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andydanger85

Separating Art from Artist/Brand New

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Hello there,

So, I've been talking about this subject with a few friends lately, and I thought I'd expand the discussion here. It seems like this group is always capable of having an intelligent, thoughtful discussion ...

I'm (was?) a huge fan of the band Brand New, and like many famous men as of late, bandleader/primary songwriter Jesse Lacey has been accused of sexual improprieties with a fan. When they started corresponding, she was underage.

For background, information is here:

https://pitchfork.com/news/two-alleged-victims-of-brand-news-jesse-lacey-detail-years-of-sexual-exploitation-of-minors/

On Tuesday, I finally got the vinyl edition of their newest record "Science Fiction", which I had pre-order months ago (way before any of this information came out). In my opinion, it's one of the finest albums of the year - their very best work.  That said, the information that has come to light about the lead singer's sexual misadventures has led to a lot of ambivalent feelings about the band, their work, and has prompted questions about how to separate art from artist. They always say "don't meet your heroes", but with the internet, it's damn near impossible.

From an Instagram post I made earlier this week ...

"What to do when one of the lead singer of one of your favourite bands is accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a fan? This band also happens to have released one of the most important records of the year, which we just received after several months of delays due a backlog at the pressing factory. 

  • We’ve already condemned the acts, the behaviour, the disingenuous non-apology. Full stop. 

    Yet, the art contained within the grooves of this record is immediate, cathartic and meaningful to many. How can we separate art from artist? Especially when the mind that is responsible for such beauty is also responsible for such pain and suffering. 

    Over the past few years, one of the realities I’ve had to come to grips with is that people are often disappointing. Role models, both contemporary and historical have done things in their personal lives that many will find detestable - yet, we still honour their achievements and remember the positive contributions they have made. 

    That I am able to ask these questions with detachment is undoubtedly a reflection of my own white male privilege. I am keenly aware of that. But I also pride myself in being conscious of the ethical implications of supporting an artist that has done things that, especially as a teacher and someone who works with children, I find reprehensible. 

    How do Woody Allen fans do it? How do Roman Polanski fans separate the man from the actions?"

    I want to steer the conversation away from speculation about Lacey's actions, specifically, because I think we can all agree it's at best, skeezy, and at worst, criminal. Either way, it's really, really bad.

    Separating art from the artist and whether that is possible is an interesting debate to be had, though, and I'd like to see what people think. Even for those of you who aren't fans of Brand New, specifically ...

     

     

 

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Yeah, this is a tough one...and one that unfortunately is becoming more and more prevalent.

 

I feel like it's one of those things that you just have to decide for yourself.  The Lost Prophets guy (not that I'm a fan of that band) did something so horrible that I would literally never listen to their music again, regardless of how much I liked them.

 

Where there is murkiness (like with the guy from Swans) and he said/she said between adults, that is more grey to me and thus harder to immediately take a position against.

 

And for me that might just be the line.

 

Allen and Polanski committed acts against children.  I will never watch a film from either of those guys for that reason.

 

I guess it's just case by case. 

 

But, with that being said, if someone commits an act against a child, they have lost me as a fan forever and ever.

 

It's almost scary to think about what all we don't know about those we admire from afar.  I suspect that in the world of film and music there are probably more than few people I look up to and consider myself a fan of that are utterly horrible people.  But, until I know, I guess it's something I just try to not think about.

 

Good topic for discussion.

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I don't think there is a definitive, universal right answer to the general question, at least not always. Sure one can look at things like the severity and veracity of the offense along with contextual factors, but different people will find different places to draw the line within those factors. Sure some cases are clear cut; Polanski should never receive another dime from anyone, for example. However what of murkier instances? Mike Smith of TPB fame was accused of domestic battery by a third party, however even the alleged victim denies the offense took place. In this case, Smith probably doesn't cross my line, but others feel differently. Or suppose the artist is from a different historic and/or cultural context. Does one avoid Dostoyevsky because of his antisemitism, or does one consider that this attitude was extremely common in 19th century Russia and most people apparently didn't know better? Does it change things that he's been dead for well over a century and thus isn't personally made wealthier from book sales? Again, in my case I don't have a problem reading Dostoyevsky, some do. In contrast, I would take issue with buying anything from a modern-day antisemite.

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I immediately thought of LostProphets too.  I had seen them live and was a huge fan It's hard to hear them now even though the other band members did nothing wrong.  Seems like allegations are popping up every day.  I  mean if Bill Cosby and Matt Lauer can be guilty you have to wonder who is next.

