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pedophiles oh sorry ephebophiles racism rape culture victim blaming

Four men say they were molested as boys by Afrika Bambaataa. Where’s the outrage?

The Zulu Nation is distancing itself from founder Afrika Bambaataa
The Zulu Nation is distancing itself from founder Afrika Bambaataa

A musical pioneer who played a central role in defining a genre of music that now dominates the airwaves has been accused of child molestation by four men, who say the man abused them when they were boys in the 80s.

Where’s the media outrage?

The answer to that question tells us a lot about the racial divide in the US — and the racial divide in our mass media.

The allegations against Afrika Bambaataa, the hip hop DJ whose early tracks, particularly the Kraftwerk-swiping Planet Rock, helped to define and popularize both hiphop and electro in the early 80s, have been covered on black-oriented radio talk shows, in the hip hop media, and in black-oriented publications like Jet and The Root.

But the story has barely made a ripple in the mainstream — that is, white-dominated — media, with the notable exception of the New York Daily News, which has broken key elements of the story.

The details of the allegations are certainly troubling enough. Vulture — one of the handful of other outlets in the mainstream media to cover the story — sums up what we know so far:

Last month, Ronald Savage, a former New York State Democratic Committee member,accused Bambaataa of sexually abusing him in 1980, when Savage was 15 years old.

Since then, three more men have come forward with similar allegations: A man named Hassan Campbell told the New York Daily News that Bambaataa repeatedly sexually abused him when Campbell was 12 and 13, calling the DJ a “pervert” who “likes little boys.” Two other men whose identities were not fully disclosed also say Bambaataa abused them when they were minors — a former bodyguard also claims Bambaataa abused “hundreds” of young boys since the early 1970s. Bambaataa has denied all of the allegations.

[NOTE: The reference to the early 70s is puzzling. Elsewhere in the interview quoted in the NY Daily News, the apparent former bodyguard simply referred to “the 70s,” so I’m assuming he was misspeaking when referring to the early 70s. Bambaataa was born in 1957; he started his career as a DJ in 1977.]

The leaders of the Universal Zulu Nation, a sort of hip-hop advocacy group that Bambaataa founded in the 80s, first responded to the allegations by dismissing Savage, the first accuser to step forward, as “mentally challenged,” and denouncing the Daily News as a propaganda organ “compromised and controlled by U.S. government intelligence.”

But on Friday the group reversed itself, issuing a statement announcing that

ALL accused parties and those accused of covering up the current allegations of child molestation have been removed and have stepped down from their current positions.

If the allegations against Bambaataa are true — especially those coming from the man who says he was the hip hop producer’s former bodyguard — we’re talking about abuse on a Jimmy Savile scale. So why isn’t this story getting written about in the New York Times or talked about on CNN? Because the alleged victims were black boys? Because white people see Bambaataa more as a one hit wonder than a cultural icon?

Maybe Hannibal Buress needs to start talking about Bambaataa in his standup. That might get this story the attention it deserves.

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richardbillericay
richardbillericay
5 years ago

Thanks David, the mention of Planet Rock has given me the most uncomfortable case of earworm ever 🙁

Hu's On First
Hu's On First
5 years ago

I think part of it has to do with the fact that these artists are still alive and so royalties for their work are still going to them. A case in point is Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2”; he’s still getting royalties from that!

After Michael Jackson died, everyone seemed to forget about the accusations against him, and he became a much more sympathetic figure in the public and media eye (partly because of the circumstances surrounding his death, but also just how rough his life was overall). In some ways, he almost ended up being redeemed as a result, although of course he wasn’t around to enjoy it.

It’s too early whether this will also happen to other “tainted” artists like Polanski, Spector, Glitter, et al., but it’s possible. When the royalties are going to their estate rather than to them, it’ll be a different situation.

(This is also why Wagner is remembered more fondly; his work is in the public domain).

As far as Bambaataa is concerned, I think boycotting him might be a tad premature given that in America, we do have a little thing called “innocent until proven guilty” and it’s part of our culture. We don’t have the Napoleonic code.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

@Hu’s On First

I’ll just remind you that WHTM is not a courtroom and this is not a trial. People boycotting Bambaataa and believing his alleged victims has nothing at all to do with the legal system. “Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t apply here.

