You Said It

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Is it OK to love art by terrible people?

Illustration by Marjainez.

Illustration by Marjainez.

My favorite Woody Allen movie is Annie Hall. A banal sentence with a bad meaning.

Like many survivors of child abuse, I have always sought comfort and escape from my own life in the lives told in fiction—especially movies, in my case. A safe and scripted portrait of growing up, fucking up, falling in love—one that links you with the other people around you and is available for purchase as a six-disc box set on Amazon—is so much more appealing than an unreliably remembered reality that you are too traumatized to relive and too scared to retell for fear that the response will be “I don’t believe you.”

Andy Warhol once said that he likes everything to be exactly the same: identical pictures of happy movies stars faces printed over and over again. I found this comforting predictability in my Woody Allen DVDs. His world made me feel things—sad things—I didn’t necessarily want to feel in the real world. Unclouded by trauma or humiliation, the memories he created in the collective consciousness were clearer than my own, which are constantly being rewritten to jibe with my current, ever-changing self. But his movies were more reliable than real life. You could just a buy them in a shop and fast-forward to a particular scene, and it would be exactly as you remembered. There were no tricks.

This trick does not work for me anymore.

It’s been a long time now since Dylan Farrow told us exactly what her father, Woody Allen, did to her. Since that time, my thoughts have tossed and turned, settling most recently on what it means to love work by terrible people. It’s easy to dismiss an artist’s work if you never cared for them in the first place, if you never had a chance to form a relationship with them in your head before you learned the horrible truth about them. If I didn’t watch Annie Hall on repeat after my house was robbed and all that was left was a cheap TV and a couple of Allen’s movies, watched over and over again to stave off the depression that threatened to swallow me whole. If I hadn’t transcribed, by hand, the dialogue from Hannah and Her Sisters on a card sent to a friend with cancer. If I hadn’t watched that scene from Hannah where Woody Allen goes to the movies after a failed suicide attempt and decides not to die every time I wanted to die, and if it hadn’t stopped me every time from going to the kitchen, opening the knife drawer, and slitting my own throat.

Now, I don’t know how I feel about these memories, about these feelings, about Woody Allen, about myself. To think that the source of my escape from abuse could have been responsible for ensnaring someone else. How do I reconcile my solidarity with other survivors, with all girls whose innocence, like mine, was stolen when we were in our single digits, with the fact that Woody Allen’s movies have, quite literally, saved my life on numerous occasions? I do not know. I am scared and confused. My stomach hurts and I feel faint.

I remember staring at pictures of Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby in my grandma’s TV Guide and thinking she looked so cute, long before I’d ever even seen the movie by Roman Polanski, who, a decade after making it, drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl. I remember the summer when all the pictures I uploaded to Facebook were washed-out imitations of photos by Terry Richardson, who I thought was a really cool photographer. That was before I learned of the myriad accusations of sexual harassment and exploitation made against him by young models he’s worked with.

I feel silly now to have thought that movie theaters and DVD collections (not to mention books, video games, iTunes, etc.) were safe spaces that child abuse—an affliction as common as the cold—could not enter. Are there other terrible things in my DVD collection that I skipped over, erased from my memory, because the crimes of their creators don’t apply to me, personally? If I hadn’t been abused as a child, could I do the same with the work of Allen, Polanski, and Richardson?

Most of all, I keep returning to the same question: With its illusion of cosy comfort, in his funny face flickering from the screen onto mine as I lie in bed, his work told me more about letting people know you than anything in my lived childhood ever did. What do I make of those memories now? Which ones should I hold on to, and which can I erase? ♦

Bethany Rose Lamont is an MA student at Oxford University and a graduate of Central Saint Martins. Her art and writing have appeared in cool places like BuzzFeed, The F Word, the British Library, Hackeny Citizen, and The Ardorous. She blogs here and tweets here.


  • speakeasied May 13th, 2014 12:04 AM

    I have actually had the idea to write an article on this for quite some time now, but have been putting it off until summertime when stress from school is no longer an obstacle.

    You said everything as I would have, but more eloquently – and I’m glad to know I’m not alone in questioning whether the morality of an artist invalidates his or her art.

