeah likewise, I can't forget what I know about these people and seeing something created/they're involved in to a large extent obviously brings this immediately to mind. It makes me less likely to bother with anything they do in future, but I can't think of any examples where I have to make a tough decision about it (e.g. I have no interest in Potter anyway). Meanwhile no I'm not thinking "statistically at least one of the catering staff or set designers or key grips is probably a wrong 'un" that would be a bit silly.

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I think because at that point they are playing a character, they aren't themselves. 

 

Topically. Will Smith in MIB or Hitch isn't someone that gets up during a speech and lamps the person on stage. That's what's he's done once in real life. That act hasn't changed the characters he plays in other films. It's just changed your perception of him as a person. 

 

So I think it's fine to divorce the character from the real life actor. 

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I absolutely separate the art from the artist.

 

To take one of your examples - Mel Gibson.

Yep, his racist rants are indefensible.

He's also in some of my favourite films ever made. I can happily watch Mad Max 2 without thinking about Gibson's veiws on jews.

 

To be honest, Hollywood is such a sinister and bizarre place that I expect a huge percentage of the top names are involved in something dodgy.

Just look at the Scientologists. How anyone could defend the actions of that so-called-church is beyond me but you'd have to cut out a ton of great films if you were going to boycott anything with a Scientologist in it.

 

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34 minutes ago, Sidewaysbob said:

I think because at that point they are playing a character, they aren't themselves. 

 

Topically. Will Smith in MIB or Hitch isn't someone that gets up during a speech and lamps the person on stage. That's what's he's done once in real life. That act hasn't changed the characters he plays in other films. It's just changed your perception of him as a person. 

 

So I think it's fine to divorce the character from the real life actor. 

I don’t think film stars work that way. When you see Harrison Ford onscreen, he brings everything he’s done in the past along with him. It’s a mix of actor’s persona and character. If I see a Woody Allen film, I’m not thinking, that there is Alvie Singer, who has absolutely no relationship to the actor/director/writer Woody Allen. It’s a superposition. 

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There is no hard and fast rule, really.  The closest I can come up with is I'll happily watch something made before whatever happened but anything made after we find out is tainted.  It's hard to shake the love for something that exists, but you can't love the new stuff in the same way.

 

I don't think that is a particularly defensible position, but there you go.

 

There are even exceptions - seeing Linehan in Darkplace or even his name at the start of Black Books drew a sharp intake of breath.

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It did feel a bit weird when I watched Superman Returns the other day - I'm a huge fan of the film but there's a problem with two of the people involved in the making of the film.

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I wish it didn't but it does change things for me a lot most of the time. I loved the IT Crowd. Can't watch it now. Same with Harry Potter. Same with Firefly.

 

If you can more power to you. For me in 90% of cases I just can't go back.

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What if one of the camera crew in the IT crowd went out after each day's filming and worked in a soup kitchen and fed stray animals of an evening. Would that mitigate the views of one of the writers?

 

You're refusing to watch something that's unrelated to the actions of one individual, but not considering the actions of all the other people involved. 

 

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11 minutes ago, Sidewaysbob said:

What if one of the camera crew in the IT crowd went out after each day's filming and worked in a soup kitchen and fed stray animals of an evening. Would that mitigate the views of one of the writers?

 

You're refusing to watch something that's unrelated to the actions of one individual, but not considering the actions of all the other people involved. 

 

 

I'm refusing to rewatch something that I've watched multiple times because the actions and views of one of the creators has destroyed my enjoyment of a series I loved very much. I'm not calling on it to be banned from being shown again. I'm not haranguing other people from watching it. I'm not actively avoiding any other media made by other people involved in it. And I bought all the DVDs at the time. That hypothetical member of the camera crew? I've already made a contribution back at the time by buying the DVDs and recommending them far and wide AND buying extra copies as gifts.

 

I don't feel compelled to revisit something that makes me sad now and I don't plan to contribute to future projects said writer may be involved in when he's actively making life worse for some of my friends.

