Consumers must weigh artists’ content Against harmful views


You see them everywhere: social media influencers, book authors, movie directors and celebrities. We look up to them, but should not always place them on a high pedestal. There are countless examples of celebrities and artists across nearly all platforms and genres who use their influence and fame to support or share their hateful beliefs. One of the biggest examples today is Ye (who changed his name from Kanye West) sharing anti-Semitic views across various media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and live interviews on television. Ye is considered one of the world’s most popular artists, and according to Spotify, he racks over 50 million listeners monthly, with his top song, “Bound 2,” having over 500 million listens. At the same time, however, it is important to state that just because someone listens to an artist, it does not mean that said person shares that artist’s political or discriminatory ideas. This understanding demonstrates the difference between what it means to be a fan of someone’s work and the person themselves. While deciding how to respond to artists is a personal choice, fans must do their due diligence in thoroughly researching the artist’s views before deciding to continue or withdraw their support.

The example with Ye is hardly a first occurrence of a popular celebrity expressing problematic views. Back in July 2020, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling posted transphobic tweets which disrespected and ignored the lived identities of transgender women. Like Ye’s music, Rowling’s books share a special place in the hearts of many. Rowling’s comments hurt thousands of people and are especially harmful because Harry Potter is popular among kids. J.K. Rowling is able to use her fame to potentially spread anti-trans views to young, impressionable minds who look up to her as their favorite author and do not know better. In the wake of Rowling’s transphobic comments, many transgender Harry Potter fans had to question if being a fan of the series was worth supporting the author. Many feel that they can no longer support the series given Rowling’s comments about transgender women. Fans of Ye’s and Rowling’s work alike must evaluate whether the artist’s actions are too extreme to continue supporting. The decision to stop consuming content is made by each individual person.

Some fans might argue that it is better to always separate the art from the artist in any case, because oftentimes the art does not reflect the artist’s views, and we should appreciate art for what it is. Yes, sometimes it is important to appreciate masterpieces when they occur and not judge them entirely on who was behind that work, but that does not excuse fans from ignoring what their favorite artist stands for or does with their fame. Take Nobuhiro Watsuki. He is not a name many students will recognize, but in the Art of Visual Storytelling class, students read his world renowned manga, “Rurouni Kenshin.” Students read “Rurouni Kenshin” because it is considered a classic in the shounen manga world, with several video game, anime and live action movies adaptation. However, Watsuki faced controversy when he was discovered in 2017 to be in possession of child pornography, which Watsuki purchased with the revenue he received from his successful series. His fine was also paid off with that money. Many fans were devastated by this news because, while indirectly, fans contributed a small percentage to his actions with every copy of “Rurouni Kenshin purchased or anime episode watched. Unfortunately though, many of those who choose to read “Kenshin” are not aware of the author’s crimes. For fans who decide to continue to support their favorite artists, the appreciation for the artist’s work means they are responsible for researching more about the people behind the art they consume. Otherwise, students run the risk of harming groups targeted by these creators through their ignorance.

If a cereal company were to be discovered practicing illegal business practices, it is easy for people to simply switch over to a different brand of cereal in order to not support that business. So why shouldn’t it be similar for fans of public figures like Ye, Watsuki and Rowling to stop consuming their work? Unlike cereal, art is unique and there are few substitutes for people who are huge fans of Ye’s music or Harry Potter. For this reason, many are hesitant to immediately drop their favorite artist. It is all right for students to continue to support their favorite artist’s works, as long as they are aware of the kind of people they are praising and looking up to. In most cases, one of the best ways for people to learn is to research more. Find out the facts and figures, then make the final call whether to decide to support something or not. This will give people a clearer understanding of what they are supporting. While choosing to boycott an artist is a personal choice, everyone is obligated to research the harm in the creator’s views in order to weigh them against their own values. It should also be established that being a fan of an artist does not automatically equate to sympathizing with their views.