Viscaria
Viscaria
5 years ago

Support to the survivors of this man’s abuse, and all csa survivors.

@Hu’s On First, there is a high standard of proof in criminal cases because of the severity of the punishments which may be given to those found guilty. The government of your nation, and mine, can’t take away people’s freedom without being absolutely positive that they have committed a crime.

In contrast, there is no standard of proof that individual people have to meet before they’re permitted to make decisions about where they spend their own money. “Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t apply to the opinions held by individuals, and it doesn’t apply to the choices they make as a result of those opinions.

WickedWitchOfWhatever
WickedWitchOfWhatever
5 years ago

@Policy of Madness and a few others.
I can totally understand boycotting an artist because of their actions, or finding their work an uncomfortable reminder of those actions. But I don’t think people should feel guilty for having had a positive emotional response to that art. I know lots of good kind creative people who aren’t creating seminal or trailblazing work, and their moral character won’t get them there. And more to the point I probably know of people who are kind, intelligent and insightful and do things I appreciate – but who do horrible things I don’t know about. And once we admit it’s possible that the moral stain doesn’t leak out and taint everything a person does, that it’s possible to be abusive without being obviously monstrous, it’s easier to believe victims when they accuse someone we genuinely admire. Or feel we have to defend the artists actions, because having had an aesthetic response to it means we must have faulty moral judgement. I don’t like Wagner’s music because I don’t like Wagner’s music, not because I’m a better person.

dslucia
dslucia
5 years ago

@WickedWitchOfWhatever:
Yeah, I understand why people would want to denounce and no longer support somebody once it comes out that they were/are awful, but for me it doesn’t usually inhibit my enjoyment of whatever they’ve done in the past. I won’t try to defend or excuse them, of course, I just, you know, still like their stuff. If I spent money on something and liked it enough to have it be viewed/played/listened to regularly over the years, I’m not going to stop because someone involved in its creation is a terrible person. While certain people might have more importance than others in a work, a lot more people than just the director or singer or main actor are involved in creating things like films, TV shows, music, or video games.

Zatar
Zatar
5 years ago

On the subject of celebrity’s who have gotten away with sexual assault, here in Canada it has just been announced that Jian Ghomeshi will not be facing a 2nd trial for his sexual assaults.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/jian-ghomeshi-sex-assault-june-peace-bond-1.3574564

Basically he’s getting away with everything with the only consequences for his vile actions being the backlash against him and losing his job. It’s at times like these that I’m reminded that while Canada likes to play at being a egalitarian nation it still has a long way to go before it can justify that image.

TLDR FUCK CANADA.

Scildfreja
Scildfreja
5 years ago

I don’t think there’s a nation out there (or society) that actually lives up to what it says. It’s a human problem. That’s the problem with stating your beliefs. If you have to state them, it’s probably because you don’t actually follow them.

I think we’re going to see things getting better up here though. The past two years have seen people becoming a lot more vocal about progressive improvement, especially in what we expect of our political leaders. Good signs. But you’re right, we’re nowhere near done yet.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
5 years ago

@WickedWitchOfWhatever

I wouldn’t call it a boycott. Boycotts are intended to change behavior, and it’s presumed that the boycott will be lifted as soon as the behavior changes. There’s nothing Roman Polanski can do to change what he did.

Again, what makes this line of argument questionable to me is that we never try to separate, say, Steven Spielberg from his art. We don’t try to separate Prince from his art. It’s just not an effort that is made outside of, say, film school, when the artist is a fantastic person. Why do we apply this asymmetrically?

What’s the motive for making the attempt? Is there a motive beyond, “I like this and want to continue enjoying it”? I can’t think of one. Is that a good enough motive to keep funneling acclaim toward an admitted and convicted child rapist like Roman Polanski?

For me it isn’t. There is no such thing as perfect art, and a lot of art has problematic aspects. Hence the line: it’s okay to enjoy problematic art, as long as one acknowledges that the art is problematic and how. I personally think that this argument is frequently taken too far, and there definitely comes a point where the art is so problematic that it is impossible for you to enjoy it and still be a person with whom I am comfortable being friends. “I acknowledge this art is problematic” is not a magic incantation that erases the negative cultural impact the art produces.

