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Artists Should Be Punished, Not Celebrated

Let’s be honest. Despite their numerous indiscretions, public gaffes and even crimes, we hold celebrities in a ludicrously high regard. We are, for some reason, willing to ignore the immoral and illegal acts they commit so that we may benefit from continued production of their art. This cannot continue, and a boycott of their works is what is required.

Notable celebrities such as Chris Brown and Mel Gibson have all earned varying degrees of fame and success in their careers, and still command the attention of millions, and yet they are perpetrators of domestic violence. Brown’s abuse of then-partner Rihanna is common knowledge and despite this, he has since realised five albums with reasonable success and become a face of a footwear company, Snipes. Mel Gibson, charged with physical assault on his then-partner has gone on to direct the Oscar-nominated Hacksaw Ridge.
By separating acts from the artist, we are ignoring what both informs and drives these people to do what they do. An artwork is not distinct from the behaviours and actions of the artist, and by ignoring the indiscretions, we are normalising and even forgiving these awful acts.

This attempt to ignore the misdeeds of celebrities is becoming endemic in pop-culture, with people so infatuated with a celebrity’s work that they are willing to ignore criminal acts. Take the #freebieber slogan which whirled around the internet following Justin Bieber’s arrest for a DUI. No matter that he was driving while drink and endangering countless lives, he was too precious to be punished and the incident has left no mark on his popularity.

Furthermore, and most importantly, by refusing to punish these celebrities we are silencing their victims and are continuing to suppress much needed dialogue on these crimes. Woody Allen, a famed filmmaker and actor, has been charged with the sexual assault of his adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow. Whilst no convictions were upheld, Allen continues to direct at least one film per year. For an ordinary person, upon hearing that they are a potential sex-offender, most employment opportunities would shrink. For Allen, they continued in quick succession, effectively diminishing and ignoring the potential victim Dylan Farrow.

Giving artists accolades and fortune when they commit serious misdeeds only works to silence their victims, ruining their reputations as the people who have abused them are celebrated for two minutes of song or two hours in a cinema. Separating the work from the artist only enhances and magnifies the victims respective harm and contributes to a continued cycle of normalisation in crime. We need to hold these people together with their actions, and have them treated as any other offender. Otherwise, these crimes will continue to go unpunished.

Nick Jarrett

The author Nick Jarrett

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