    • Bethany May 14th, 2014 6:24 AM

      You are definitely not alone <3 But please, please don't let this article stop you from writing a piece on your own thoughts! You already have one guaranteed reader: me! Like I said with the comment to dreamygirl a lil bit further down the page, this piece is the most subjective of the subjective! It is so far from a definitive answer, and that to move forward with this discussion we need lots of different points of views shared <3 But urgh I feel u on school, I have no life outside the library right now!!

  • nyxlore May 13th, 2014 12:26 AM

    Bethany, this is something I have struggled – and still struggle – with. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone in this. Hopefully, we will figure out where we stand someday.

  • sopademierda May 13th, 2014 12:40 AM

    This is so disturbing and beautifully written

  • spudzine May 13th, 2014 12:43 AM

    I’ve always found fiction to be better than real life, not because I found reality to be boring, but because the worls of television felt (and still feels) a lot safer than the real life horrors I and many others face on a daily basis.

  • hami May 13th, 2014 3:19 AM

    I’ve been also thinking about these things a lot lately.
    While reading the A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald thoughts like is it ok to me like of this couple even some things they have done are awful go through my head. But, I don’t want to judge anything yet, I’m only halfway the book.
    Not so good example, they ain’t that awful.

    And there’s this Finnish singer, a funny and talented guy. But can I like him since he’s sometimes disrespectful towards his wife?

    The Woody Allen thing is a bit complicated. I have never liked him much, no idea why. But all these articles saying he did it or not, word against word, I don’t know who to believe.

    This is why I want to know much as possible about things before going out and saying I love or like or hate them. These things, likes, hates and opinions do represent one as a person, I think so.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Bethany May 14th, 2014 6:36 AM

      No that is such a good example-the Fitzgeralds are so interesting! I read about how F. Scott actually completely plagiarised Zelda’s diaries, lifting huge parts and printing them in his novels as is, and how hurt and betrayed she felt.

      Reflection and reading is definitely important, but I think it’s best to involve all the white noise coming from journalists (often male journalists!) who think owning a box set on Woody Allen makes them an expert on child abuse. Rather I think it’s best to look at the words of Dylan and Mia themselves.

      This 1992 Vanity Fair piece is a good introduction:

      The official 1993 court reading is also an important source:

      However, even if there was no evidence aside from Dylan’s open letter I would still believe her with all my heart as so often with survivors all we have is our stories.

  • bella_lmh May 13th, 2014 3:24 AM

    this is so interesting and confronting
    thank you for bringing another amazing topic to our eyes rookie!
    (I also write on a fashion/music/travel blog and would love it if anyone checked it out xx

    • Bethany May 13th, 2014 3:07 PM

      Wut your blog is so great!! Arctic Monkeys are one of my all time bands! (The lost and found theme kinda came out of me being alll ‘pleaasee do a rookie theme based on the first arctic monkeys album pleaseeee’). Also I’m simultaneously ridiculously happy for you and ridiculously jealous of you that you saw them live!!

      And thank you, I definitely don’t have all (or even any!) of the answers when it comes to things like this but I am glad that a conversation has been opened up around it <3


  • flocha May 13th, 2014 5:23 AM

    Bethany your blog is so good I was so excited to see you had written something fo Rookie! This piece is so thought provoking. The knowledge that someone who created something you love is not a good person in real life is one of the worst and can make you feel so terrible and guilty for liking something.

    • Bethany May 13th, 2014 3:02 PM

      Aww thank you so much!! Do you have a blog too? I’d love to read it!

      And yes it is definitely a very disturbing thought to unwittingly consume works like that, not knowing the history.

      It sounds silly but I was actually quite mad at myself when I found out and was like: ‘oh the only reason I liked it was because of my own position as a survivor which means I’m broken and only like awful thing ergo I’m awful’

      Sort of in the same way when I was younger I always ended up in really bad, toxic relationships I began to worry that all culture I consumed was toxic too!

      I think we just need to be upfront about how common child abuse is and keep on talking about how the normalisation of child abuse and sexual assault is actually affecting the culture we consume, the movies we watch in very real, horrible ways.


  • eva-stark May 13th, 2014 7:49 AM

    Well, our responsibility as consumers in the media is to side with the victim. Siding with the victim also means NOT supporting the abuser! It’s actually so simple.

