18 months ago on Quora, British poet-artist Rod Summers attempted to answer the eternal question, “Should we learn to separate the art from the artist?” Here’s what he said:
“You love the art work, it speaks to you, it fascinates you, it stimulates your desire to appreciate the finer, less debased things in human creativity. Then you discover that the creator of the art was less than perfect, just like the rest of humanity. So then you decide you don’t or shouldn’t like the art any more.
“Art is part of the artist, as a child is part of his/her parents. You can separate them geographically, but they will always be connected. The mistake you’re making is judging the art by how the artist lives, or has lived. Morality has nothing to do with it. Morality is just you putting your value template over someone else and dismissing if he/she doesn’t fit in the slots. Artists rarely fit in the slots, and those who do probably aren’t very original or very good either.”
Lucy McKinney, posted on Quora on 10.31.19: “I cannot support an artist once I know that person is horrible. The problem is that art can be technically excellent but still, unfortunately, reflect only their own horrible worldview. A goal of art is to evoke the emotions of the viewer, some universal theme or abstract concept or even visualization that transcends words, independent of the horrible person who created it. Supporting the work of a horrible person is just another way of letting the person bully you emotionally. Passive-aggressive + hostile = TOXIC.”
HE to McKinney: “In the case of Roman Polanski, what you’ve written is exactly, precisely and absolutely dead wrong. The worldview contained in Polanski’s Chinatown, The Pianist and J’Accuse, to name but three, is sane, frank, sensible, compassionate, at times delicate, sometimes open-hearted, wise, unblinking, on the side of the angels.”
“Open Letter to Polanski Haters,” posted 4.2.20: “Anyone can watch Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, but no one in the U.S. and England can watch J’Accuse in a theatre, on a Bluray or even via streaming.
“Because of a certain percentage of #MeToo progressives. Because they believe that Polanski’s rep must be permanently tarred and feathered and therefore J’Accuse, too, must be buried or otherwise scrubbed from existence. Because of reputedly credible accusations of Polanski having behaved badly and perhaps even criminally with certain younger women several decades ago. And so the distribution community is terrified of what #MeToo-ers might say and do if anyone even considers offering an English-subtitled J’Accuse for U.S. or British viewers.
“Here’s the thing — Polanski the man is not the same thing as Polanski the artist. His depiction of awful or ghastly things in his films (he’s never explored Pollyanic fantasy and escapism) has never conveyed a corrosion or poisoning of his own spirit. He understands what goes, how it all works, who the good guys are. This is quite evident in The Pianist and J’Accuse. But the latter is nonetheless going to be buried for a long time to come, or so I’m told. This is not a good look for #MeToo.