Separating Art from Artist

 

aliciawitt1

 

It’s something that’s been on my mind recently. And before I get started I’m going to be talking about a person who may have created a character or series we like, a celebrity we look up to or even an actor who portrays a character that we like. Let’s start with that last one.

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Recently there have been stories coming out about Michael Weatherly. As a fan of NCIS I liked the character of Tony DiNozzo. Over thirteen seasons I felt I had come to know him. As such I also ended up watching Bull and again found a character I liked. And yet, if recent reports are to be believed Weatherly is not as nice as his characters. I feel betrayed, hurt. Am I a bad judge of character? How can this be the same person as DiNozzo or Bull. The reason is because both those characters are an act. When I see a photo of Weatherly, I see DiNozzo or Bull because I know those characters. I don’t know Weatherly. I’ve never met him, never communicated with him. He is for all intent and purposes a complete stranger to me. We identify with the character, we don’t know the real person behind character. It’s similar to what I talked about in my Musings on Death post.
So maybe Weatherly is not the type of person I’d want to sit down for a cup of coffee with. But does that invalidate the characters he has played. Should I never watch old episodes of NCIS with him in? The new series of Bull has started. Shall I now give it a miss?
Personally for me the answer is no. I still like the character of DiNozzo. He hasn’t changed for me, and Bull is an ass but I still want to see where his character goes next. It’s a case of having to separate reality from fiction. I don’t agree with Weatherly’s actions (if they are true) but it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of a character from a show. But it may stay in the back of my mind while watching, a slight shadow making its mark. But then that’s good. We shouldn’t simply forget and forgive.
But if you look at it in the opposite direction, we may see a character who is a terrible person on screen but the actor themselves as nice as pie. We don’t hate the actor for the character they are portraying.

But what about a writer. Recently there has been a storm of activity on Twitter regarding a comedy writer who has posted, what could be considered, transphobic views. But some of his past series have been ones I’ve enjoyed. I recently watched a couple of episodes of one. It’s still enjoyable but at the same time I felt uneasy I was watching it. And I could certainly see problematic undertones I hadn’t been aware of in my younger days. But there are also the great performances from the actors, the ones who make the characters come alive. The series will never be as fondly remembered by me as it once was and there is a little bit of disappointment in that.

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Talking of Twitter a comedian whose work I enjoyed also showed such tendency as the above writer. I had recently brought his autobiography. Should I now not read it, donate it to the local charity shop or take it out to the garden and burn it? Or maybe I should still read it. At least in this way I’ll get to know this person a little better. Maybe find out why they think the way they do. In the end I suppose it’s down to the choice of the person facing these dilemmas. And, I believe, either way the person goes is valid. I’m not going to say someone is over reacting if they decide to throw out their DVDs of certain series and I’m not going to judge if someone else says they’re a fan of the series.
But it is important to understand there is a distinction between the creation and the creator. Millions, including myself, still love Michael Jackson’s music and watch in awe at his dance moves and epic videos. He made important contributions to music, especially the development of the music video. But obviously as a person there were troubling aspects. So much so that the BBC banned his music from Radio One this week. But loving a person’s work does not mean agreeing with that persons views on life. I’m not a Jackson fan but I do like a lot of his music. I would also love to be able to dance like him, but I don’t idolise him.

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And if the person is damaged by their conduct. If they then struggle to find work, to be able to continue to create new projects then it will be their own fault. I’m not going to feel disappointed then. I’ll simply shrug my shoulders and carry on with my life. If their views are hateful or discriminatory then they must bear the consequences of airing these view in public. That is their choice.
It’s not like we are going to be able to fix them with a simple “Turn it off and back on again” attitude.