From the Editor | Taylor Kirby
NO, WE CAN’T SEPARATE THE ART FROM THE ARTIST
The old adage about looking at a product independently of its creator held a lot more water when the stakes were as low as being morally opposed to drugs but still having an urge to catch that new Iron Man flick. A decade later, people are trying to use this argument to catch the debris of Kevin Spacey’s disintegrated career—and we can’t let them succeed.
To continue supporting someone who’s hurt people the way Spacey has is to tell his victims that their pain is worth less than our collective entertainment. His masterful performance in this year’s Baby Driver should be denied what once was a guaranteed Oscar nomination; House of Cards should kill Frank Underwood, one of the most finely written characters in television history, without remorse. From this moment onward, Spacey’s exile from Hollywood should be total.
In the upcoming decades, critical theorists are going to write dissertations about the intersection of Spacey’s sexual advances on minors and his role in American Beauty (and, more directly, his odd evaluation of Lester Burnham’s morality). If critical theory in its most simplistic definition asks people to critique art as a method of evaluating and progressing the society surrounding it, then we’re in the midst of a paradigm-shifting year. How we respond to the allegations against Spacy, Louis C.K., and George Takei will spurn a new era in academia—and in art as a whole.
But we don’t have to abandon our favorite films and television shows to call ourselves moral consumers. Our consciousnesses will ghost the emotional effects of these allegations onto old performances, anyway; most of us will have no choice but to be newly critical of beloved media. What we do have an obligation to do is learn. No longer can industry professionals and audiences alike be willing to ignore rumors just because the people giving voice to them can’t speak loudly enough to capture national attention. We cannot accept that abhorrent behavior is an even trade for enormous talent. If we don’t recognize that Kevin Spacey and the like are just symptoms of a larger problem, we will always fail to protect our most vulnerable.
I won’t renounce Baby Driver as one of my favorite films of this decade—no great film owes its prestige to one person alone. But even though I will no longer be able to revel in the delivery of lines like, “He’s got a hum in the drum,” I won’t mourn the loss. Because I believe to my core that art shapes culture, I’ll frame this as an opportunity to choose my heroes better—and that might make all the difference.