Boycott Artists Who Behave Badly?
Should we swear off Weinstein films and Louis C.K.? Yes and no.
I was similarly affected when I read Mia Farrow‘s book about Woody Allen. I found her allegations of child molestation to be credible and haven’t seen a Woody Allen comedy since. Having that knowledge makes him unfunny to me. It’s not logical and it has had zero impact on Woody Allen’s career. What can I tell you? The heart knows what the heart knows.
And now we have a long list of those condemned of sexual harassment, from comedian Louis C.K. and to actors like Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman and Jeffrey Tambor (a former member of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater acting company, back in the 1970s). Should we boycott all of their work?
I submit that separating artists’ behavior from their work is a necessary evil and that indeed is what I try to do most of the time. I usually apprehend an artist’s work as a discrete thing that exists apart from his or her behavior. In other words, I approach a work of art as a morally value free creation. I can watch “I Love Lucy” even though Desi cheated on Lucy. I’m able to appreciate Wagner‘s Ring Cycle while acknowledging that he was a virulent anti-Semite. I can enjoy a Tony Bennett concert knowing what a degenerate coke head he was a long time ago.
But the revelation that Alfred Hitchcock was a sadistic sex predator is still relatively new to me. I’d have a hard time not bringing that knowledge to viewings of his work, so I personally will probably avoid Hitchcock movies. But maybe five or ten years down the road, who knows? Maybe I’ll be ready to see Rear Window again. And Vertigo. And North by Northwest. But never The Birds. Not after what he did to Tippi Hedren.
Michael Neville is a Milwaukee playwright.