Social advocacy extends from playlist to poster

What do XXXTentacion and Chuck Close have in common? Not only have they both been accused of sexual violence, but both have devoted fans who continue to consume their work.

Actions matter. Buying into art created by harmful people legitimizes the behaviour of the artist. Advocating for those impacted by abuse is a full-time job. If you claim to do so, that responsibility extends to the media you consume. 

Chris Brown abused Rihanna. Woody Allen allegedly abused his daughter. We all know about Harvey Weinstein’s violent behaviour. Quentin Tarantino has further admitted he was aware of Weinstein’s behaviour and did nothing to stop it. Does that diminish the art they create? In an age of social enlightenment, yes, it does. 

Although you may convince your friends you ‘like the song, not the artist,’ when you stream Chris Brown’s “Loyal,” you’re doing nothing to stop the record label that pays and supports him.

Our culture has a history of excusing the behaviour of great artists. Egon Schiele kidnapped a minor, Ezra Pound was anti-Semitic and Caravaggio was a murderer. Even Picasso once said, “there are only two kinds of women: goddesses and doormats.”

Art and media are inherently political: they shape public discourse and the values people hold. Being able to ignore the politics ingrained in media isn’t a privilege everybody has. When a person or group is maligned in art, they have no choice but to care. It’s important to stand with them.

This issue is complicated. I’m not suggesting all art created by problematic people should be censored as if it never existed. Works such as Picasso’s are clearly essential to the artistic canon and human experience. 

However, it’s essential to note Picasso’s art is in a different realm than Tarantino’s films. Movies and songs are cheaply and infinitely consumable, where a single painting hangs on a museum wall. Paying to see an art exhibition has no impact on a long-dead artist’s finances, while downloading Chris Brown’s songs lines his pockets.

In contemporary cases like with Brown and Tarantino, it’s important not to align yourself with the values they stand for. When we consume the work of influential artists, we become complicit in the principles and culture they set for us. By paying for and sharing art created by harmful artists, we are legitimizing their behaviour socially and economically. 

There are other songs. There are other movies. You’ll still look edgy without that Pulp Fiction poster. If you truly care about and want to advocate for a society that doesn’t accept violence and hatred, that extends to the art you consume. 

The next time you hear Chris Brown on your #TBT playlist, you might want to hit fast forward. 

Meredith is one of The Journal’s Copy Editors. She’s a second-year politics major.

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