Great Art from Bad People

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 2 min read

I figured I should write something up about this before I start my year of music suggestions, so here we go.

I believe you can enjoy art made by bad people.

Now there is a lot of nuance there, and it's a spectrum, not a binary thing. For example, if someone I don't like makes art I find middling, it's not hard for my dislike of that person to stop me from consuming the art they make. However, if the art is great, then the person needs to have done something pretty bad for me to discount the art entirely. Although since it's a spectrum, my enjoyment of that great art will be diminished knowing it was created by someone I don't find agreeable.

But that's not all, there are 3 more things I consider.

I also consider who the person in question was at the time. People change over their lifetimes, and someone who was good years ago may have changed in ways that I find distasteful. If they made someone in the time when I think they were good, but now they're turned bad (using these good/bad terms for simplicity's sake), I'm more likely to enjoy the old art, but I'm less likely to enjoy their new stuff. This works the other direction as well.

Additionally, I'm swayed by how many people were involved in creating a piece of art. A movie, for example, is a massive undertaking and is the result of hundreds of people trying to do the best work of their lives. If I love a movie and an actor in it or the director turns out to be bad (again, simplifying for the sake of brevity), that can taint how much I love that movie, but they were just a part of the puzzle, not the whole thing so I'm more likely to still enjoy it. Now if a production hires someone who is known to be a bad apple, I'm likely to dismiss the project out of hand as I don't want to support hiring those people in the first place.

On the other hand, music is a much more singular creation. Yes, there are producers and collaborators, but the pool of participants is just smaller, and music to me feels more intimate than a movie.

And finally, the most important thing to me is simply how it all makes me feel. Everything above goes into that thought process, but ultimately it's not something I can create concrete rules around.

I post this not because I'm going to post music from the most vile characters you can imagine in music, but there are going to be some records made by people that you don't approve of. Hell, there will be a few from people I don't particularly like anymore, so I just wanted to have this post out there to explain how I think about this and why my enjoyment of a particular piece of art does not mean to me that I'm supportive of everything that artist has ever done.