Posted by: ckckred | December 14, 2014

Can You Separate the Art from the Artist?


The last few months have not been a kind time for Bill Cosby.  The legendary comedian has faced serious charges of rape (some dating back over 20 years ago) that have created an enormous publicity disaster.  During this backlash, Hollywood has devoted itself to pulling Cosby out of the mainstream.  Several of his comedy specials and appearances have been cancelled and TV Land has pulled The Cosby Show.

This scenario has happened many times before.  Celebrities who have faced serious criticism for rape (Roman Polanski), incest (Woody Allen), or anti-Semitism (Mel Gibson) have had their past work removed or discredited.  It’s a perfectly natural response to have and one not completely unjustifiable, but is it fair to splatter some films because of the actions or stance a director or actor committed?

I talked about Polanski about a month ago where I stated despite my continuous admiration towards the director, I think he has unfairly escaped proper conviction.  I feel the same way about Allen or Cosby.  Even if the allegations placed upon them aren’t true (which are very unlikely), it’s difficult to look at the two the same way again, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to have to protest Manhattan and Annie Hall or ban The Cosby Show.  While I believe the two should face the justice coming upon them, it’s completely fine to still treasure their past achievements.

Mel Gibson is a different case; as someone who hated Braveheart and The Patriot for their historical inaccuracies, and found The Passion of the Christ to be one of the most deplorable  movies of the 21st century, Gibson, in my opinion, has been unfairly treated by almost everyone and has faced far more exile than Allen or Polanski (ironic since the latter can’t even leave Europe).  What Gibson did certainly was terrible, but are his actions comparable to Allen’s, Polanski’s, or Cosby’s?  Certainly not and while Gibson’s alienation is not completely undeserved, he does deserve more credibility from the general public.

But what do you think?



  1. Oh, boy, what strong words for a Sunday morning and remember, you asked! I remember reading your Polanski article and your tone then suggested you condemned Polanski and could not support watching his films. Today, “the two should face the justice coming upon them, it’s completely fine to still treasure their past achievements.” With this statement, I agree.
    You might find this Boston NPR article about Woody Allen interesting:

    Anyway, regarding Mel Gibson, I will agree with you that “Gibson’s alienation is not completely undeserved, he does deserve more credibility from the general public.” I am curious about the films of his you hated because of historical inaccuracies. Especially ‘The Patriot’. What in particular?

    Here is my opinion on the subject: I don’t like passing judgment on the accusations of celebrities based upon the media’s ruthless, condemning, insatiable desire to twist and present the mistakes of others on supposition. I don’t like considering what someone did 20 years ago. To put one’s life on the slab for dissection and quartering while the mob watches is disgusting.

    Why do I have a voice in their scandal? They are strangers. I don’t care to know what Woody Allen did or Bill Cosby or how Mel Gibson feels about an ethnic group any more than I would want the world to know about the mistakes of my youth, the choices as an adult I would surely avoid in my next life, or be put on trial for my morality. Witch hunts are just that. We are all guilty.

    Their stardom is no excuse. Go with the facts. If they are guilty, incarcerate. Then move on. I’d rather talk about their movies.

    • I dislike how Gibson misconstrues reality in his movies. The Patriot practically depicted the British as Nazis, not to mention the person Gibson’s character was based on actually killed and raped Native Americans .

      Being a celebrity does not remove someone from the law. I still enjoy the work of Polanski and Allen, but that doesn’t excuse them from their past.

      • Okay, I see what you mean. Yes, Mel is guilty for bias in all his films in that he dramatizes and simplifies issues by painting black and white sides. Yep, totally agree. I wonder why British actors (and any other nationality) oblige the negative painting?

  2. Such a tough question you posed. Mel Gibson doesn’t deserve exile, but he’s failed time and again to prove he’s learned anything. I think the reason everyone is having a hard time watching the Cosby show is because the way we, as viewers, perceived Bill Cosby was that of his character in the show. They were one in the same, now with these accusations, it backfires on the show, making America’s Favorite Father look misshapen in this new light.

    • Good point. I’ve never watched much of The Cosby Show but I’ve always viewed Cosby as a figure of parental guidance. It’s difficult to look at him the same way again.

  3. Very interesting. I agree with a lot of what you say. Polanski absolutely fled prosecution and has never rightly answered for it. Cosby’s case looks bad although there are some questions about the sudden timing of it all. That said where there is this much smoke…

    Gibson’s case is sooo different. I really like him as a filmmaker. Really enjoyed Braveheart and The Patriot. I also had a much more positive reaction to The Passion.

    But Gibson’s actions were bad and rightly criticized. But there is no way he should be crucified (pardon the pun) the way he has been especially when it was learned a lot of his problems was due to alcoholism. And when Jodie Foster and Robert Downey Jr., actors who know him a lot better than most people, stand up for him, that means something. Personally I think Gibson has been targeted for reasons outside of his crimes.

    As to the question though, I do tend to be able to separate the art although I admit at times it is difficult to do.

    • Gibson undoubtedly has an aggressive personality and I don’t think it can be completely attributed to his alcoholism. But yeah, despite not being a fan of his work, he definitely has received the unfair edge of the stick. Robert Downey Jr. has also faced drug addiction, but he’s been readmitted into the Hollywood scene.

      • Exactly, and it was Mel who gave him an opportunity and supported him when no one else would (Downey’s words).

  4. There are times when I can and times when I can’t. It’s that simple.

  5. I think we shouldn’t judge the artwork; so much great art has been produced by reprehensible people. What’s trickier is whether supporting the art these people are making now – financially or otherwise – is ethically sound – and that’s a question I have no idea how to answer.

    • Yeah, I’m not sure if I can give a good answer to that. I’ve liked some of Polanski’s and Allen’s recent work, but is it moral to support their films despite what they’ve done?

  6. Interesting question mate. You could go all the way back to Elia Kazan when it comes to dividing opinion. Polanski’s a good example. As for Cosby, well, it’s innocent until proven guilty I always say. If found guilty, his credibility will be in tatters but his output will always be there, for good or bad.

    • Nice point about Kazan. On The Waterfront’s one of my favorite films, but its connection to Kazan’s role in HUAC hurts its reputation.

  7. It depends of the severity of the infraction and how easy it is to disassociate the person from their creation. Bill Cosby’s case is about as reprehensible as it gets.

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