Loving the art, not loving the artist

Opinions Uncategorized
by Aidan Lieberman & Marisa MacDonald, Opinions Contributors
graphic by Emily Cheng

Reading the “Harry Potter” series in elementary school, we learned lessons of love, friendship and acceptance. Recently, however, we began to question our love for the series following author J.K. Rowling’s transphobic remarks.

In December 2019, Rowling tweeted her support for Maya Forstater, a tax employee who lost her job for saying trans women are not real women. In June, she responded to a New York Times opinion article titled “Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate,” saying, “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” Rowling then backed up her comments in a 1500-word essay, attempting to explain how her views weren’t anti-trans but pro-women. Because of this, life-long fans of the series have denounced Rowling, and some have boycotted her books altogether.

Rowling’s controversial opinions beg the question: is it ethical to support artists with morally questionable views? 

While there are convincing arguments on both sides, it’s ultimately up to you.

It’s common — and acceptable — for people to love a piece of art and dislike the artist who made it. Although you may want to enjoy only someone’s work, every time you stream a song, rent a movie or buy a book, you are inherently supporting the creator.  

Deciding whether or not to support an artist depends on the value of the art to the viewer and the extent to which the artist’s actions and words have been offensive to others. It’s subjective, and everyone draws the line of what is acceptable at different places.

It’s illogical to tell people to never support “questionable” artists because who gets to decide when an artist has gone too far? Conversely, good art shouldn’t always be  celebrated, as doing so is turning a blind eye to the creator’s actions and morals. It would be unfair to those affected by the artist, implying that their suffering is lesser than the art at hand.

For example, we don’t support the work of R. Kelly, a singer and rapper who is in jail for crimes like rape and child molestation. To us, he crossed the line 10 times over, and no art he makes could ever make up for his horrific actions. 

On the other hand, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik were ‘canceled’ in 2014 for smoking weed before a concert. In our opinion, this is no big deal, but the internet thought it could serve as a negative influence to their young fanbase.

This brings us back to the “Harry Potter” series, which has inspired a love of reading and spread lessons of tolerance and inclusivity to millions of kids around the world. In our opinion, the joy the series brings is enough for us to make the choice to support the series, and with it, Rowling.

It’s important to know the people who create the art you care about. After learning about artists who have a role in your life, you may want to let go of works you had previously cherished. Worst case scenario, your Spotify playlist becomes a few songs shorter or your Netflix watchlist becomes more carefully rated. By researching artists, you will gain a heightened understanding of the art you love.