art is not created in a vacuum

I’ve always been open about my love for all things Joss Whedon, though I’ve never been clear that I love the art more than the creator.
Over the years we’ve learned that Joss is notoriously difficult to work with. He is obstinate and demanding. Obsessive and overbearing.
Kai Cole, who was married to Joss for nearly twenty years wrote that he is a “hypocrite preaching feminist ideals

Last week Charisma Carpenter took to her social media to discuss her experience as a member of the Buffyverse.
(this is the post from her Instagram account)

She stated she felt compelled to share her story after Ray Fisher discussed his experience with Joss on the set of Justice League.
Since Charisma’s post, actors, writers, and producers from Whedon lead vehicles are speaking out in support.
I’m seeing words like:
Unprofessional.
Hostile.
Cruel.
Abusive.
Toxic.

Jose Molina who worked as a writer on Firefly said Joss bragged about making female writers cry. That he thought being mean was funny.
Michelle Trachtenberg stated Joss wasn’t allowed to be alone with her on the set of Buffy. She didn’t go into any further details, but know that she was fifteen years old when she started on that show in 2000.

So it seems to me it isn’t just that Joss Whedon is difficult to work with, he’s a shit human.
That doesn’t mean I don’t love his art any less.
Buffy and Angel. Dollhouse and Firefly. The Avengers (not created by, but brought to life in the MCU as director)
These are truly some of my favorite characters. Some of my favorite stories.

Once again I find myself wondering if a shit human and their art can be separated?

I say once again because I asked this question in 2017 when Kevin Spacey became persona non grata when all his horrible deeds came to light. Not only was he accused of sexual misconduct, but also creating toxic work environments.
His behavior is abhorrent.
He’s also a pretty shit human.
But his talent though. The art he created is beautiful.

I’m not the only one thinking about this. I read quite a bit about separating art from the artist when I set out to write this post.
I read articles the New York Times to the Guardian. From the BBC to reddit.
Here are a couple I especially liked.
For WBUR Boston’s the ARTery, Maria Garcia wrote: “Art does not exist in its own altruistic, alternate universe. It’s part of the world — and the patriarchy.”
Constance Grady wrote this tagline for her Vox article: “I don’t know what to do with good art by predatory artists. So I asked some literary critics.”

Nora texted me “Joss Whedon is gross” early Friday morning.
I shared with her I was trying to write this post. I mentioned Spacey. I asked: Can you separate individuals from their art/talent?
She sent this reply

She’s right, y’all. How much of what we’ve read or seen or heard was created by shit humans?
Does knowing something was created by a shit human change our opinion?
Should it?
Should it not?

We are all human. We are all flawed.
But I truly believe we’d be worse off without art.

I can’t ignore the fact Buffy and Firefly were created by a shit human.
But it doesn’t make me love them any less.
I’m not sure how to feel about that.

Artists do not exist in a vacuum.
Art is not created in a vacuum.

Can the art and artist exist separately?
Can the art be appreciated for the art it is?
Can the art remain unsullied by the reputation of it’s creator?

Please share your thoughts.

Categories: me | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “art is not created in a vacuum

  1. I have been thinking the art vs artist thing too. I just don’t know the answer. I told someone last week: if I don’t watch Jumanji because of Kevin Hart, am I hurting all the other actors who worked on the movie and deserve to be paid?

    • I have to say, Jumanji had loads of good stuff, none of which was actually Kevin Hart.

      • Exactly. Do we get rid of GWTW which Hattie McDaniel won an academy award for?

      • My answer is no.
        We have to see where we’ve come from to choose where to go. I don’t see how erasing the past does anything but make us forget.
        P.S. Clark Gable as Rhett Butler needs to stay in the world!
        I can choose to love art and not revere the artist, right? Or I can appreciate and celebrate talented artists in questionable art, right?
        It all comes down to being mindful and not falling into that worship culture.

      • Well said!!

  2. debscarey

    Robyn, it’s a complex question for sure. I’ve been thinking about JK Rowling & Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in particular, who’ve both expressed strong views about the trans community. I’m still in a place of flux on the subject, gathering information & the various points of view. I still love the Harry Potter books, and Adichie’s books are some of the best I’ve read – their view on this subject haven’t changed my opinion. I guess where I’d feel conflict is if a position of power allowed anyone to inflict abhorrent behaviour or impose their view upon those without power.

    • Deb,
      I agree about Rowling. I’m a huge Potterhead, but I wrote her off after The Cursed Child. For me, it’s not canon, and I simply pretend it never even existed. So I guess I was ahead of the game when it comes to separating art from artist when it comes to her. Then when all her chaos and drama came along, I was happy to know I’d left her behind.
      I think you’re absolutely right about abuse of power. We’ve seen that a great deal here in the US of late.
      Horrible humans are all around us. Some of them create art.
      Perhaps we just have to be mindful about how we celebrate art and artists…?

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