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OPINIONS: Separating artists from their art, one victim at a time

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Flickr | The Daily Wildcat Originally posted on Flickr by Ana y María Quintana y González

Windows down, the warm air flitted through my sun roof, spreading the smell of summer through my affectionately named SUV, Big Bertha. 

Big Bertha, my noble steed, a GMC Yukon gas-guzzler herself, had been recently outfitted with a juicy speaker system that turned heads at intersections and made soccer moms roll up their windows. I was fearless, 17, without a care in the world. 

There were two artists whose music rang out of Big Bertha’s speakers daily. Little did I know, it was the voices of men who had done horrible things, things that I paid no mind to because I simply liked to listen. 

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"Ignition" was my JAM. I mean it. It was my anthem. I would scream to turn up the volume as soon as I heard R. Kelley sing "now, I’m not tryna be rude." Little did I know, there was a girl, the same age as me, who probably inspired the song in the first place. I payed it no mind. I turned it up even louder. 

I remember the day Michael Jackson died. I was nine years old, sitting on the rough, yellowed carpet of my living room, mouth wide open, staring at the TV. The man who did the moonwalk was dead. Mom said he went to sleep for too long. I was too young to notice the young boys whose photos flashed on the screen or the courtroom clips that peppered the report. 

As the years passed, I learned more about the alleged scandal and the overnight trips to Neverland, but I never paid them any mind. I listened as other people called the boys liars or money-hungry. It was easy to believe. It was easy to hate them for making Michael Jackson the bad guy. 

Guess what, he was. So where does that leave the rest of us?

We live in a time of transparency, meaning any of the crooked backroom deals of yesterday will eventually come into the light. As time passes, we are watching our heroes turn into villains. 

The actions of these powerful, influential individuals seem to directly affect two groups: women and children, whose rights have always been a hot-button issue. In today’s social climate, we are at a crossroads, and we must choose what kind of leaders we hold in high esteem. As I see some of my childhood heroes show their true selves, I struggle with no longer supporting their work, but I realize that it is the cost of a better tomorrow, a tomorrow where everyone’s voice, and body, is respected. 

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None of this used to matter to me. I could always separate the artists from their art. In the age of the “Me Too movement” and "Black Lives Matter," that no longer seems to be the case. The reality of our situation is supporting the work is, by extension, supporting the actions of the individual. 

“Personally I don't listen to R. Kelly and Michael Jackson anymore, just because their music leaves a bad taste in your mouth because of the actions of those men committed," said Maria Cafferata, a freshman at the UA, a school with a female population that is 52 percent of the student body.

Bill Cosby was raping women while he was filming "The Cosby Show." Harvey Weinstein terrorized the stars of our generation’s favorite films. Matt Lauer was pressing buttons between smiles on set. As a woman, it is very difficult for me to look at these individuals' work and not recall the horrible thing they have done. 

Bill Cosby did a wealth of good for child psychology, but he has been accused of sexual assault by 60 women. Sexual crimes are undeniably heinous and traumatizing, generally affecting women and children. Historically, those in power could commit these crimes for the sake of their work. 

It sounds extreme to no longer support powerful individuals who have done wrong, since there are so many. The system will only change through action. We must refuse to tolerate these crimes so the suffering can stop dead in its tracks. I am willing to sacrifice beloved songs and movies for the well-being of others.  


R. Kelly at the premiere of Trapped in the Closet Chapter 13-22 19 December 2007


To address the alternate viewpoint, one can argue Jackson’s music has a different meaning to listeners, and that does not mean they support his actions. Every time his music plays, his name profits. The same name that molested two young boys. The same thing happens every time that a re-run of "The Cosby Show" comes on, and the channel doesn’t change. 

These men created things that resulted in a lot of good, but the cost was immense suffering for some. By some, I mean the countless victims of their sexual crimes. I understand the urge to protect them, since we hold their work dear in our hearts, but they are no different from a normal criminal. The only difference between a child molester and Michael Jackson is that maybe the man behind bars can’t ride the boogie the same way. They did the same crime. 

The choice is yours. If you choose to support an artist or company be sure to fully understand where their loyalties lie. Despite the surface level choice, it speaks volumes about where yours stand as well. 


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