    You cannot separate the art from the artist. By continuing to watch/read/buy their work you are supporting them. Financially and socially.

    Our responsibility is to show victims that when they come forward with their experiences, they can be safe because we will support and believe them.

    But by saying there is no proof or saying that you can still like their work also gives other victims the message that no matter what, the abuser will get away with it. Which with Woody Allen, Terry, and Polanski, they did. And that is so, so sad.

    • Chloe22 May 13th, 2014 10:13 AM

      I absolutely agree. I can understand the extreme, depressing disappointment when you find out an artist you loved did something horrible….but that pain or sadness is stubbing your toe compared to what happened to victims. And they always get away with it, they never go to jail. And they get honored at the Golden Globes. It’s a sickening, nasty world we live in.

      • Bethany May 13th, 2014 1:45 PM

        And I totally agree that it is in no way the same. But I think it’s important to have conversations about how survivors of sexual abuse carry their trauma and how that impacts how they relate to pop culture when so much of pop culture is often intertwined with abuse already.

    • Bethany May 13th, 2014 11:30 AM

      Hi Eva,

      I definitely don’t support Woody Allen and am no longer going to follow his career or watch his movies, buy his DVDs, or generally boost his career in any way. I stand with Dylan, I believe Dylan. Survivors come first, always. I don’t care how famous or ‘smart’ the abuser is.

      I am just saying that often we don’t know the history of people who make work when we watch it for the first time, we might not even know who the director, or the author of the work is. And then reflecting back on a time when we loved these works, knowing nothing of the context, from this new position where we do know all these awful facts about the author, especially if you are a survivor yourself, is very painful as a result.

      Often, this isn’t even because these things are kept from the public eye but because topics like child abuse, like rape, are so rarely deemed important enough to be centred in our understanding of pop culture.



      • Bethany May 13th, 2014 11:50 AM

        Also one more thought!

        I definitely agree that you can’t separate art from artist because art is just so entrenched with the idea of the individual creator.

        I think the question shouldn’t be can we separate the art from the artist-especially in terms of abuse (because I agree that is gross and apologetic of abuse)

        Rather I think we need to question why is there so much art in our culture made by abusers? Why are these artists thriving? How can they be so famous, and yet such important details be deemed unimportant when cultivating the public persona of the artist? And what does it mean for survivors of abuse to interact with these works in a culture that trivialises rape and abuse.

        • eva-stark May 13th, 2014 1:56 PM

          Ok I see what you mean. Thank you for your comments and for sharing :)

          • Bethany May 13th, 2014 2:42 PM

            No problem, and thank you for your thoughtful comments it really means a lot to see people standing up against abusers <3

    • chloe meg May 15th, 2014 8:29 AM

      this is such a difficult issue. i for one, am still an avid admirer of the work of both allen and polanski.

      though of course IN NO WAY do i condone the actions of either artist, i think it is possible (though admittedly immoral) to behold and appreciate beauty despite its source. for example, much of mainstream apparel is produced unethically, and though we are aware of this, we still purchase it and demand low prices.
      the fact that their crimes are sexual in nature makes the issue even more difficult, due to the way sexual abuse is dealt with in society (victim blaming). it is hard to take into account the circumstances that lead to the actions of the abuser, with out condoning, or seeming to condone, the actions themselves. (e.g. Polanskis’ wife had recently been murdered by members of the Manson family)
      humans are complicated, and we release emotions in different ways. allen and Polanski did despicable things. disgusting, cruel, horrible things. but i still believe their work is valid. despite having lost respect for the creator, i still respect the creation

  • Sunshine May 13th, 2014 1:30 PM

    I’ve never seen a Woody Allen film and I refuse to, on principle. Once, they showed Midnight in Paris in class and I walked out.
    My rationale is that I’d rather not support a child abuser.

    • Bethany May 13th, 2014 2:48 PM

      That’s amazing! You’re my new hero <3

      I have no idea what to do with my Woody Allen DVD's, like I don't want to give them to a charity shop because what if another girl, like me, watches them not knowing his history?

