Bill Cosby. Robert Kelly. Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Louis C. K.
Those names are very familiar now for all the WRONG reasons. Their actions brought in the new era of accountability known as the #METOO movement. 2017 was a wild time for accountability. It seemed like every time you turned around, someone would be getting called to the carpet for being a sexual predator. Weinstein ended up in prison. Cosby ended up in prison. Kelly ended up in prison. Louis still has a career as does Spacey, if you can call it a “career”.
Last month, Bill Cosby was released from prison due to a legal technicality. It had something to do with a plea deal Cosby made in an earlier trial from like 2004. Anyway, his show, The Cosby Show was a prominent show in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a little bit before my time(i was born in 1992). The show aired on NBC and was one of the highest rated shows of its time during its entire run.
I’ve watched the show often over the years. When all the stuff about Cosby’s sexual misconduct came out, people began calling for The Cosby Show reruns to be taken off the air. Their stance was that by airing re-runs of the show, the networks would be implicitly endorsing Bill Cosby himself and therefore agreeing with his misconduct. The networks complied, and re-runs were subsequently taken off the air. I remember feeling miffed about this because I felt that people were punishing the cast for the actions of one man. Cosby did what he did, but taking the show off of syndication would only hurt the remaining actors of the series in my opinion. When shows are in syndication, everyone working on the show gets paid royalties. Many of the actors from the show did go on to have good acting careers and were successful in other ventures, but they still should have been able to receive the royalties they earned from the show.
All of this brings me to my main question, can the art be separated from the artist? I personally believe it can, but I understand why some people may feel differently. It is a personal choice for you to stop engaging with an artist’s content because of their off-screen misconduct. That is your prerogative. YOU cannot tell ME that I cannot engage with the artist’s content just because you don’t.
The Cosby Show currently is available on Amazon Prime. It may still come on TV, on channels like TVLand, but I don’t have cable so I am not sure. I just watched a really good YouTube video about this particular subject. The video is by a YouTuber named Jose. I’ve linked it below. it is about an hour and a half long.
Bottom line for me is that separating the art from the artist is ultimately a personal choice and one that you cannot force onto someone else. The shows, films, tv specials, music, et cetera that these men have worked on are still apart of the overall media culture. Their wrongdoings have tarnished their own representations as well as the representations of their art, however, engaging with their content doesn’t mean that you implicitly or explicitly endorse these men’s wrongdoings. Accusing someone of endorsing sexual misconduct just because they watch re-runs of The Cosby Show or watch old Kevin Spacey films, or listen to Robert Kelly’s music(and music he has produced or been a songwriter on), is a slippery slope that I don’t think you all are prepared enough or cognizant enough to try and go down.