Similarly, there is no such thing as the perfect artist, but there does come a point where the artist is too problematic for me to continue to say “this person has a characteristic that I can freely praise.” Child rapists have crossed that line for me. There is a cultural impact to praising Roman Polanski’s art, and you can see it clearly and plainly in the defenses that people have offered for him. If nobody thought his movies were worth the celluloid upon which they were printed, do you think Whoopi Goldberg would be claiming his rape of a drugged tweener who was crying and trying to push him away wasn’t “rape-rape”? Do you think you’d hear people making the argument that he’s suffered enough and justice has run its course, even though he skipped the country explicitly to escape justice? Is this something you think would occur if people didn’t praise his art?

“Great art created by child rapists” and “mediocre art created by great people” is a false dichotomy. There is plenty of great art created by great people, far more than I could ever consume in my entire life. It’s not a boycott; it’s me having no time for people like Roman Polanski or anything he’s made. There’s more great art by great people in the world than I have life ahead of me so there’s no need for me to offer any form of support for him.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

we never try to separate, say, Steven Spielberg from his art. We don’t try to separate Prince from his art.

I’ve seen you write this before, but I don’t know what you mean by this. I don’t ever like a movie just because I happen to like the director. It’s likely that I don’t even know the name of the director, or anything about their character at all. I never like a song just because I like the person who wrote it. I only like the song because the song is good. I genuinely have no idea what you’re saying. Do people actually think like this? The artist seems like a nice person, therefore their music is good?

FrickleFrackle
FrickleFrackle
5 years ago

For me, it’s hard to find something that isn’t somehow problematic to enjoy. For example, I enjoy Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness even though Billy Corgan is a transphobic prick. While that’s not on the same level as someone being a rapist, it’s the same idea. I think that yes, bad people can create good art, and yes, the good art they make leads to people defending them whenever they do something bad. But, the act of enjoying works by the morally bankrupt doesn’t morally bankrupt the audience.

Scildfreja
Scildfreja
5 years ago

I think it’s really all a question of individual brain wiring. Some people create stronger associations between a thing and its creator than others, based on how they interact with the world. People with that stronger association may not be able to enjoy the art because of it, even if they enjoyed it before. Others don’t have that issue.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

@FrickleFrackle

My biggest problem of this sort right now is Vybz Kartel who, apart from the standard homophobia and casual sexism, was sentenced to life in prison in 2014, for murder. I realize I have no particular reason to believe he is innocent, and I have no special emotional connection to the artist. However, he’s undeniably the most consistent and prolific dancehall artist even now in 2016, releasing major hits from prison pretty much every week. I’m not completely unaffected by his crimes, but it hasn’t changed how I feel about his music. I can hope that it would, but it just hasn’t. I didn’t assume he was a great person before, and I don’t think he’s a great person now.

Sinkable John
Sinkable John
5 years ago

@WeirwoodTreeHugger

Not a single woman in sight to blame for it, but a black man instead. And it’s pretty clear by now that MRAs and plain ol’ neo-nazis can be thrown into the same bag of dicks, what with the baffling overlap (crank magnetism anyone ?) and the fact that they seem to get along SO WELL together. Additionally, MRAthink says “he raped boys, that’s gay, therefore effeminate, therefore WOMENDIDIT” – so really it’s only a matter of time before the usual suspects start showing up. Granted, black victims, so they don’t actually care in the first place, but they’ll take anything they think allows them to put the blame on pretty much anyone who isn’t a straight white male.

Aside from that, I can’t help but feel empathy towards everyone here who’s a now-former fan. Might sound weird but you do feel kinda “betrayed” when an otherwise great artist turns out to be exactly the horrible kind of person you keep advocating against. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people who like someone’s art to put a certain kind of trust and faith into that someone, and to actually consider it as part of the deal. I’m not saying it’s impossible to separate the art from the artist, or even the artist from the perpetrator, but it’s absolutely not something that anyone should be expected to do.

Now I got some feminist hip-hop for anyone wanting “musical bleach” to wash that out, but sadly it’s all in French 😐

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people who like someone’s art to put a certain kind of trust and faith into that someone, and to actually consider it as part of the deal.

