Separating art from the artist

Charlotte Ury, Opinion Editor

Thriller: the classic party song beloved by Halloween enthusiasts, music video fans, and pop culture lovers alike. It’s singer, Michael Jackson, is the “king of pop”. . . and a known child molester. The song has been played at Halloween parties, Homecoming, and even in class.  It is fun and catchy, so why do I feel a sense of guilt everytime I hear it?

It’s not just Michael Jackson songs I feel uncomfortable with. I’ve started to feel this way with more and more artists. Everytime I listen to a song by Doja Cat (who was in many racist chat rooms and made fun of police brutality victims) on TikTok or read books by J. K. Rowling (who tweeted transphobic comments multiple times), I can’t help but feel that I shouldn’t support them because I feel like I’m enabling or condoning these celebrities’ actions.

In a perfect world, art would come without strings attached. But in our world, buying an artist’s book or watching their movie pays for an artist’s platform. By consuming an artist’s works we are directly supporting them and giving them a podium to say whatever they want.

Yet it’s hard to stop consuming art that holds so many memories. Every time I hear “Thriller,” I’m reminded of Halloween fun with my friends. I will always remember reading Harry Potter with my parents and finding my love of literature. 

It’s impossible to tell people to stop enjoying something that deeply influenced them or brought them joy. And it was never J. K. Rowling herself who I thought of when I read the books but rather the characters and the world they lived in. 

As soon as someone releases art into the world, it belongs to the public just as much as it does the artist. People find different meanings in the art that influence them in different ways. In some ways, the understanding the reader finds gives them their own ownership over the art.

As long as we don’t try to gloss over or ignore the history of the artists, there’s nothing wrong with continuing to enjoy their art.