      Maybe I will bury them in a sort of witchy ceremony to get a sense of closure, both of recovering from my own trauma and in rejecting the work of abusers. <3

  • I W May 13th, 2014 2:06 PM

    This article is particularly useful/pertinent at the moment after the sexual abuse ‘scandal’ (I hate to call it a scandal but I can’t think of the right word at the moment) around prominent youtubers with people wondering whether they can still enjoy their content/music.
    Personally I’ve unsubscribed and deleted the music I bought from them but that doesn’t change the fact that I loved both the content and the music in the past. I think the extent to which art can be divorced from the artist kind of depends on how personal the art is, though, and a lot of great books etc have been written by a lot of really, really awful people.
    But yep, I feel really uncomfortable consuming media created by abusers/terrible people.

    • Bethany May 13th, 2014 2:52 PM

      Urgh I feel the same way about Conor Oberst! I deleted all my bright eyes songs but sometimes those songs appear randomly in movies on tv or whatever? It just shows how the culture of abuse is so insidious.

      And definitely so many authors and artists in history were the absolute worst, it scares me, like sometimes when I find out details about classic authors it seems like being awful is the rule not the exception.

  • susanv93 May 13th, 2014 3:17 PM

    I know I struggle with this a lot. I admired Woody Allen so much before I read Dylan’s account and as much as I admire his work, I can’t in good faith continue to support him, especially when he continuously denies the allegation and continues to be shielded by the industry.

    • Bethany May 13th, 2014 3:43 PM

      I completely agree, I can’t begin to say how disturbing it is to see the lengths critics have gone to deny Dylan’s account and cover Woody. Possibly the worst was one I read was a piece suggesting the only reason the abuse account had come out was for Mia Farrow to gain more twitter followers. It’s absolutely appalling. I have not only lost all support for him but am now very wary of a good deal of cultural critics!

  • susanv93 May 13th, 2014 3:26 PM

    I have a question for Rookies: how do you deal with your problematic faves? What’s the breaking point between “Okay this person has said problematic stuff but maybe they can be better in the future” and “Yeah, I can’t support this person anymore”?

    • Bethany May 14th, 2014 7:00 AM

      That is such a good point! And I’m not sure it’s one I have an answer to!

      I think in my case cos art is so emotional it’s often a combination of what feels ‘right’ for you, whilst also taking into consideration the impact this artist is having on other people, perhaps people from different backgrounds to you.


  • juyler May 13th, 2014 4:19 PM

    When I found out about what Woody Allen had done and Dylan’s letter I didn’t know how to feel, I was just shocked. Like you, I used Allen’s work to escape from my life…fiction is always better than reality because its predictable, which is safe and comfortable. However, this isn’t living and these revelations made me realise that. Life is hard and sick and disgusting and there’s these gross things that happen everyday by gross people, but at the same time to contrast all of these things there are amazing things happening too, by great and influential people (*cough* everyone on Rookie *cough*).

    I spoke to my teacher about this and told him I felt guilty for liking and even paying attention to any of Allen’s stuff. He said not to feel guilty, and then we went into a discussion about art and who creates it; are we connected to the art created as well as the people who made it? Or just the art? Or just the artist? Is the artist putting themselves and their experiences into the art or are they using it to disconnect themselves with their life and experiences and what they have done? I don’t know, really, and I don’t think these questions can ever be truly answered. Perhaps the best and worst thing about art (on all platforms) is it’s uncertainty/ambiguity.

    I’m glad you wrote this article as this has been on my mind for a while, and you have summed up my thoughts on this subject effortlessly. Thank you.

    • Bethany May 14th, 2014 11:42 AM

      Thank you for your beautiful comment, your teacher sounds so amazing. I completely agree about reality and living, and especially about Rookie!

      If it was not for Rookie I may not even be here, as so many night when I was very vulnerable and at risk of hurting myself I would just stay in bed going through the Rookie archives, whether reading Pixie’s amazing pieces on mental health and suicidal thoughts, pieces that have saved me so many times, or Tavi’s editor’s letters, letters like her exploration one, which taught me to see the beauty in the real world, and how to make this world (as flawed and scary as it is) my own.

