Students discuss the dilemma of supporting controversial art and artists

The development of “cancel culture” and the new standard for taking accountability for problematic behavior led to some debate on the ethics of supporting controversial art or artists. 

Many people have different takes when it comes to supporting controversial artists. Some believe it’s possible to separate art from the artist, while others do not.

Senior Osa Okojie said that he could separate art from the artist, but he sets boundaries in some instances. 

Quentin Tarantino uses the n-word excessively and in places where he has no business using it, and I hate that,” Okojie said. “Because of that, I barely watch his movies even though I know he’s a phenomenal director.”

Art does not necessarily have to revolve around a sole artist but can also include franchises. The actor John Boyega, who played Finn in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” spoke about the backlash his character received due to his race and Disney’s lack of complex storylines for people of color. 

“[Star Wars] used to be one of my favorite franchises growing up, but after the treatment of John Boyega, I view the entire franchise differently, even though it’s not the same people who made the original trilogy or even the prequels,” Okojie said. 

Senior Devesh Dalmia mentioned the controversy around the actor Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg has a history of hate-related crimes in his youth. He served time for his actions and apologized multiple times, but some fans stopped supporting him after finding out about his past. 

The actor will star in the new “Uncharted” film coming out in 2021. Many people are upset that he’s starring but will likely watch the movie regardless. 

“People are still gonna watch the movie, not for Wahlberg, but for the other actors,” Dalmia said. “Because not only did [the other actors] work hard on it, but they didn’t have a choice about it either because of the way the [film] industry works.” 

Many students believe that there is a difference between supporting controversial artists in the film industry versus the music industry. 

Sophomore Drew Clanton believes that it is easier to stop supporting someone in the music industry because, in movies, it’s never a single actor or director’s film. There are hundreds or even thousands of people who pour their time and effort into it. 

With music, Osa Okojie will use the severity and verdict of an artist’s crime to help him determine if he wants to support them or not. 

“I will never play another R. Kelly record for as long as I live,” Okojie said. “On the other hand, I play Michael Jackson nearly every day… I don’t listen to Kanye West anymore because of his stances, but if one of his songs gets played, I’m not gonna turn it off.”

Sophomore Julian Morris will not listen to several controversial artists, including 6ix9ine, a rapper arrested for sexual misconduct charges concerning a minor but still has loyal followers. Morris also stopped listening to Nicki Minaj due to her collaboration with 6ix9ine. 

“This didn’t sit right with me because it started to look like it was one of those situations where the artist is more concerned about the money than their fans’ opinion,” Morris said. 

The reasons why someone supports a controversial artist is a personal matter, and every person’s moral threshold for an artist’s behavior is different. No one is perfect, but the content one consumes is a choice that can lead to some ethical self-evaluation. 

Still, artists will continue to produce works appreciated by the masses, even though their biographies are far from commendable.