Separating the Art from the Artist

Ariel Bissett, in her most recent video, talked about separating the art from the artist. The examples she gave were that Adolf Hitler was obviously a terrible person but his paintings could be seen as being beautiful. Likewise, Orson Scott Card’s ‘Ender’s Game’ is a worldwide loved sci-fi classic but the author himself, is against homosexuality. At what point can we separate the art from the artist? Should we dislike or not buy ‘Ender’s Game’ because we disagree with the opinions of it’s creator? Or should we separate the art from it’s artist and see them both under a different light?

Many people are saying that they would like to read ‘Ender’s Game’ but don’t feel morally comfortable buying the book, therefore providing the author with money that could ultimately go towards funding another anti-homosexuality campaign. All I can say to those people is, I understand the point, but way deprive yourself of potentially your new favourite book? Borrow the book from a library or a friend. Appreciate the book for it’s content rather than it’s creator in the full knowledge that you have not directly supported that author, but have instead read a great piece of literature. Sure, you may find that knowing the background information of that specific author clouds your judgement slightly and maybe makes you notice more connotations in the book to the author’s beliefs, but would you have noticed these things if you didn’t know beforehand? Would you have stopped liking a book that you loved once you found out about the author’s personal opinions?

Separating the art from the artist is something that is a lot more difficult that it sounds. On a less extreme example than the previous ones mentioned, I personally did not like the Twilight books, and my naïve 15 year old self decided that I subsequently hated Stephanie Meyer. I did not know her background. I didn’t even think she was a particularly bad writer. I just didn’t like those books and extended my dislike to it’s creator. But does that mean that my opinions were justified? Now I realise that no they are not. Stephanie Meyer is not a bad writer or a bad person, so far as I know, and I actually have a keen interest in reading ‘The Host’ at some point.

As I have just tried to show, the art and the artist are two separate entities. Readers read books and then for some reason, look up to the author as a role model, disappointed when they find out negative aspects of their personality or hidden personal lives. I think that this can be detrimental to the publishing industry but I also think that the art should be separated from it’s creator. A book should be allowed to shine out on it’s own, despite it’s creator, much like a child should be judged on it’s own personality, not just it’s parents. In ‘The Fault in Our Stars’, Hazel still loves ‘An Imperial Affliction’ after meeting Peter van Houten because she has separated the author from the book, but I think this could be seen as John Green showing his beliefs, as he once said that “books belong to their readers” and this couldn’t be more true than in this context.

Books can be judged on many different aspects; writing style, cover, illustrations, title, themes, content, message; but in the end, it’s up to the individual reader to decide what they think is morally right for them. Personally, I wouldn’t want to buy a book from Orson Scott Card, knowing what I do about him now, but I’m not against reading one from a library or even buying it second hand; these ways of obtaining books forward no more money to the author but help other institutions that provide books cheaply or free, in the case of libraries. This does not mean that I’m going to read up on the life of each of the authors that I want to buy a book from either because I think that it would be unnecessary to my appreciation of the art.

So what do you think?

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