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I don't think there is a definitive, universal right answer to the general question, at least not always. Sure one can look at things like the severity and veracity of the offense along with contextual factors, but different people will find different places to draw the line within those factors. Sure some cases are clear cut; Polanski should never receive another dime from anyone, for example. However what of murkier instances? Mike Smith of TPB fame was accused of domestic battery by a third party, however even the alleged victim denies the offense took place. In this case, Smith probably doesn't cross my line, but others feel differently. Or suppose the artist is from a different historic and/or cultural context. Does one avoid Dostoyevsky because of his antisemitism, or does one consider that this attitude was extremely common in 19th century Russia and most people apparently didn't know better? Does it change things that he's been dead for well over a century and thus isn't personally made wealthier from book sales? Again, in my case I don't have a problem reading Dostoyevsky, some do. In contrast, I would take issue with buying anything from a modern-day antisemite.

Right, so I think the essential point here, is that the scale of the behaviour really does matter. I think that is important both in general (with regards to the incidents themselves - Ben Affleck groping someone in 2002 is not as bad as Harvey Weinstein's pattern of abuse, full stop) and with regards to how the  art itself is viewed.

 

You've brought up another relevant issue which I think is especially prescient as well - presentism. How can we reconcile modern day beliefs with those of authors or artist we may respect from earlier historical time periods? In the case of anti-semitism, that's always been objectively wrong, however public and societal tolerance, as well as cultural attitudes meant that it could be expressed more openly. My question is, is it possible to separate "Ride of the Valkyries" from the fact that Wagner was one of the most famous anti-semites, for instance? Can we listen to it based on its' value as art, or must be always analyze it through the lens of his particular perversions?

 

Not saying I agree with one side or another necessarily, just food for thought.

 

I immediately thought of LostProphets too.  I had seen them live and was a huge fan It's hard to hear them now even though the other band members did nothing wrong.  Seems like allegations are popping up every day.  I  mean if Bill Cosby and Matt Lauer can be guilty you have to wonder who is next.

LostProphets guy is an extreme example. Let's say, John Lennon for instance. He never did anything illegal per se - but there were at least a few things that, upon learning these facts, might change your perception. For instance, he instigated the fight where original Beatles bassist Stu Sutcliffe was injured and eventually died. He emotionally abused his first wife and first son Julian for years, even though he found peace later on and really embraced fatherhood with Sean/Yoko.

 

Not crimes per se, again, but his art is respected in part due to the vulnerability and universality of his lyrics. He's literally known for being the peace and love guy, but he was an objectively terrible person to many people in his personal life. Does that change things? Should it?

 

Yeah, this is a tough one...and one that unfortunately is becoming more and more prevalent.

 

I feel like it's one of those things that you just have to decide for yourself.  The Lost Prophets guy (not that I'm a fan of that band) did something so horrible that I would literally never listen to their music again, regardless of how much I liked them.

 

Where there is murkiness (like with the guy from Swans) and he said/she said between adults, that is more grey to me and thus harder to immediately take a position against.

 

And for me that might just be the line.

 

Allen and Polanski committed acts against children.  I will never watch a film from either of those guys for that reason.

 

I guess it's just case by case. 

 

But, with that being said, if someone commits an act against a child, they have lost me as a fan forever and ever.

 

It's almost scary to think about what all we don't know about those we admire from afar.  I suspect that in the world of film and music there are probably more than few people I look up to and consider myself a fan of that are utterly horrible people.  But, until I know, I guess it's something I just try to not think about.

 

Good topic for discussion.

 

Yes, they might lose you as a fan. That's a little more cut and dry. But what about the art they created before those events? Does Rosemary's Baby instantly become tainted because of stuff he did after he directed that film? Again, not agreeing with one side or the other ... I discuss things for a living and this is a topic I am super interested to hear people's thoughts about.

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I think it's a personal thing.  It's up to you whether you continue to support an artist or not.  People mess up and do things that are wrong often.  It's in everyone to forgive them for that or not.  It also depends on the scale of the infraction.  

 

Personally, I have a hard time separating those thoughts of what that particular person did every time you see them or hear their songs.  

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I think it's a personal thing.  It's up to you whether you continue to support an artist or not.  People mess up and do things that are wrong often.  It's in everyone to forgive them for that or not.  It also depends on the scale of the infraction.  

 

Personally, I have a hard time separating those thoughts of what that particular person did every time you see them or hear their songs.  

 

Absolutely. Scale is essential. I struggle to do it as well ... which leads me to wonder, is it even worth it? Hence the query ...

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Josh from Queens of the Stone Age kicked a photographer in the face, stuff like that makes me not want to listen to them.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bcg3ffCjXBw/

 

Now, in a statement post to Queens Of The Stone Age’s socials, Homme says, “Last night, while in a state of being lost in performance, I kicked over various lighting and equipment on our stage. Today it was brought to my attention that this included a camera held by photographer Chelsea Lauren. I did not mean for that to happen and I am very sorry.