 

Weirdly enough the thing that's stopped me from throwing out the DVDs is because they have some of the best DVD menus I've ever seen.

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I don't judge anyone for watching what they want (except for extreme Edge cases like white supremacy videos, snuff films or Mrs Brown's Boys) but it does make me think twice or consider watching something else. There is also a difference between watching a star vehicle where the star is toxic (or director) as that crosses a line in my mind. That being said, I read and teach material from people with problematic views (Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name, anything Lovecraft etc) but it is affected by my wider knowledge. 

 

It is totally possible to ignore it all and view everything in a moral vacuum but, for me personally there are people whose work I have no interest in supporting. I refuse to apoliticise art as that doesn't square with my whole philosophy on it's creation, construction, and importance in culture. 

 

Tl;dr personal choice but shaming people taking a moral stance with nonsensical whataboutery can do one.

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I don’t know why people get cross that someone else doesn’t want to watch Harry Potter or listen to Michael Jackson records or whatever. Why do you care? Is it all part of the brand loyalty that big franchises have, that it’s disloyal not to consume? Or do they think it might reflect badly on them, the Harry Potter watcher, that others make different decisions?

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I don't separate them. I can put aside a piece of entertainment if it's been made by an arsehole, because that's a hierarchy I believe in.

 

If the crimes of the people in question have been enabled by their role in entertainment, and that instutition has protected them because they're entertaining and lucrative, then that power should be taken away from them. While a celebrity is bankable, their victims will be suppressed and they will be allowed to continue behaving that way.

 

By prioritising their entertainment value over their crimes, I'm deciding that I think the distance from those offences is enough. Which isn't how I feel at all. It would potentially be different if the crimes in question weren't enabled by their position in the entertainment industry. But I've yet to see a case of that.

 

Everyone's going to draw their own lines on this stuff. Does someone having a cameo overrule  an otherwise respectable cast and crew? Probably not. But I'm not going to see an arsehole as a protagonist.

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I find it different if someone is front and centre, for example Kevin Spacey but less so if its a writer, director or producer etc.

 

I dont really know why that is, maybe it's simply a case of out of sight out of mind, like I'm sure there's plenty of Weinstein produced films we carry on watching/enjoying and don't think twice about the monster behind them.

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1 hour ago, Sidewaysbob said:

What if one of the camera crew in the IT crowd went out after each day's filming and worked in a soup kitchen and fed stray animals of an evening. Would that mitigate the views of one of the writers?

 

You're refusing to watch something that's unrelated to the actions of one individual, but not considering the actions of all the other people involved. 

 

 

This is a weird argument. What percentage of DVD royalties do you think the gaffer from the IT Crowd is on? They're on hourly rates. They got paid for the job and then went and got another one on Rosemary and Thyme or something.

 

Adam Baldwin being a giant MAGA dickhead has made it hard for me to enjoy watching Chuck and Firefly because he's right there on screen and I can see now that when he was acting the role of giant MAGA dickhead with a heart it was only the "with a heart" bit that would have been a stretch for him. Joss Whedon being an abusive creeper makes it hard to watch his stuff because any slightly off colour line in the script starts you wondering whether that's his real voice slipping out. It's not a boycott or "taking a stance" or whatever, it's just that their bullshit has tainted something that used to be enjoyable.

 

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I do still watch stuff written/directed/starring creators who have since been linked to objectionable opinions or actions. But knowledge of what those people are like can be a distraction that means I don't find their works as enjoyable as I did before - especially if they contain lines of dialogue that bring those things to mind.

 

I do try to keep in mind whether, in consuming the work, I'm sending a minuscule amount of money back to the problematic creator. Sales, rentals (including library loans), and streaming/viewing figures might not send much money their way, but they do show that there's a demand for their work. I posted about that in the recent Jimmy Carr thread:

 

 

 

 

 

But if it's easy to make a compartmentalised distinction between a fictional work and its creator, it's harder to do that when those people turn up doing commentaries/Making Ofs, because you lose that layer of fictionalisation and collaboration, which acts as an insulating barrier.

