John Seven: Please, don't reward the artistic creeps


NORTH ADAMS -The idea that you must separate the art from the artist has come up a lot lately. The reasoning is that if you judge creative work from the personal behavior of writers, musicians, actors, directors, painters, or whatever, there's not a lot of art or entertainment to enjoy. You must separate them, we are told.

If anyone spouts absolutes about this to you, ignore them. It's a personal decision. You can choose to not like work because the person tells racist jokes or contributes to anti-abortion groups. You can choose to not like the work because they are ugly or have terrible hair. Any reason that's important to you, you can embrace. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't.

This is much less a problem with normal services, like plumbers or grocers. Take Roman Polanski. If he owned a convenience store, would you shop there? If he was a mechan-ic, how would you feel about giving him your business? Or let's say Roman Polanski had not raped a young girl, but instead channeled his earnings into anti-abortion groups? Or he advocated against same-sex marriage? Would you want to pay to see his movies?

The issue might be less that you appreciate the creative work of the artist and more that you are actively funding a creep by tossing dollars through the work. Maybe that is the difference. You can like the work, but it doesn't mean you have to hand the loathsome people your money, does it?

When I've heard the argument about Polanski and other recent figures, comparisons to creative creeps from the past are always brought up. These are long dead figures, way too far in the grave to make a profit off us, people like Leni Reifenstahl or Stan Kenton or Degas or Hemingway and so many others. Whatever of their work still exists, it does so without its creator making a mint off it. We get the genius, but they get no reward, so we're not complicit.

How do you apply this to a living person?

Never access their work through direct channels. You can purchase their work secondhand - books, DVDs, music. You can borrow your friend's copy. Or TiVo it. Or watch it broadcast - if you're not a Nielsen family, it doesn't count.

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Maybe the library has what you're looking for? Or Netflix. The licensing has already been paid for on that anyhow, you aren't directly contributing money to the creator.

For music, you can make use of Spotify and pay the person literally fractions of a cent to hear the work.

Or maybe it's something you can experience on YouTube?

Not that you heard me say this, but if you were the sort of person who found alternate means of procurement online, you could do that and get the extra whammy of actually stealing from the heinous person. But, of course, I would never condone such behavior.

You know who agrees with me on this? Woody Allen.

In an interview with the Paris Review in 1995, he said, "I hate when art becomes a religion. I feel the opposite. When you start putting a higher value on works of art than people, you're forfeiting your humanity. There's a tendency to feel the artist has special privileges, and that anything's OK if it's in the service of art. I tried to get into that in [the film] 'Interiors.' I always feel the artist is much too revered - it's not fair and it's cruel."

Who am I to argue with Woody Allen and his apparently brilliant insights to humanity? As long as I don't have to give him a cent for it, I'll take his insight. Can't pay me to watch his movies, though.

John Seven, a writer, lives in North Adams. He can be reached at or at


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