No one cares if you never liked the art made by a famous abuser
As a wave of open secrets about powerful men in entertainment, music, and publishing, and, like, literally every other industry become more open and less secret, the conversation around the alleged abuser veers into an unsolicited referendum on the man’s work. This is especially true if the accused is an artist or entertainer.
Oh, Brett Ratner was accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and assault? Well, he made shitty movies anyway. Production on the final season of “House of Cards” gets suspended after an actor accuses Kevin Spacey of inappropriate sexual contact while he was 14? Let’s be honest, that show had, tops, one good season. A member of Real Estate was booted after his bandmates became aware of alleged sexual misconduct among multiple women? I never really got into that band, so whatever.
Couched in these unsolicited assessments of a disgraced artist’s output is a tacit admission of relief that the accused’s downfall is no personal loss. When a person’s knee-jerk reaction is to mention that Woody Allen hasn’t made a movie they liked since the ’70s after learning his estranged daughter went public with sexual assault allegations, they’re basically just shrugging and saying “this doesn’t affect me.”
Or worse, the admission is meant to be some kind of self-congratulatory gesture. As if never caring for the art of a problematic artist is somehow an indication of virtue and a clue that they saw this coming all along. You always thought “American Beauty,” the film that earned Spacey an Oscar, was overly precious crap? Bravo, where do I mail your Congressional Medal of Honor?
When stories break about star makers abusing their positions to harass, assault, silence and blacklist people subordinate to them, maybe that isn’t the time to bring up that you think “Red Dragon” is a bad movie. It’s just bizarre to think that a conversation regarding actors and assistants being victimized by moguls and millionaires is an invitation to offer their opinion on “Tower Heist.”
And, so, what if you never liked Chris Brown’s music? A more relevant question concerns what you say when the abuser is someone who wrote the book that made you want to become a writer or recorded the album who made you want to become a musician or comedian? What about when it’s someone broadly admired who forces us to confront our appreciation of their genius? What about when it involves circumstances that enabled harassment and assault to continue for years or decades without consequence?