OMANA: Line between artist, art blurs with #MeToo
Opinions Column: Left Brain, Right Brain
Over a year ago, I remember strolling through Twitter and seeing a tweet: "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet." The tweet, which was from October 2017, ignited the #MeToo movement that exposed dozens of men in Hollywood who either harassed, assaulted or raped women and men.
The #MeToo movement was inspiring to me and countless women and men. It was an opportunity to take control, regain power and not hide in shame. Although the movement was widely accepted, that support came with much backlash. Many people were upset, saying that one cannot just believe everything someone has said, because they could be lying. Others said that a man’s career and reputation could be ruined in vain.
There was a large divide, with some condemning those accused and others fighting for their reputation to remain intact. For months, the #MeToo movement has worked to destigmatize sexual assault and harassment. Since 2017, a stream of artists, actors, Hollywood producers and politicians have been exposed, including Harvey Weinstein, Brett Kavanaugh, Sylvester Stallone, R. Kelly and most recently, Chris Brown.
Last week, news broke that Brown had been accused of raping a woman in France. Instantly, people online became divided — there were those who supported Brown and those who did not. They argued over the validity of this woman’s claims and how the media and women were always out to get Brown, with fans practically painting him as a saint with no break from constant accusations.
Brown has had a long history of abuse toward women. From beating Rihanna in 2009, to Karrueche Tran placing a restraining order on him in 2017, to a claim that he threatened a woman with a gun in 2016, Brown has had a long history of being violent and abusive. His "apologies" proved to be nothing but press stunts, as he is a recurring offender who made a mockery of rape accusations after selling merchandise with the catchphrase “this b**** lyin'.”
But this begs us to take a look at a bigger picture. Celebrities are capable of just as much bad and evil as regular people. It does not matter if they are multi-millionaires or if they appear personable on the Tonight Show, they are just as capable. Due to their idolization and glorification, we may often forget this. While the #MeToo movement has inspired much discomfort and change, it should not be a shock that these actors have allegations against them. Many have showed signs throughout the years that we turned a blind eye to.
Violent sexual assault and rape, as well as using sex as leverage, are not new phenomena. There must be hundreds of people who have not yet been exposed, maybe even celebrities or figures from the past. There has to be more influential art that was made by vile people. So what do we do? Can we separate the art from the artist? In short, yes, but the answer is much more complex than that.
Weinstein's connection to "Pulp Fiction" and other great films, Kevin Spacey’s iconic performance in "House of Cards," and Louis C.K.’s comedy specials raise the question: What do we do about the legacies left behind?
I believe we often feel guilty about enjoying art made by those who have done horrible things, and it is completely natural.
When people do something wrong to us or to others, we typically struggle to perceive them the way we did before. This same attitude applies to celebrities as well. It is almost impossible to listen to a song or watch a movie without associating the art with the crime of the artist. While we can separate the art from the artist, it ruins the perception of something we used to enjoy.
I think talk shows and red carpets have the tendency to make us pay closer attention to the artist than to the art. In turn, our society pays close attention to, criticizes and glorifies celebrities. This makes us focus more on the life of the celebrity than on the content they produce.
These people are adored by millions, idolized past a humanly realm and have more money than we could dream of. They think that they are untouchable, and we believe this to be true.
To have these celebrities exposed for being sexually perverse and violent is shocking, confusing and almost repulsive. To separate them from their art is tricky. While we can do so, our conscious does not always let us do so with preconceived ideas of celebrity influence. These artists can still be considered talented, but for the most part, they will never be celebrated in the same way.
Breana Omana is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in political science. Her column, "Left Brain, Right Brain," runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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