Art vs. Artist

Exactly how blurred is the line between art and the person creating it?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

It’s a question you might find yourself asking out of guilty curiosity. What happens when the author of your favorite book is publicly outspoken against human rights? When the movies you have loved for years come from the creative direction of someone who has hurt others? After all, you don’t represent those same values of that artist. So is it okay to like the art that has come from them? There is no real clear cut right or wrong answer to wether or not it is “okay” to enjoy the art that comes from a problematic artist, but the opinions presented in this article lean more so towards the affirmative.

It’s nothing new that artists behind popular works have been criticized for their personal opinions and beliefs. For example, author C.S. Lewis (of Narnia book fame) was often criticized for weaving themes of subtle racism and sexism into his stories. But these are also the same stories that people all over the world have found messages of love, hope, and perseverance. It’s a complex issue, separating what C.S. Lewis might personally advocate for and his fictional stories. But should you feel guilty for enjoying those stories? I don’t think so.

The key difference is this: art is for the people, not the artist.

At a certain threshold, a story becomes so much more than just words the author has written on a page. A life is breathed into these stories by each person that consumes it and makes it their own. It becomes different things for different people: a reason to gather and celebrate, a balm of comfort, a world to escape to in tough times. It leaves the hands of the artist and is embraced by the people who have picked it up.

Let’s take a closer look at the Harry Potter series and its author, J.K. Rowling. Among other issues, Rowling has recently outed her non-inclusive opinions on trans women. For many fans of her work, this came as a hurtful shock. Even Daniel Radcliffe publicly distanced himself from Rowling’s harmful views on the subject. It might feel difficult to enjoy Harry Potter knowing that the person who wrote it has views so fundamentally different than your own. Even worse if those views are a personal attack on how you yourself identify.

But the world of Harry Potter has blossomed in the minds and hearts of fans for over two decades now. It has become a comfort blanket for the neglected child, the social outcast, the anxious loner. It has become a world of imagination and excitement for so many people as they have grown out of their youths and into adulthood. In a way, Harry Potter and his saga doesn’t belong to J.K Rowling. It belongs to the people who have made their homes within that world.

“I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you,” Daniel Radcliffe has said about weighing art versus the artist. “And in my opinion, nobody can touch that.”

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Dynamic young freelance writer, content strategist, and filmmaker. She/Her.

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Kristin Beal

Dynamic young freelance writer, content strategist, and filmmaker. She/Her.