Separating Art From the Artist: An Artist's Personal Life Doesn't Change the Value of the Art Itself
Band Photo: As I Lay Dying (?)
I personally find the idea of putting people on a pedestal to be incredibly naive and childish. At some point, whoever you idolize as being perfect will turn out to have some sort of horrible character flaws that you'll never be able to forgive. People are human, and with that comes not being perfect. Hence why I'm able to say that I don't mind somebody's offstage behavior as much as I do the actual music. In the same way, I don't care about lyrical themes that embrace politics that I disagree with.
While I still have issues with record labels that fund extremist causes (which thankfully happen to be confined to smaller European black metal labels and nothing mainstream) for the most part, I don't feel that the art is ever compromised by who makes it. And that's why I'll still hold on to albums like "Warpath" and "Total Brutal" despite having a forever lowered opinion of Allen West and Tim Lambesis. Allen West is almost certainly a drug dealer and Tim Lambesis is almost certainly guilty of attempted murder, but that doesn’t change what they've already made.
Just like I don't care for Varg Vikernes' hardcore right-wing views or Tom Morello's extreme leftism, I'm still a fan of both Burzum and Rage Against the Machine. Even outside the metal scene, Richard Wagner was an early proponent of the volkish movement that eventually evolved into the Nazi Party and Frank Miller is a hardcore Islamophobe. That doesn’t change my opinion of their work at all, it simply means that the creator is flawed.
Am I going to boycott "Machete Kills" because Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen are misogynistic assholes? Absolutely not. I'm not paying to hear these people lecture me on their worldview, I'm paying to be entertained. Only when somebody's politics get in the way of the art do I feel that the line should be drawn. I don't see Austrian Death Machine as being offensive on the same level as Ad Hominem since with the exception of the upcoming track, “Consider That A Divorce,” Austrian Death Machine isn't about murdering your wife.
Regardless, even if either defendant is declared “not guilty” within the courts, I doubt that either of them will make a comeback any time soon. Not only will there be fewer fans but booking agents won't want the controversy that comes alongside booking a convicted felon to say nothing of potential visa issues. To put it lightly, there's a reason why Burzum's albums are released on their own label despite the name recognition and it's that a murderer/arsonist is simply too controversial for a label like Nuclear Blast or Metal Blade. Yes, the quality is there but the commercial potential won't ever be due to the stigma.
Does separating the art from the artist mean that Allen and Tim aren't horrible people? Absolutely not. But the fans who try to defend them in the face of all evidence as well as the haters who are now burning their collections aren't judging art on its own merits.
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