      I think being able to see myself in the ‘real’ world, and not disassociate from it, not only helped me function as a fuller, happier person but actually helped me to write and create things for myself, on my own terms. (Like this rookie piece!)


  • o-girl May 13th, 2014 5:45 PM

    i appreciate that this article is mostly about questioning and wondering and not about one right answer, though i think it’d be really cool to see this discussed more thoroughly and to see differing POVs

    • Bethany May 14th, 2014 6:06 AM

      Definitely! In many ways this piece is more about the uncertainties and confusion that come with being abused, how it affects day to day life, and my own subjective experiences as a survivor, it is just one point of view, and not only that it is an point of view without a clear, immediate answer.

      This is not because I don’t feel strongly about supporting Dylan, about supporting fellow survivors, I do, I can’t begin to say how much I do!

      But to be honest about being a survivor I have to reflect all the mixed up fog in my brain and how that affects how I interact with things, even really awful things.

      But yes! Hopefully this will open up a conversation so we can hear different people’s point of views on the situation, I’d love that so, so much <3

  • Margo May 13th, 2014 10:35 PM

    This is something I really grapple with, and have grappled with ever since I first learned about Soon-Yi and Dylan Farrow. I love Woody Allen’s movies, and I think that my love for his work also furthered my relationship with my mom. Because she loves his work as well and a dear friend of hers whom she would always go and see Woody Allen movies with moved across the country around the time when I first watched “Small Time Crooks.” After that, I watched Take the Money and Run, and then it was Scoop, and then What’s Up Tiger Lily?, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Hollywood Ending. I always looked forward to when my mom would tell me, “I just rented another Woody Allen movie.”
    And now, I don’t know what to do or say when people ask me what my favorite movies are. Because I love the sense of humor and familial connection I have with Woody Allen’s work, but I struggle with supporting him like this after Dylan Farrow.
    I’m not even sure who’s story I believe more, the whole thing seems so “he said, she said”, his-word-against-hers.

    • Bethany May 14th, 2014 12:10 PM

      I can definitely relate to that, when I was living in an estate (i guess in the u.s. it’s called the projects?) I got burgled, all my stuff got took, and I was really suicidal and vulnerable, my Grandad went all the way up to london to see me and we just sat in my busted up living room and watched annie hall and it just gave me a reason to live y’kno?

      I totally agree about the favourite movie thing, I never know what to say now either :/ But for me the process of getting over being a Woody fan girl has helped me reflect more, read more about other survivors experiences, which in turn has strengthened both my work and my own beliefs and sense of self. So yeah I don’t have Woody anymore but I have Janet Mock, Angel Haze, Maya Angelou, characters like Pecola Breedlove in The Bluest Eye and Celie in The Color Purple, and even the almighty Oprah!! (love Oprah!!<3)

      It is very difficult with cases like child abuse and sexual assault as often all we have as evidence is our stories, stories that we have hidden, even tried to blank from our memories. But like I said to hami (further up the comment section) even if it was merely Dylan's account against Woody's (which it isn't there is lots of other information too-I post some links in my answer to hami) I would still believe Dylan and defend her with all my heart as I know how utterly terrifying it is to speak openly and unapologetically about your abuse in a world that tells you to stay silent.

  • lydiamerida May 13th, 2014 11:06 PM

    It’s like the Le Tigre song What’s Yr Take on Cassavetes:
    Genius? Misogynist?
    Messiah? Alcoholic?

  • fluorescentyesterday May 14th, 2014 5:51 AM

    This was simple and lovely to read. I was shocked after reading about many celebrities I had previously looked up to on the blog yourfaveisproblematic. Whether it be cultural appropriation or rape jokes (why Mac why) it’s hard for me to respect and admire these people the way I used to, and sometimes I feel guilty for continuing to support them. I think it’s good for us to discuss this, cos it’s definitely a difficult situation…but thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one thinking about this (-:

    • Bethany May 14th, 2014 6:48 AM

      Definitely when it comes to things like cultural appropriation it’s a whole other thing!

      Whilst I think cultural appropriation is often a product of ignorance (not realising how sacred certain images are in different cultures) I think it is often less about the individual and more the inevitable product of colonisation-where communities of colour are erased, murdered, sold into slavery, and now reduced to mere images and trinkets.

