How many people stop consuming the work of someone who’s personal life’s corruptions are dragged into the spotlight too? Well, with the ‘cancel culture’ that has rapidly evolved, it can safely be said that it is something society debates more today than it ever did.
The polarizing discussion: can we separate the artist from the art? And if so, should we? With the help of social media, many known names are being held accountable today for their wrong doings. There are those who defend the idea that we can compartmentalise the two, arguing that ideally, we would be able to listen to music and watch films without being reminded of the artists themselves. There are others who argue that abstaining from a particular artists work is imperative as their notoriety should not be valued more than them being held accountable. I believe that the actions of an artist do affect the amount of people that consume their art; I don’t think its as easy to forget about the person behind the art. However, I think this is relative to the nature of the revelation.
Many artists have occupied themselves with drugs with many of them even creating their whole brand and persona around such, like the Rolling Stones and Snoop Dogg. But this has not been a deterrent for most consumers. Drug taking is a flaw, but I don’t think its consumption is a strong enough reason for abstaining one’s art.
It becomes a problem when the dirty secrets exposed are of a sexist, racist or homophobic nature – or anything that compromises morality.
In 2009 Chris Brown plead guilty to a domestic abuse case after his altercation with his then girlfriend, Rihanna. He was called a ‘woman beater’ and his album sales dropped immensely after the scandal hit the papers. Brown is still making music, draws in high streaming numbers and has stapled his name in the RnB culture. On the other hand, when 21 different women (more than half of which were underage at the time) came out with sexual assault stories concerning R. Kelly, he was cancelled. Shortly after his problematic behaviours were exposed in ‘Surviving R. Kelly’, #MuteRKelly was trending on Twitter. He lost the majority of his fan base and his streaming numbers have dropped massively since.
I will say though, cancel culture can be very volatile. Do I think we should hold people accountable for the actions? Of course. But with cancel culture, there is no room for redemption. A young person growing up in the industry will inevitably make mistakes. Unfortunately for them, their mistakes are held under a microscope for everyone and anyone to scrutinize. With this new growing culture, artists in the spotlight can not afford to step out of line without the fear of being dragged down.
Albeit there is no way that the likes of Chris Brown and R. Kelly can redeem themselves. These mistakes are illustrations of one’s character in my opinion. To any degree, art is an extension of one’s person, character, ideologies. Therefore, if we support their art are we supporting their personal misguides? I believe so.
How do we draw the line? What makes one artist’s mistakes more redemptive than another’s?