I think it’s completely unreasonable. I mean, I suppose it’s reasonable to expect some level of human decency from any random person, but to assume that great artist = great person. NO. It just isn’t true. That’s why PoM’s argument makes me very uncomfortable.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

@Scildfreja

Obviously, I don’t demand that everyone should be able to separate art from artist. If you can’t, or won’t, then I totally respect and support that too.

I’ll add that I agree with PoM that there’s a certain line below which what I know about the artist can influence me as to whether I choose to enjoy their art in the future. I don’t knowingly listen to music made by rapists, for example. I don’t listen to Tupac for this reason. For me, it doesn’t affect the quality of his music – it’s just an active decision not to support him or give him any attention.

Sinkable John
Sinkable John
5 years ago

I’m not saying great artist = great person, I’m saying there’s some accountability to be had when you have a huge audience. There really aren’t any excuses in the first place for a lack of that “level of human decency”, artist or no artist, but a public figure should especially be held accountable for that stuff.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

@Sinkable John

But I never said there’s any excuse, and I don’t appreciate that implication. I said it’s ridiculous to put trust and faith in a person just because they made a good movie or a good album. This is not how the world works, and it’s unhelpful to pretend otherwise.

Scildfreja
Scildfreja
5 years ago

(I don’t mean for this to come off as quite so long and ‘splainey, just trying to help break this conflict down a little. It’s often good to reduce things when there’s a perspective problem. Mea culpa!)

(Edit: I figured we were on the same page, @IP! I agree and feel the same – people can do what they want about the art of worrisome artists, though I do think a public statement of not-giving-my-money-to-them is a good thing to do, often)

You’re right that it’s not true; great artist doesn’t equal great person. Unfortunately, that’s not how we really evaluate things. The fan has positive feelings towards the work of the artist; hearing the music activates positive associations and generates positive emotions.

The fact that the artistic-work-appreciation map is connected to the map holding knowledge about the artist as a person means that thoughts about the artist will also have a positive association. The artist-as-a-person map activates, which activates the artistic-appreciation map, which generates positive emotions. The strength of this relationship is individual, based on how strong that connection is between the two maps.

So, our brains naturally have positive reactions to make people who things we like, to varying degrees depending on the separation of the two maps and the strength of the individual neurons doing the connecting (based on how often they’re activated, for what duration of time, diet, fatigue, health, etc).

If the artist-as-a-person map also has strong negative associations on its own (e.g. learning something terrible about the artist), interesting stuff happens. The two maps still positively reinforce one another, but the emotional outcomes conflict, generating unease, with alternating positive and negative emotions based on whichever map output is stronger at the time.

We can’t really help how we feel about things; it’s not a question of whether our feelings are reasonable or not – they just are. Some who have a strong link between the two concepts (the art and the artist) may feel obligated to cut ties with the art and avoid activating it, because activating it by-necessity activates thoughts about the artist. Alternatively, someone with a weaker connection between the two may be able to suppress the artist-map while still happily exposing themselves to things that activate the art-map.

So, it’s not really a question of “it’s not reasonable to think great-artist = great-person, so I’m going to keep enjoying the art while denouncing the person.” It’s much more a question of whether exposing oneself to the art creates meaningful thoughts about the artist, and whether the negative feelings created by that exposure are strong enough to overpower the positive feelings one once felt.

dlouwe
dlouwe
5 years ago

I think it’s really all a question of individual brain wiring. Some people create stronger associations between a thing and its creator than others, based on how they interact with the world. People with that stronger association may not be able to enjoy the art because of it, even if they enjoyed it before. Others don’t have that issue.

It can be even further dependent on the nature of the art or relation to the artist. For instance, I was a long time fan of Dallas Green – first through Alexisonfire and then through his solo project, City and Colour. For various reasons, I found him easy to relate/identify with, and his solo work is very clearly meant to be closely associated with him personally, so I formed a pretty specific sort of emotional connection to that music.

