Written By Austin Hall (@ADWAustin)
The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have put men who commit sexual assault or harassment on notice, no matter how rich and famous they are. Just in recent months, Harvey Weinstein is in court trying to defend himself against the ample evidence that he is a sexual predator, and while Louis C.K. is trying to mount a comeback after admitting his own harassment, he’s fallen from his pedestal as one of the biggest comedians in Hollywood.
It’s become pretty clear that sexual harassment and assault are so widespread that you, someone you know, or both, have had to deal with it, and it’s something that the majority of straight, cisgendered men, like myself, have learned about its reach much later than we should have.
As the movements gained traction, I was heartbroken as I slowly learned how rampant this epidemic is, and rooted for the abusers to be thrown in jail and stripped of everything they had worked for, while, at the same time, hoping that none of my heroes would be one of the predators.
In my naivety, I thought it was possible I wouldn’t have to deal with my own heroes being predators as well. But, of course, I was wrong. Melanie Martinez has a former friend who detailed how she was raped by Martinez; I was saddened to learn of her treachery, and also saddened to delete her music from my iTunes library. You want to talk about privilege, there it is: while the victims lose trust and a sense of safety, people like me lose a few tunes.
As this unfolded, what disturbed me the most about myself was, the more I venerated them, the more leeway I gave them when they did something vile. I didn’t listen to Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) after Josh Homme kicked a woman during one of their concerts for no reason, but after what I hoped was a heartfelt apology that he gave over social media, I started listening again. That only took a week. When I learned David Bowie probably had sex with an underaged girl, at first, I chalked it up to a different time. That article also notes that Bowie was accused of rape, but never indicted, due to a lack of evidence. I filed that away, at the time, to thinking that it must not have happened.
When Tool’s Maynard James Keenan was accused of rape and subsequently denied the allegation in a vicious attack over Twitter of the brave survivor, I initially didn’t want to believe the storyteller.
Then I watched Nanette.
Hannah Gadsby’s comedy special is funny, heartbreaking, and poignant in all the ways that art should be, and made this whole change real for me. She details, throughout the special, how she came out to her family, was raped, and even beaten up for who she was.
She also described how getting an Art History degree taught her that she’d never look like the women in the paintings, and that, the more of a “genius” a man is, the more evil they can get away with.
In my own life, I do my best to keep the art and the artist on the same page. But it’s easy to stop watching a show or a movie, or listening to music you didn’t really like in the first place, than to stop partaking in art that has truly touched you in a positive way. Tool and Bowie and QOTSA where some of my favorite artists, and when you fall in love with a type of art that inspires you, like their songs did for me, you want to separate it.
Even if you do delete the art from your life, in the grand scheme of things, no longer participating in artist’s work from the person who has done unforgivable things does not make a huge difference. We all need to do better in how we treat each other. But, at least it’s something. It’s one less paycheck because of their destructive act.
No matter how much a person’s art means to you, if they are vile, we cannot celebrate what they have accomplished, because they lost that privilege.
I may need to give up their art, but the survivors gave up everything they once thought about people that used to be their heroes, too. It’s the least I can do.
Still, this just brings up more questions, and one of the main questions is: where do we draw the line? James Gunn was fired from the next Guardians of the Galaxy series over offensive social media posts he had made in the past, which included jokes about pedophilia, rape, 9/11, AIDS and even the Holocaust. As a result, a petition to reinstate Gunn has at least 300,000 signatures. The jokes aren’t funny, and in my opinion, Disney was right to fire him, but I’m not sure it should curtail his career.
In the court of public opinion, more of these instances are going to come to light, and it’ll take an end to rape culture to get rid of this inexcusable behavior. But for punishment to fit the crime, my best guess is that it should be on a case-by-case basis. Maybe I can still listen to QOTSA, but I’m not sure I can listen to Bowie, and I definitely don’t think I can listen to Tool, because, after Gadsby’s special, I don’t believe Keenan, and even if I did, his attack on the person who accused him is disgusting.
That’s the beauty of Nannette, and why we can’t separate the person from the art, because her art changed my mind for the better, just like someone’s other art is influenced by how they see the world.
And guess what? Once you cut out the abusers from your media catalog, it’ll open you up to more diverse voices telling their stories. You just might learn something, and be glad you did.