 

“I would never intentionally cause harm to anyone working at or attending one of our shows and I hope Chelsea will accept my sincere apology.”

 

 

Read more at http://musicfeeds.com.au/news/qotsas-josh-homme-issues-statement-kicking-photographer/#AqBK1b566cyDIx5x.99

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What an idiot. I don't think there's really any defense for what he did. Looked pretty intentional. I'm not a fan of QOTSA so I can't comment on separating that action from the music.

 

I've separated Matt Good from the music at times because he says/does things sometimes that make me scratch my head.

 

I separate Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins because they're one of my favorite bands but he's kind of an asshole/nut a lot.

 

I mentioned in the Upcoming Concerts thread that the Pinegrove show I was supposed to attend last Wednesday was cancelled because the lead singer announced in a long letter on Facebook that he was accused of "sexual coercion" and going to start therapy. I read the letter and it was really strange. It didn't sound like anything that was...that bad...but it was hard to know because it was vague. I haven't listened to Pinegrove since then but I will probably go back to them at some point. I personally just don't care that much about his transgressions, whatever they were.

 

As mentioned earlier, if there were a situation like "Lost Prophets" I would swear off that band entirely. 

 

It's all got to be based on context and your own feelings I guess. Case by case basis. But I do think it is important to consider separating art from artist in general. I still like Kevin Spacey movies.

Edited by Gomo

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Josh from Queens of the Stone Age kicked a photographer in the face, stuff like that makes me not want to listen to them.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bcg3ffCjXBw/

 

Now, in a statement post to Queens Of The Stone Age’s socials, Homme says, “Last night, while in a state of being lost in performance, I kicked over various lighting and equipment on our stage. Today it was brought to my attention that this included a camera held by photographer Chelsea Lauren. I did not mean for that to happen and I am very sorry.

 

“I would never intentionally cause harm to anyone working at or attending one of our shows and I hope Chelsea will accept my sincere apology.”

 

 

Read more at http://musicfeeds.com.au/news/qotsas-josh-homme-issues-statement-kicking-photographer/#AqBK1b566cyDIx5x.99

 

That was a shitty move.  Doesn't seem like much of an excuse to me.

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What an idiot. I don't think there's really any defense for what he did. Looked pretty intentional. I'm not a fan of QOTSA so I can't comment on separating that action from the music.

 

I've separated Matt Good from the music at times because he says/does things sometimes that make me scratch my head.

 

I separate Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins because they're one of my favorite bands but he's kind of an asshole/nut a lot.

 

I mentioned in the Upcoming Concerts thread that the Pinegrove show I was supposed to attend last Wednesday was cancelled because the lead singer announced in a long letter on Facebook that he was accused of "sexual coercion" and going to start therapy. I read the letter and it was really strange. It didn't sound like anything that was...that bad...but it was hard to know because it was vague. I haven't listened to Pinegrove since then but I will probably go back to them at some point. I personally just don't care that much about his transgressions, whatever they were.

 

As mentioned earlier, if there were a situation like "Lost Prophets" I would swear off that band entirely. 

 

It's all got to be based on context and your own feelings I guess. Case by case basis. But I do think it is important to consider separating art from artist in general. I still like Kevin Spacey movies.

 

Yeah, and the other thing is, some controversies are ever-evolving. Some fizzle out and there seem to be legitimate causes for doubt, others are just a question of time.

 

I do find it hard to watch Mel Gibson films these days; especially those that he directed. I am sensitive to the fact that he was struggling with alcohol abuse, but there's no such thing as someone who is only racist/anti-semitic when they're drunk. Especially given that his more prominent works carry the theme of "throwing off the oppressor", it has always seemed especially strange that he possesses the beliefs that he does. Turns out something closer to his real attitude/character was the self-destructive Martin Riggs of Lethal Weapon fame.

 

 A lot of people won't ever forgive him, but I think he's an example of someone who got "blacklisted" that is further along in the cycle of media scrutiny. Even still, the reason I bring him up is that his image seems to have been rehabilitated ... Oscar nods for Hacksaw Ridge and being cast in comic/bad boy roles again. 

 

I guess what I'm driving at is, for those who have committed "lesser offences" (not to take away from their seriousness, just those who didn't actually do anything illegal like Spacey), how long do they have to stay in the "penalty box"? Should they be allowed out? What can a person do to gain the public trust again that both demonstrates an understanding that their actions are wrong, and illustrates a willingness/proof of a change?

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I'm sorry but Braveheart is still one of the greatest movies ever  :sparq:

 

Also Ransom. I love that stupid movie.

Edited by Gomo

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I'm sorry but Braveheart is still one of the greatest movies ever  :sparq:

 

Also Ransom. I love that stupid movie.

 

Yes - shoddy historical accuracy aside - it's a great flick! Never seen Ransom, mind you.

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