The arguments for and against separating an artist from their art will always be pretty controversial, especially in the current #MeToo era. I used to be a fan of Woody Allen’s films, but I can’t watch them anymore given what I know now. I’ve still never seen The Pianist because Roman Polanski directed it. And yet… I watched Good Will Hunting on TV the other weekend, even though I know full well that Matt Damon is an a–hole, Ben Affleck groped Hilarie Burton and the whole thing was produced by Harvey Weinstein. The whole “this person is canceled” thing is all well and good, but… people still watch and enjoy the art created by predators, rapists, abusers and molesters. Where do we draw the line? Is it a line every person needs to define for themselves? I don’t know. I am saying that with all honesty.
So, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep stopped by Buzzfeed to promote The Post, and they were drawn into this larger conversation about separating the art from the artist and all of that. Tom’s answers kind of bugged me.
Amid rampant sexual misconduct claims against Hollywood’s elite, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep discussed separating the art from the artist on Tuesday.
“If you threw out every film or TV show that was made by an a–hole, Netflix would go out of business,” Tom Hanks said during a BuzzFeed News Q&A for his new film, “The Post.” “I think you do just have … to wait because this is a long game… Picasso was a womanizer, this is not excusing anybody. You just have to wait and see how it settles over the long haul. This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. I think work does speak for itself, but character does come into the conversation at some point, but I think that lands over time.”
Streep, 68, who despite her friendship with Harvey Weinstein spoke out against him following accusations of sexual assault and harassment, compared it to Shakespeare’s work.
“We still revere Shakespeare,” she said. “I mean we haven’t thrown [“The Merchant of Venice”] out and there is no question that that play is antisemitic. There’s no question that ‘The Taming of The Shrew’ is misogynist. Everybody has their blank spots, but the genius that understands about the human experiment is worth safeguarding and shouldn’t be touched…People who are terrible also have terribly clear insights on other subjects, so I don’t think you throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
I think what bugs me about the “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” argument is that was the argument for how all of these predators thrived in Hollywood this whole time – people knew they were abusive (the extent of the abuses was not always well-known, granted), and people chose to keep on working with these abusive monsters because they made good art. You know who else could have been making great art this whole time? All of the women who were abused, harassed, raped, assaulted and humiliated just because they wanted to work. The whole idea of “this is a marathon, maybe after a year or two, people won’t care so much about all of the rapes” seems… cold.
I also hate how Hanks especially conflates “being a womanizer” with “being a sexual predator.” There’s a difference between a man being a total a–hole who has a series of consensual relationships versus a man abusing his authority and power to humiliate, assault and harass unconsenting women. There are many men in Hollywood (and in every industry) who womanize and sleep around… with consenting partners. That’s not what we’re talking about at all. We’re talking about the culture of harassment and abuse, the ingrained rape culture of patriarchy and the nature of consent.
Photos courtesy of Getty, WENN.