Long story short, I found out that in person he’s A) kind of a dick and B) cheats on his wife. Those revelations weren’t (in my eyes) worthy of consciously avoiding his work, but it did basically “disrupt” the emotional connection I had made to his solo stuff, which I now have a hard time enjoying and largely ignore, while I have no problem enjoying his other (now sadly defunct) band as much as I ever did.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

@Scildfreja

That’s fine by me. I’m not trying to argue that anyone should continue to enjoy the art of an artist who they despise. I’m also not saying that it’s wrong to simply choose not to support the artist because they’re a terrible person.

I’m saying I don’t understand why people can’t intellectually deduce that making great art won’t make you a decent person. I read through your explanation, and I acknowledge the reality that the name “Notorious B.I.G.” fills me with happy emotions. But if I think about it for 2 seconds, I realize I don’t know a damn thing about him other than his music. It’s not too much to ask that people question their own impulses.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

@dlouwe

I’ll agree with that.

Sinkable John
Sinkable John
5 years ago

That was in no way an implication and I’m sorry that I came off sounding like that. Not to look for excuses but English isn’t my first language and I have to weasel my way around certain “difficult” sentences (actually, most of my sentences) in a way that sometimes makes them sound waaaaay off. I meant, of course we expect some level of decency from just about anyone, but in my opinion this should be ESPECIALLY stressed out if said person is, well, not just anyone.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

@Sinkable John

Okay, fair enough.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

I might as well say that I’m gonna go geek out on Eurovision right now, so I won’t see any more replies tonight. Probably not gonna contribute any more to this thread anyway.

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
5 years ago

@dhag

I think this is just a misunderstanding.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people who like someone’s art to put a certain kind of trust and faith into that someone, and to actually consider it as part of the deal.

I took this to mean “Great artist, but I’ll only like them for as long as they’re a good person,” not “Great artist = Good person.”

Sinkable John
Sinkable John
5 years ago

@Scented Fucking Hard Chairs

This. Actually, I don’t even want them to be a “good” person. I just expect, well, some level of human decency. If they turn out to be good, well, all the better. Actually, on a personal level I don’t even go that far (huge Noir Désir fan…) but even then it DOES affect how I feel about the art. I used to love Metallica, then Hetfield turned out to be a scumbag. Now it’s kinda hard for me to listen to their stuff. As a wannabe-writer I have to admire Céline’s style, even though the guy was also a scumbag. There’s a pretty long list there.

Scildfreja
Scildfreja
5 years ago

@IP, totes! Lots of people don’t really consider the artist as a person before they hear some news about them, though, so their reaction to the music is all they have available when querying their brain about “what do I know about this person.”

Reacting in a way beyond what our emotions reveal is difficult and takes a lot of discipline, and it’s something that our culture neither teaches nor particularly encourages outside of conforming to gender and social roles. The only reward for doing it is self-validation, usually, so only people who were brought up to value that sort of discipline will do it regularly.

Emotions are tough!

@dlouwe,

It can be even further dependent on the nature of the art or relation to the artist

Certainly! This sort of stuff is all so interesting, really – the connection between hearing the art and thinking about the artist is very quick, but the activation of the emotional responses are slow, and the arrival of the persons’ attention is slower still. So the two brain areas activate first, followed by the emotions being generated, followed by the conscious mind recognizing what’s going on. So you get to be aware of a chaotic mess of feelings and thoughts as the two networks try to resolve into a stable state, after which you get to apply a rationality to explain why you’re having such a hard time! Consciously concluding “I dislike the artist and don’t want to hear him, but I really like the band” is a great way to resolve the two networks into a stable state by forcing separation between them by way of inhibitory neurons (I think).

This stuff is so cool D:

Sinkable John
Sinkable John
5 years ago

@Scildfreja

I got the part about emotions being tough. No, joke aside, congrats on managing to somehow make all that comprehensive enough that I actually understood all of it (I think).

Although I think it’s more of a conscious choice thing, ie “this person is awful, and although I do genuinely enjoy their art, I’d rather stay away from it because it feels a bit hypocritical on my part”. Kind of a moral thing. And I really hope that you can translate what I just said into comprehensive talk because you’re much better at it than me.

Scildfreja
Scildfreja
5 years ago

@Sinkable John

I think it’s more of a conscious choice thing, ie

“this person is awful, and although I do genuinely enjoy their art, I’d rather stay away from it because it feels a bit hypocritical on my part”

Kind of a moral thing.

