I was out for a walk the other day when an Arcade Fire fan came up to me. “I’ve loved this band forever,” he said. “My wife and I have tickets to a show but after what we heard about Win Butler and those women, we don’t know what to do. Should we go to the show? Or would the right thing be to boycott the gig? More than that, should we even listen to the band’s music anymore?”
Complex stuff that requires a lot of research and soul-searching. The best I could offer was “Can you separate the artist from the art? If you can, enjoy the music for what it is. If you can’t, then you already know what you’ve got to do.”
With the rise of #MeToo, #TimesUp, and social media, bad behavior by rock stars is increasingly (and finally) being called out and exposed. Not all such behavior is the same, of course. In the eyes of the law, a stolen kiss or an unwanted hug is different from a violent sexual assault. But our social media world, however, makes it difficult to draw a distinction when it comes to handing out appropriate sentences and punishments. If there’s the slightest hint that someone has done something, anything bad–even uncorroborated anonymous online allegations–it seems that the only solution is total cancelation of that artist.
We can debate that question of fairness and due process another time. Right now, though, I’m interested in if you’re able to separate the musician from the music they make. Can you still enjoy the music while knowing that the person(s) who made it may have done something wrong?
Arcade Fire fans aren’t the only ones dealing with this conundrum. Michael Jackson fans have made it clear that they will continue to enjoy his music despite all those allegations involving children. Marilyn Manson is facing some serious charges in LA, but should that mean fans can’t enjoy blasting “The Beautiful People” in the car? And what about all those legendary stars who are said to have done awful things with groupies back in the day?
Once you start picking at this scab, the moral and philosophical issues explode–UNLESS you’re able to keep the music and the musician separate. My question is, can you?