 

A few examples of that:

 

1. @Unofficial Who mentioned the great DVD menus on The IT Crowd, but for me, the standout features of those DVDs were Glinner's audio commentaries. I remember them being a really informative insight into what goes into writing and producing a sitcom, and maybe better than the series itself. I'll probably watch episodes of The IT Crowd again in future, but if I ever listen to those commentaries again, it'll be for morbid curiosity (trying to see if they contain hints of his online behaviour since then), rather than entertainment.

 

2. Another example of a commentary possibly revealing more than was intended at the time of recording: Ren & Stimpy's resident sexual predator John Kricfalusi did some commentaries on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVDs. I remember him making some insightful points about animation technique (at least in between complaining about anything made after around 1965). But at one point, he describes Daffy Duck as "a guy that just can't control his urges... like me." It doesn't sound like such a self-deprecating joke after the 2018 allegations about him.

 

3. Joss Whedon is one of the most consistently good commentators of his own work - I thought almost all his Buffy, Firefly, Serenity, Avengers, and Much Ado About Nothing commentaries were really good.

 

4. A couple of years ago WB/DC made this Superman documentary freely available online. It was made for a DVD box set around the time of Superman Returns, which meant that it was narrated by Kevin Spacey and had a lot of clips of Bryan Singer as a talking head. Those bits were awkward to watch - but not enough to stop me watching it.

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It’s all well and good ‘boycotting’ art because of the artist but where is the line drawn?
 

Is it just art? What if I’ve got a particularly odious local Tory MP who’s voted for all kinds of appalling policies but has also directly influenced the creation of a lovely park in the area?

 

Should I deprive myself of enjoying that because of their involvement? If not then why should I deprive myself of enjoying a film or book etc made by someone who’s views or actions I also disagree with? 

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I don't feel it's about depriving myself of enjoyment. Rather, the enjoyment is soured through association in a way that's difficult for me to shift.

 

It doesn't happen to everything. I can happily enjoy watching Father Ted despite the shittiness of Linehan, but find it harder to listen to Michael Jackson. There's no rhyme or reason here, it's just how it's panned out. I haven't made a conscious decision in either case.

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18 hours ago, Sidewaysbob said:

What if one of the camera crew in the IT crowd went out after each day's filming and worked in a soup kitchen and fed stray animals of an evening. Would that mitigate the views of one of the writers?

 

You're refusing to watch something that's unrelated to the actions of one individual, but not considering the actions of all the other people involved. 

 

 

I've seen this point brought up a lot, and it always comes across as disingenuous. Much like the park argument above.

 

It's one of those arguments that purely exists so that the person who makes it can justify not doing anything that might inconvenience them at all.

 

Which is their choice, obviously. But masking it as an ethical choice? Nobody's buying it.

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I think everyone makes their own choice on this one.

 

I tend to try to separate the art from the artist, especially when it comes to films or TV productions where they are clearly the work of hundreds of people and not just a single actor or writer. I guess I tend to draw the line where it feels like by supporting the work in question, I am somehow helping to perpetuate the behaviour in question.

 

Example: I watched Baby Driver last week. I didn't even know Kevin Spacey was in it. A sharp intake of breath when he first appeared, then I just watched and enjoyed the film. He was just one actor out of dozens, and not even the main character. Anyway, his career is completely shot now, he's paid the price and will continue to pay the price for what he has done, watching and enjoying something he did before his actions came to light doesn't feel like it's going to affect anything.

 

Example 2: JK Rowling is actively using her money and influence to stir up shit for transgender people, and will continue to do so. Supporting Harry Potter in any way right now feels like I'm helping to perpetuate that. So I don't. I've enjoyed it in the past but it's irrevocably tainted in my eyes by her actions.

 

So I guess I put people like Spacey and Jackson in one category, and people like Rowling and Linehan in the other. Maybe that's an inconsistent point of view and I'm not criticising anyone who looks at this stuff differently, I think it's a personal decision.

