The primary query of the article by Carmen Wiliams, Audiences will still watch problematic men in movies - study finds, was, and I am paraphrasing: How dare anyone consume art produced by anyone accused of social/criminal misconduct? (#metoo)
Recently I watched a film called "Burnt" which starred Bradley Cooper and was produced by…wait for it…Harvey Weinstein’s production company. Did I immediately switch the movie off when I saw the now infamous name in the opening credits? Nope. Did I indignantly pen a letter to Multichoice to enquire how on earth they could let something like this slip through the politically correct net and threaten the all-too-many sensitivities lingering out there? I most definitely did not.
I felt that the film was well acted, well directed and ultimately well produced. It matters not one jot if Weinstein touched one, none or a hundred women in any kind of inappropriate way. The fact of the matter is that he helped produce a good piece of art.
That also means that I am not going to throw away my copy of Good Will Hunting, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, The English Patient, the Scream franchise, The Cider House Rules, Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2, The Aviator, Sin City 1 & 2, Inglorious Bastards and The King's Speech, just because Weinstein had his (groping) hand in their production.
Now, this may come as a surprise to all the social justice warriors out there but a person’s art is not to be judged against the backdrop of their personal lives. Art is to be judged for what it is, in itself. The motivation to consume a specific piece of art; to love it or hate it, to see it or skip it, should be based on one question only: is it/he/she good?
Any piece of art lives in isolation. To appreciate or dismiss it, you need not know the biography and deeds of whoever produced it. The true fiends, artistically speaking, are those that sell their constructed images first and their art second (Yes, I’m talking to you Mr Top 20 Hits, Mrs Rom-Com).
Social misconduct and specifically criminal misconduct should be dealt with by the legal system. You would not expect that a person’s professional proficiency should mitigate in any way the dispensation of justice against them - so why would anyone be compelled to establish the quality of someone’s art by legal guilt?
I have tried to imagine The Shawshank Redemption without Morgan’s Freemans flawless narration because Carmen Williams declares: hear no evil, see no evil. Thanks, but no thanks, Carmen. You drink the censorship Kool-Aid all by yourself and give me back my Morgan-cool-baritone-Freeman.
Or phrased another way: If you want to stand on principle (or is it leftist identity politics at its most tyrannical?) and see Pauly Shore instead of Kevin Spacey in your next political thriller, go right ahead but I know whom I would prefer in my heart of arts. And isn’t that point the only one that actually matters when we are deciding what art deserves our attention?