Hm! First, I am not an expert – cognitive science is parallel to my field and I do refer to it in my work, but it’s not the thing I actually study. So, buyer beware!

The conscious choice exists, but it exists overtop of your emotional reaction. Emotions happen before conscious thought, so your thoughts are more explanations and expansions. They’re how you maintain a working model of the world. Part of that model of the world is a model of yourself – your model of how you react to things, what you think, what you feel.

Our models almost never match reality – we are not the people that we think we are. We may believe that we love the taste of alcohol (for example), but in reality we don’t, we’re just avoiding the social ramifications of not drinking. That’s the lens of our conscious mind interpreting and redirecting our emotions.

So, you can say and believe that you are rejecting some artwork because it would be hypocritical and not because you dislike it, this is a lens overtop of an emotional reaction to the music and how it makes you feel. The feeling of hypocrisy itself is how you are interpreting the conflict between negative and positive emotions that the music now generates. Does that make sense?

(Note, you can reject an artist and enjoy the art based on purely rational, moral reasoning, like you talk about. It’s just much harder to do and more unlikely.)

kale
kale
5 years ago

Its practically a faux pas to mention Bill Clinton is a rapist. Or Bowie. Or even Trump. or that Bill Murray beats on women. Even ppl who have gotten press and even been proven guilty or pretty much all-but proven so have defenders, to stick w just white ppl on that front, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski

& its controversial but Ill say it, FUCK their art and careers, aint seperate, stop giving them your money and soul.

dlouwe
dlouwe
5 years ago

@Scildfreja

That’s all really interesting! I practice long-term non-monogamy, so dealing with difficult emotions is something of a given in my life, and the mantra of “all emotions are valid” is pretty common and I’ve found it to be highly effective. Essentially, negative feelings can happen regardless of our conscious thought process, so it’s more productive to affirm the emotions and address how we handle them rather than trying to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Also I think it illustrates why “and how does that make you feel?” – despite being such a cliche – is a very effective tool in getting people to “talk out” their problems.

WickedWitchOfWhatever
WickedWitchOfWhatever
5 years ago

@Policy of Madness
The reason we don’t talk about separating the artist and the art when the person is fantastic is because it’s completely obvious in the other direction. Everyone instinctively recognises that someone being a decent human being doesn’t make their musical compositions any more haunting, but we definately act like people who do bad things wear the mark of Cain and admitting they ever had any skill is a moral failing. I completely disagree with you here. We’d have less problems like Whoopie Goldberg wrongly defending a child rapist if she’d not felt that acknowledging that he was a child rapist made her previous enjoyment of his films a reflection on her and been stupidly defensive. And this happens – I had whole history lessons about why all Nazi art and style was kitsch rubbish, but it’s such a bad lesson, because really it’s possible to be a great architect or filmmaker and a really bad person. Taste is not morality.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
5 years ago

I’m not saying anyone is a bad person if they acknowledge that this art is good art. I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you don’t agree with me, either.

What I’m saying is that there is a cultural impact to enjoying art by awful people. Roman Polanski gets a pass from his fans because they are fans. And they are fans because we say that it’s okay to enjoy art made by child rapists. Because so many other people also enjoy his art.

Dish Network doesn’t know that you are reciting, “I know Roman Polanski is a horrible person and I’m separating his art from his person” when you watch his movie. All Dish Network knows is that you watched the movie; ergo, an audience exists; ergo, they need to play more of his movies. His popularity rises, and his defenders feel that they are in the majority. His defenders then walk around, or in the case of Whoopi fucking Goldberg they go on national TV, and make the argument that what he didn’t wasn’t rape-rape. That has an impact, and the impact contributes to rape culture. The personal is political.

What if nobody watched Roman Polanski movies? Would we be hearing that this thing he did, which checked off literally every box in the “legitimate rape” checklist, isn’t rape-rape? I don’t think we would. That is the cultural impact of his popularity at work, visible in the world for everyone to see.

If you make the decision that you don’t agree and that it’s fine to make that separation and no harm done, then I’m not going to argue this any further. But I want everyone to think about it.

