When artists and celebrities are accused of violent acts, should the public boycott their professional endeavors or should their art be separate from their lives?
Pro: Taylor Gonzales
Being a celebrity is not a pass to do whatever you please. Just because someone is famous, that does not mean the same rules of being a decent human being are not applicable to them. It is up to us as fans, but more importantly as consumers, to take a stand.
In the past few years, several celebrities have been causing controversies in their personal lives, which proceed to follow them and interfere with their professional lives.
Chris Brown left Rihanna black and blue, Bill Cosby allegedly roofied everyone in the 90s, and Nate Parker allegedly raped a young woman.
Sure, Chris Brown’s 2009 hit “Kiss Kiss” is a banger, but that doesn’t excuse the fact he beat the shit out of his girlfriend. I can’t listen to his music without it being a constant reminder of his past, nor should I have to. I’m not saying we need to actively go out of our way to picket at his concerts or run for cover when his songs come on in the club, but at the same time, you will not catch me at my local Best Buy the morning he drops his next album.
Yeah Bill Cosby used to be a comedic icon, but after countless accusations of his wrongdoings came forward, his legacy became tarnished. It is hard to laugh at jokes made by someone who was accused of drugging and taking advantage of several women.
Celebrities need to be held accountable for their actions. Separating their actions from their work and ignoring the harm they have caused is ignorant and lazy. These artists should have to face the music, and deal with the repercussions of the choices they made.
The most recent example of an artist acting a fool is Nate Parker, an American actor, writer, producer, and director, who was accused of raping an 18-year-old woman. The alleged victim in turn committed suicide, causing him to be acquitted.
All of the controversy surrounding the scandal has been affecting his 2016 film The Birth of a Nation, with good reason. Staying silent and continuing to support his work pretty much encourages the artist to continue acting this way.
By abstaining from viewing their films, purchasing their albums, and not attending their stand-up shows, the artists are hit where it hurts the most — the wallet.
Con: Cailynn Knabenshue
Personal lives are just that — personal. What someone does on their own time shouldn’t affect the way that people view their work, especially if their work tells a story that people need to hear.
While there’s been controversy over the last few decades about whether or not artists should have their work disregarded and condemned because of sexual assault allegations, the past few months have sparked particular debate over this issue.
In the weeks leading up to awards season, Nate Parker experienced extreme backlash over Birth of a Nation, a film he co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in. The criticism wasn’t because people didn’t believe it was on-par with other films receiving Oscar nods, but because of allegations that he sexually assaulted a female student in 1999 while he was attending Penn State. Once Parker’s past fell under public scrutiny, his film could no longer be dissociated from terms such as “rape” and “sexual abuse.”
Is this kind of consequence, despite an acquittal in court, justifiable? Shouldn’t an artist (from any industry) be able to separate themselves from their work? While many Americans feel like they need to “take it upon themselves” to protest a film such as this one, it’s not their prerogative.
“I think that Nat Turner, as a hero, what he did in history, is bigger than me,” said Parker in a 60 Minutes interview.
He’s got the right idea. In cases where actors and directors are accused of sex crimes, often times the work that they do tells stories that need to be told, regardless of who tells them.
Birth of a Nation is a story about a man who led a Virginia slave rebellion in 1831. It’s an important historical film about slavery and the fight for civil rights. However, it lost the buzz it generated at film festivals and therefore went unseen by many people who would have paid to see it in theaters.
Parker certainly isn’t the only filmmaker whose career has been tainted by allegations of sexual assault. However, according to a USA Today article, the only difference between Parker’s case and those of actor Woody Allen and director Roman Polanski, is that the latter two filmmakers had already established themselves and their careers before they were accused.
Apparently, it’s much harder for people to protest artists who already have published highly-esteemed work. But it shouldn’t matter. This problem isn’t isolated to the film industry; musicians like Michael Jackson and comedians such as Bill Cosby have seen their careers suffer as a result of their assault trials.
If someone enjoys listening to Jackson’s music without knowing it was him, laughs to Cosby’s stand-up act without knowing who the comedian was, or claimed Birth of a Nation as last year’s best picture before knowing about Parker’s history, why should it matter after?
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