      In this sense when I go to Topshop or whatever and see white girls buying I dunno dreamcatcher t-shirts I am not mad at them, or think they are bad people, but rather I am just unbelievably sad at the system of colonialism which has been allowed to thrive for centuries.

      And urghh rape jokes=instant way for me to drop from number 1 fangirl to urghh wtf get away from me!

      And in terms of yourfaveisproblematic have you seen martin freeman’s page?? I love sherlock and had no idea what a jerk he was!!

  • starsinyourheart May 14th, 2014 9:21 AM

    I’ve been lucky enough my to have any idols turn out to be scumbags. But I was abused as a child too and used music and films and books to comfort an heal me. My dad is also a rather successful artist… If I knew that one of his pieces of work gave comfort to an abused child, I would be okay with that. As long as they acknowledged that he was a bad person… I think I would be okay with it.

    I would not be okay with his fellow artists backing him up or ignoring me, or committees giving him big awards, or people continuing to support his work… But if his past work gave comfort to a hurting kid, that’s a different matter. Just my opinion.

  • Aurora May 14th, 2014 7:28 PM

    This article resonates, unfortunately. I was a huge fan of Alex Day for years and years, and then this February, he was accused of like 13 counts of sexual assault. I haven’t been able to bring myself to consume any media produced by him since.
    I used to listen to his song “Good Morning Sunshine” every time I had a panic attack, and it’s hard dealing with that without him.

    • Bethany May 15th, 2014 3:44 AM

      Oh man, I did not know that about Alex Day (now I realise that was what I W’s comment was in reference to.)

      I am reading about it right now and am just so sickened by the whole thing….

      Reading about how the power structures in YouTube communities are so unbalanced, replicating the patriarchal power that exists in the real world (with all its toxic implications) but in the seemingly safe space, of the Nerdfighters community….that is just so awful.

      It illustrates (like I was saying to Eva) that the question isn’t can we separate art from artist but why do we live in a culture which creates structures that places abusers at the top, allowing them to thrive, and think such behaviour is acceptable?

      In terms of the Alex Day song: we should try and create a Rookie list of alternatives to cultural work by abusers, like…’if you like Alex Day’s music why not listen to this instead?’ That way Rookies can still have comfort in music and movies without supporting abusers. <3

      Plus it gives us an opportunity to boost artists who are perhaps less represented, cos they're not nerdy white men or whatever!

      Much love


  • wonderwanda May 15th, 2014 3:40 AM

    Oh man. I relate to this SO HARD. It’s funny, (in a sad ironic way) that the reason I’m able to parcel through the argument of separating art & artist is because of Helen and David’s train car chat in Bullets Over Broadway.

    Hannah and Her Sisters was my favorite movie through the entirety of college, and I still have to watch it on Thanksgiving just because. You probably get the sour taste feeling too, right? For me, it’s weird feeling like I have to forgive myself for once feeling a certain attachment to his films, now knowing more of the whole picture.

    This is a bit of a random segue, but if a terrible person’s arguably not terrible art inspires another not terrible person to also make not terrible art; hating on person two because a piece of their personal amalgamation is horrible is silly, right?

    You (and everyone else in this thread who’s having even the slightest bit of trouble divorcing their love for Woody) should check out this awesome movie called Judy Berlin. It was made in ’99, and has the same kind of Chekhovian quietude most of Woody’s films do, sans the yucky aftertaste.

  • giov May 15th, 2014 5:37 AM

    I remember reading roman polanski’s autobiography when I was the same age of the girl he raped, and feeling quite disturbed by his final conclusions (she was a sexually active 13 year old! possibly fucking her own step father! what a slut!). But then again at the time I was reading Christiane F. every other week, so I didn’t expect much from adult men.

    Anyway, I also struggle with this, especially when people I like come up with woodie allen’s quotes or terry richardson’s profile pics. My philosophy is: there is so much great art which was NOT made by horrible people, art made by women! people of colour! queer folks! so much great art that can save you from killing yourself without supporting people who have hurt others!

    Personally i make it my goal to find out about that art, to seek it, sustain it, make space for it, and let THAT save me.

    p.s. I love you Bethany! you da best.