 

(The one that's upset me recently is Whedon. I'd only just finished watching Buffy for the first time when the stories about his behaviour came to light. I was going to go on and watch Angel but I just can't do it right now, especially not with the Charisma Carpenter allegations. I wonder where people stand on things like, e.g., the first Avengers movie in the light of these stories).

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Death on the Nile is a good recent case as Gambit put it in another thread

 

Quote

Death on the Nile now up.

 

Featuring the most cursed cast ever assembled. Anti-vaxxers, cannibals, Joe Rogan wannabees and Gal Gadot.

 

A mainly unlikeable group of characters with a lot of them played by unlikable actors means instead of caring about who did it I just wanted Rose Byrne to go gull Ygritte on them all with a bow and arrow and it to be like the Riverboat mission of Hitman: Blood Money when your plan goes wrong so you just kill everyone.

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1 hour ago, Garwoofoo said:

(The one that's upset me recently is Whedon. I'd only just finished watching Buffy for the first time when the stories about his behaviour came to light. I was going to go on and watch Angel but I just can't do it right now, especially not with the Charisma Carpenter allegations. I wonder where people stand on things like, e.g., the first Avengers movie in the light of these stories).

 

I find Avengers a really hard watch now where it used to be a great movie to unwind to, the venom that Loki has for Black Widow just feels gross now. I used to think that Joss Whedon was amazing at writing awful men because he'd observed awful men in action and taken note. 

 

Firefly, again, a comfort show but my most recent watch was halted by again, the venom of some of the male characters against the female characters.

 

I think Angel is almost an impossible watch now, when I originally watched it there was this odd discord on how Charisma Carpenter's character was greatly expanded but it felt like the show story wise was really hostile towards her. I just took it as a wry take on how awful Grimm's fairy tales treated women in general but now I know the history...yeah....I can't go back.

 

I mean I get it, you need to have tension in dramas and you can't have everyone being nice. (I played through Lake recently and while the niceness was refreshing in hour one by hour five I wanted to drive into the titular Lake.)

 

So yeah, I'm greatly affected by this sort of thing.

 

However to save people searching through my old posts if you really want to call me a hypocrite on this I'll save you the research time.

 

"Hey Unofficial Who up there on your high horse. What about David Bowie then? You still listen to his music. You still watch Labyrinth. What gives?"

 

And I'd say to that, it's a fair cop. It shouldn't be any different.

 

20 hours ago, Sidewaysbob said:

What if one of the camera crew in the IT crowd went out after each day's filming and worked in a soup kitchen and fed stray animals of an evening. Would that mitigate the views of one of the writers?

 

You're refusing to watch something that's unrelated to the actions of one individual, but not considering the actions of all the other people involved. 

 

 

1 hour ago, schmojo said:

 

I've seen this point brought up a lot, and it always comes across as disingenuous. Much like the park argument above.

 

It's one of those arguments that purely exists so that the person who makes it can justify not doing anything that might inconvenience them at all.

 

Which is their choice, obviously. But masking it as an ethical choice? Nobody's buying it.

 

Just to revisit this as this argument was bought up in the Ubisoft thread. And I love Ubisoft games. Or loved at least. Yes, I'm the one that bought ALL the Assassin's Creed games when they came out. But I didn't buy Valhalla. And that argument came up. Essentially "yeah, leadership is toxic but the people you're really punishing is the poor staff that have mortgages. What about them?"

 

It's a really odd argument in that it proposes that the best way to turn a toxic organisation around is to keep rewarding them (seriously, when has that ever worked? Surely that just sends the signal that what they're doing is the best way and no change is needed!) But also in a content rich time where there are devs that are treating their staff right why should I reward Ubisoft or Activision with my limited time and money over Supergiant who purportedly are a great place to work and who've put out some great games!

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I think its slightly easier with movies as they're such large-scale colloborative projects that you can justify it to yourself that the problem person (be they actor or director) are just one of many cogs in the machine. It's much harder with something like a novel where its the (mostly, apart from editors) work of an individual. I could never read another J.K. Rowling book knowing how hateful she is.

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