Pro/Con: Separating the art from the artist


Dr. Seuss and Kanye West — what do these two names have in common? While these artists have both made great contributions to society through their creations, they are also extremely controversial people. Still, their works are celebrated by fans everywhere to this day. It begs the question: is it morally right to support the work of a problematic individual? Is it possible to separate an artist’s character and actions from their creations? Ultimately, art should be appreciated solely on its content, regardless of the history of its creator.

To start, while it is important to acknowledge a creator’s flaws and how those may affect their work, some creators have truly innovated in their fields, making it unfair to discredit their contributions because of personal issues.

For example, popular children’s author and cartoonist Theodor Seuss Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss, created some of the most beloved children’s books in the world, selling more than 700 million copies of his works globally, according to WordsRated. However, he also created racist anti-Japanese political cartoons during World War II. His infamous “Waiting for the Signal From Home” depicted Japanese Americans with the stereotypical East-Asian slanted eyes lining up to receive blocks of TNT, which contributed to the mistrust of Japanese Americans within American society following the attack on Pearl

Harbor. Though Seuss’ deeply racist propaganda is inexcusable, if society denounced all of his works, we would be depriving children of many constructive reading experiences and valuable life lessons in books like “The Lorax,” “Horton Hears a Who” and “The Sneetches and Other Stories.” Themes taught in his books, such as the need to protect the environment, are important to expose children to, as they create a basis of morality for the next generation of human beings.

Moreover, people should not be shunned for enjoying an artist’s creations that were made long before the creator was “exposed” for their wrongdoings. One example of this is celebrity artist Kanye West, who became notorious for a series of antisemitic statements he made on Twitter in October 2022, leaving many fans of his earlier songs conflicted over their feelings about his music.

Scenarios like West’s have helped shape a societal standard in which problematic creators’ works are “boycotted,” and those who choose not to participate in the form of protest are considered to be ignorant. In reality, people should not feel the need to give up the media they enjoy, as art can still be celebrated for its societal value, even if the creator cannot.

While some may argue that continuing to support a problematic celebrity’s art makes one a supporter of the ideologies they possess, this is false because while art is about self-expression, it is more so about the way that people can connect to it. The unique bond that forms between an individual and the art they consume is not and should not be affected by whoever made the art.

In the end, it is up to the individual to view the media they consume through a critical lens and determine whether the enjoyment of appreciating art is greater than the guilt of knowing its creator’s morals. Art is a personal experience, and should not be bound by the character of its creator.


In today’s ever-so-connected world, high-profile artists’ lives and personal vices are put on display for fans and consumers to see internationally. As a result, their works and products are often judged by the public based on their personal flaws and faults.

But this phenomenon presents a difficult question: is it ethical for one to appreciate an artist’s creations even after their wrongdoings are exposed? Is it possible to separate an artist’s crimes from their work? Just like any other person, famous and successful artists must be held accountable for what they say and do. Linking an artist’s art with their character is necessary to enforce the principle that their actions have real and powerful repercussions.

Many artists have made unforgivable mistakes, standing up for all the wrong morals, and yet people still praise and indulge in their art. Rapper R. Kelly was imprisoned for 30 years after being found guilty of “eight counts of sex trafficking and one of racketeering in a New York court” in June 2022, according to BBC World News. Yet, many of Kelly’s fans continue to stream his music. Kelly still has a platform on Spotify with 4.37 million monthly listeners, according to Forbes magazine.

Supporting Kelly through listening to his music translates to supporting his violent behavior by maintaining his stream of revenue despite his dishonorable actions. To him, his continued popularity reinforces the notion that there are fans out in the world still willing to stand with him despite his impropriety. Valuing his music and ignoring his personal vices amplifies the idea that artists can escape the consequences of their actions through the art they produce.

Another example of a problematic artist is the singer-songwriter Kanye West. In a 2022 Fox News interview, West stated that Planned Parenthood, an American non-profit sexual and reproductive health organization, was founded by its creator Margaret Sanger along with members of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group, to “control the Jew population.” West also claimed that Planned Parenthood was part of a conspiracy to limit the growth of the Black population by preventing the birth of Black children, claiming that “the people known as the race black really are [Jews].”

West faced immediate backlash from both his supporters and lost many of his most prominent sponsors, including Adidas. Despite being condemned for his comments, his music continues to be well-received by many listeners, who argue that his art should be treated as its own separate entity. Currently, West still has 54 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Even if one completely disagrees with West’s ideologies, continuing to listen to his music or valuing his art in its pure form is still a way of indirectly supporting him. The fact of the matter is that artists have no way of separating themselves from their own art, and therefore, the direction of their lives is largely dependent on how their art is received. As a result, the only way to hold artists like West accountable for their actions is to condemn both them and their art together.

No matter how harmless it may seem, separating art from the artist sets the dangerous precedent that prominent artists with a large following can be exempt from the punishment they rightfully deserve.
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