I genuinely have no idea what you’re saying. Do people actually think like this? The artist seems like a nice person, therefore their music is good?

What I meant was that the art/artist separation is literally never mentioned unless the artist is awful, which makes it come across to me like a rationalization. Outside of the academic study of art, this separation is just not done under other circumstances. I have never heard anyone examine Schindler’s List and start with, “But we have to separate this from Steven Spielberg. Spielberg as a person has nothing to do with this film.” Actually, every examination of Schindler’s List that I’ve seen that goes deeper than the “thumbs-up/4.5 stars” level has explicitly brought Spielberg’s background into it, talking about how his personality and history influenced the film.

We only want to rip the artist away from the art when the artist is a child rapist.

Kat
Kat
5 years ago

When I was around three to five years old, I listened to commercials completely uncritically. I’m sure that my brain just didn’t have the capacity yet to be critical. My mother used to chuckle at the ridiculousness of the ads. I couldn’t reconcile these two things in my mind. The friendly ads wouldn’t lie to me — there was (to my undeveloped mind) no motive! And yet my mother had no motive to lie about the ads being lies.

I resolved this issue by deciding to (1) believe both the ads and my mother; and (2) revisit the issue when I was older.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

@PoM

Yeah, I agree with Wickedwitch here. We don’t point out the art/artist separation when the artist hasn’t done anything awful because it’s not necessary. The belief that creating good art says anything about your moral character is so obviously stupid it doesn’t need to be mentioned. People understand that this reasoning is flawed.

I’d actually say the exact opposite: it’s only when the artist has done something terrible that we start acting as if art and artist are inseparable. In all other contexts it would go without saying that the quality of the art says nothing about the artist other than the fact that they had the capacity to create that piece of art.

Kat
Kat
5 years ago

Roman Polanski made his American directorial debut with Rosemary’s Baby, a film that I see as deeply feminist.

Rosemary’s husband betrays her in the worst possible ways so that he can have career success.

I loved the movie and before that I loved the book by Ira Levin. But Levin doesn’t seem to enjoy Rosemary’s incredible suffering at the hands of her husband, other men, and women who do the bidding of the patriarchy. It seems as though Polanski probably did.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

I mentioned earlier that I do personally avoid art made by rapists. The Whoopi Goldberg/Polanski thing is a perfect example of why. People have a tendency to explain away rape as “not real rape”. There are all sorts of rationalizations like “she really wanted it” or “she lied about her age” or “it was a different time” etc etc etc. You don’t often hear people say about a killer that “he didn’t kill-kill”. Or that the victim secretly wanted to be killed but only regretted it afterwards. Or that in those days it was normal for people to kill each other.

That’s why I view rape as particularly problematic in this context.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
5 years ago

The belief that creating good art says anything about your moral character is so obviously stupid it doesn’t need to be mentioned.

Maybe because that’s not what I’m saying? Even slightly?

X
X
5 years ago

Feminism has done a wonderful job of setting up new protections for white women and children. It has a LONG way to go regarding the existence of black people.

Some of us are not surprised that you care about Kesha more than these kids.

I realize you’ve taken these questions a hundred times, but you have not provided satisfactory answers.

Not you, David. But if you think this is about you, it’s about you.

peaches
peaches
5 years ago

While the mainstream press and mainstream entertainment press is ignoring the accusations, I’ve found a rabbit hole of hip-hop and talk You Tube videos that are on this like a mouse on cheese. Most are harshly critical of Bam and KRS-One.

Bryce
Bryce
5 years ago

Robert Towne was responsible for the screenplay for China Town; that along with the performances from cast members were largely responsible for the critical success. The Pianist is of course based on an autobiography. More recent projects have been stage-to-screen adaptations.

I’m inclined to think it’s not really necessary to view the medium as a work of one individual. Although, it could be argued that with all the acclaim given to directors like Polanksi as ‘auteur’ along with the fact that Polanski has never taken responsibility for his actions, viewers should at least be willing to give some thought to whether they want to view his films or use them to praise him as personally.

Kat
Kat
5 years ago

@kale

Its practically a faux pas to mention Bill Clinton is a rapist. Or Bowie. Or even Trump. or that Bill Murray beats on women.

