THE ART, NOT THE ARTIST
“Never meet your heroes in real life.” It is one of the golden rules of being a fan. It stems from the idea that meeting them leaves you disillusioned, resentful and with a sense of dissatisfaction. However, we barely get a choice in whether or not we want to meet our heroes in this day and age with the internet and social media at all our fingertips. If you have somehow managed to escape finding out unsavoury things about your favourites, whether artists and authors or brands and vloggers, colour me all the shades of envy. I want what you have. Unfortunately, not all of us can be that lucky, and when that unwelcome revelation is forced on us, we find ourselves -or at least, I do- reevaluating our stance on their art and wondering if it is something we have to give up.
I understand and empathize with wanting to be an ostrich with its head in a hole when it comes to a favourite anything. Nobody wants to learn that someone they like is a terrible, or simply just a less-than-stellar person. Unfortunately, learning is not the hardest part of the journey. Granted, it comes with a certain level of abashment and discomfort. The hardest parts, in my opinion, begin when you feel obligated to wonder whether or not it is okay to keep purchasing or enjoying their art. On one hand lies social consciousness and holding the artists accountable for their deeds. On the other, however, lies the comfort and joy that you know the art brings you and the confusion as to why you can/should not continue to appreciate the art. After all, you’re only saying the art is good, not the artist.
However, it is difficult, nearly impossible even, to separate an artist from the art. By virtue of the fact that it is a product of their minds, the two can never be mutually exclusive. This is a result of the fact that the art, regardless of what it connotes or how it is perceived, sustains monetarily and provides a platform for the artist. Nonetheless, regardless of what social consciousness dictates, we reside in a world governed by laws, one with little to no power in public sentiment. Fans are well within their rights to refuse to give anything up when it comes to art or the artist. It may not reflect kindly characterwise but fans are not the law, and no matter how much of a difference it might make, it is never acceptable to force your moral standards on another.
In addition, cancel culture as a tool of social consciousness has yet to turn out sustained appreciable results outside Asia. Celebrities in the entertainment and political field alike in Asian countries never quite recover the way their Western counterparts seem to. Cancel culture has become such a formidable tool in these countries that places like Singapore are considering the need for laws to regulate and curtail it. The need for this arose because unlike the law, cancel culture does not give the option of a fair trial, and is often an explosive reactionary response to rumours. It is highly liable to abuse and malicious puppeteering, and unfortunately, once it gets going, it is nearly impossible to undo. It also gives no room for contrary views or punishment commensurate to the alleged crime. This goes to show that although the goals attached to being socially conscious are laudable, it does not come without its own drawbacks such as a lack of measurable level of power or authority in the Western world and a lack of regulation or trial process worldwide, at least not at the moment.
Fans should not be expected or tasked with shunning their favourites when those favourites prove to be human and fallible. However, statements such as “It is the art I like, not the artist” are inherently false. Continued appreciation of the art enables the artist in one way or another and it is only fair we admit that much. Conversely, it is also only fair that we laud those who give these up to uphold the ideals of being socially conscious, only of course, if their actions are justified by irrefutable proof of guilt on the part of the artist. Finally, all these notwithstanding, whether or not weaponized ostracization should be accepted in response to alleged and/or convicted wrongs is still a question we all need to ponder.