    • Bethany May 15th, 2014 9:10 AM

      Wut! Aw! The love is mutual! Sending awesome Rookie vibes and well wishes your way <3 <3

      And yes! That is such a wise philosophy to go by, stepping away from the canon of douche-y white dudes and honouring the amazing history of work made by women of colour, many of whom are survivors themselves, was actually the most soul nurturing thing ever! It gave me a reason to live IN the world rather than escape it <3

  • Jamie May 15th, 2014 5:37 AM

    It’s definitely possible to like art by problematic people, or even problematic art itself, if one can understand why it’s problematic. I mean, the Beatles have been my favorite band since I was 11, and John Lennon was super jealous and sometimes abusive toward his first wife Cynthia, and pretty much an absent father to his son Julian. But I still love his music, and feel like all of the other parts of him overshadow those flaws. Sometimes these conversations have a way of reducing that person/their art to a simple negative label (and sometimes rightly so!). I guess I think it’s up to the individual to analyze how they connect to and interact with artists/art and decide what to exclude and what to keep, because, especially in the entertainment-industrial complex, one can’t (pardon my crudeness) swing a dead cat without hitting someone who is in some way problematic.

    • Bethany May 15th, 2014 9:28 AM

      This is such an insightful comment Jamie! I totally agree about the entertainment agency, and I totally agree it is not a simple as dividing problematic from non-problematic, as the entire entertainment system, the very foundations it was built on, is itself corrupt.

      Whilst, in the case of Woody’s movie I no longer identify as a fan, or intend to watch his movies any more there are definitely examples when that isn’t the case. Sometimes art by problematic people about problematic things can provide us greater insight into why horrible things happen in the first place, and that in turn gives us the chance to learn, to perhaps make things better.

      For instance, I love, love, love Tupac’s music but I also know he has committed some terrible crimes. But as his work hinges on the toxic nature of poverty, racism, misogyny, rape culture, police brutality and gang culture, and questions whether it is possible to ever get ‘out’ of these bad environments, without being corrupted by these things…well in that sense I believe we can learn so much from his music, and use his work, his teachings, to make the world a better place.

  • Audreevee May 15th, 2014 12:04 PM

    Thank you so much for this article! Ive gone through the same horrible process of realization so many times and it’s such a conflicting thing to think about how much the art means to you when it was created by a terrible person.

  • saramarit May 15th, 2014 12:34 PM

    I know that David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page had sex with underage girls who were fans of their music but I still listen to it. I question it all the time and often wonder why some men and women are vilified for these actions and some are not. I suppose it’s different because those girls said yes and still say it was the greatest thing that ever happened to them. But then we’re always told how seriously we should take statutory rape so it’s all very confusing.

    • Bethany May 15th, 2014 2:35 PM

      That is so true, and often it feels like, when certain individuals are vilified, it is less about speaking out against abuse but rather confirming existing stereotypes about already marginalised people, like how Chris Brown is labelled a thug, but everyone forgets that Sean Penn was very abusive to Madonna (like I had no idea about that history until a few months ago).

      And you are so right about how society can seem very hypocritical and even paradoxical, like I am from Britain and the media paints child abusers as evil, horned creatures, but in doing so they ignore the reality that abuse isn’t like a far off Disney villain type thing propagated by random weirdos who pop out of like the gates of hell or w/ever, but rather it’s committed by ordinary, unassuming people, often from within the families itself. It sort of feels like our culture values the ‘idea’ of innocence over the reality of abused children and teenagers.

  • Alexandra93 May 16th, 2014 11:02 PM

    Bethany, thank you so much for this article! I’ve been thinking on this a lot recently and you articulated it so perfectly.

    Midnight in Paris is/was my favourite film. When it was released I was going through a lot of crappy stuff and one day me and my best friend at the time went to the cinemas because Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams wandering through Paris seemed like a fun way to spend an afternoon. But it was so unexpected and gorgeous and thoughtful, and I remember feeling so happy and excited that I got this wonderful surprise of a film.

    The other night my parents were watching it and for the first time it didn’t make me happy – while it’s still the same film, it’ll never *be* the same. But it’s so much more complicated than just letting it go and being done with it and that’s something that’s going to take me a while to figure out.