I agree. I’ve always thought that Juanita Broaddrick’s narrative about Bill Clinton sounded credible, even though that story got buried quickly. She’s a right winger now; I don’t know about back in the day. And she might be using her story for political purposes. But that doesn’t necessarily make it false.

I also think that Kitty Kelley’s allegation in her bio of Nancy Reagan that in the 1950s Ronald Reagan raped a young female actor sounds credible:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/8/22/1123203/-Ronald-Reagan-Legitimate-Rapist

Snowberry
Snowberry
5 years ago

I wasn’t going to say anything – the art/artist distinction never meant much to me, because with very few exceptions I know nothing about the artist who produced a work that I’m familiar with, or else know a little about an artist but have no experience with their work, so there’s nothing to separate.

However, I’m wondering if DSLucia has something of a point. Bill Cosby is one of my very few exceptions. The fact that he is now known to very likely be a serial rapist seems to be a good enough reason to avoid his early stand-up work, because it’s almost all him. I mean, someone had to work the camera, and there were at least a few other people involved. But their association with the work is minimal, and any benefits of that association long expired. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem fair to condemn something like, say, The Cosby Show, based on him alone. True, he was the main actor, one of the writers, and probably could throw his weight around in other areas if he so chose.

But there were a lot of people involved. For example, Michael J. Leeson was involved in a lot of shows that are now considered classic American TV (mostly as a writer) and continued to be a screenwriter until 2009. Raven-Symoné, who played one of the kids, has since become a well-known actor in her own right. There are probably other people who don’t necessarily deserve their part in the work to be tainted by Cosby’s actions. I admit to looking up who else was involved with the show, picking out the first couple of names which sounded familiar, and then looking those two up in order to make this argument, because I barely saw the show and don’t have any real associations of it with anyone else.

I mean, if most of the people involved turned out to be awful, then fine, nuke Sodom because you can’t find even 10 righteous people in it. If you can’t look at the character of Cliff Huxtable without thinking “OMG Rapist!” then avoid it, definitely. Boycott any future works involving Cosby (assuming there are any, which I doubt, aside from maybe a ghostwritten “tell-all” book about his side of the recent rape allegations) because most of the people involved really should know better. But some of his past works aren’t his alone.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

@PoM

Then I guess I still have no idea what you’re saying.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
5 years ago

@IP

I don’t know how many other ways I can say “cultural impact” so I’m not going to bother anymore. I’ve explained it; if it’s unintelligible then any further posts will probably be equally unintelligible.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

@PoM

Um. Our disagreement isn’t over the “cultural impact” part. We agree there.

This is the problem:

what makes this line of argument questionable to me is that we never try to separate, say, Steven Spielberg from his art. We don’t try to separate Prince from his art. It’s just not an effort that is made outside of, say, film school, when the artist is a fantastic person. Why do we apply this asymmetrically?

^This part has not been demonstrated, and I question the idea that anyone infers that art will be good because the artist is good, or the other way around. I’ve never heard anyone say this before.

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
5 years ago

Why the hell is everyone fighting over something no-one said?

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

@SFHC

The idea expressed by PoM is in my view exactly backwards, and as WickedWitch pointed out, counterproductive. It’s not true that we view art and artist as inseparable until they do something awful. It’s actually the other way around: we only treat them as inseparable when the artist has been shown to be a terrible person. This makes people defensive and gives them a reason to make excuses for artists who have done terrible things, because it presents a fictional dichotomy where you either enjoy a piece of art and endorse everything the artist has ever done, or you denounce the artist and all of their art (since they’re inseparable). This idea is, in my view, worthy of much side-eyeing.

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
5 years ago

This is why we have people who refuse to believe that, for example, Vybz Kartel actually murdered someone. They can’t believe that someone who created such amazing music would be capable of being an awful person. This is how people in reality actually think and behave. People like what they like, and they won’t stop liking it because the artist did something bad. Source: history. It would be much more useful to encourage people to speak out against terrible people, even when they happen to be otherwise beloved cultural figures. Maybe I’m being too pragmatic here, but at some point you can’t pretend as if reality doesn’t exist.