Content vs Creator: What You Need to Know

Are we morally obligated to reject art if we don’t agree with the artist?

Image by Anuj Chawla from Pixabay

How extreme is the crime?

I think it’s important to consider why you or society as a whole is upset with a specific creator. It can be clear when a creator’s actions are illegal, but opinions or tweets create hazy territory.

Is art a separate entity?

Can an author own their stories? Can an artist dictate what people perceive in their paintings? Should we even consider the creator at all when we consume content? Sometimes a homophobe will produce homophobic art, but that seems to be rare. Maybe because offensive content doesn’t get popular in the first place, but whatever the reason, countless horrible people have produced a myriad of beautiful work that has shaped our society. We can’t pretend Harry Potter didn’t give voice to millions of hurting, underrepresented children or that Picasso didn’t inspire countless modern artists.

The troubled artist?

Are artists more likely to be bigoted? Does personal trauma lead to better art? A study showed that artists who experienced childhood trauma are often more fantasy-prone and have stronger creative experiences which can lead to better art (Thompson & Jaque, 2018). Studies also show that childhood trauma is linked to psychopathology symptoms later in life, like anxiety and depression (Rehan et al., 2019). What these studies DON’T say is that only people with personal trauma can make good art, or that trauma causes someone to be abusive themselves. They just show a correlation.

Who gets your money?

Regardless of your opinions on the above sections, there’s no escaping the fact that in many cases, supporting someone’s work means money in the creator’s pockets. There are exceptions: obviously, creators who have died don’t receive royalties and in a few cases, the creators have either sold their work or their actions result in them being removed from projects. For example, Markus Persson “Notch” created Minecraft (a hugely successful sandbox survival game) and sold it to Microsoft who has subsequently removed all of the in-game references to him after he was publicly racist, sexist and transphobic. In many ways, the damage has been done because Notch received 2.5 billion for Minecraft and will probably continue to tweet hateful things. However, it’s nice to know that at least all future purchases of the game now go to the huge, talented team that currently work on it.

What can we do?

In the end, it’s your own personal decision to love, not love, buy or not buy. First do your research and then just do what feels right. Don’t financially support something that bothers you, but don’t hate on someone who isn’t bothered by it. Try to think of every issue as if it were a thousand piece puzzle–no one knows the answers if they’re only seeing one piece. Remember that you can always hit up the charity shops or used book stores. You can even support or donate to causes that are negatively affected by creators.

Fiction writer, story critic, and biologist. Passionate about inspiring writers, discussing fun science, and promoting equality.

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