I’m torn. Two of my favorite films are Woody Allen’s classics, Manhattan and Crimes and Misdemeanors. As a filmmaker I love the writing, the cinematography, editing, all the things that made Allen a worldclass filmmaker with a style all his own. However, as a devoted father and husband who takes seriously marriage vows and fidelity, I am disgusted by his relationship with Soon-Yi, the adopted daughter of his ex-long-time girlfriend Mia Farrow.
As a filmmaker (who happens to be Christian) I am also a fan of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and Passion of the Christ. Two very powerful stories about redemption and sacrifice. (Although, honestly, I can take watching Passion maybe once every ten years.) But, I am deeply disappointed and frustrated at the personal demons in Mel’s life and how they affect his stance in the film industry, and the damage they do to his own personal testimony of faith.
Then this morning my wife tells me that while looking up information on singer/song-writer Alicia Keys, she learned that her current pregnancy with husband Swizz Beatz (yeah, I know) happened while he was still married to his previous wife Mashonda Tifrere (my people, my people! Why oh why do you name your children so!) Here’s a singer that we both respected and looked at as a great role model for young girls, only to be disappointed…again. (First Miley, now this).
So, is it possible to separate the artist from his or her sins? Can you love the films of Allen and Gibson, while at the same time abhor aspects of their lifestyle? Or does that make one a hypocrite? Is it still okay to jam to the beats of Keys, even though now when I hear them I’m haunted by images that she’s “the other woman” married to someone who given his record (this is his fourth child child-bearing relationship) may do it again.
I think that in the end, the answer has to be a resounding “yes” (but with caution.) It’s yes because, let’s be honest, if one was to avoid the art of any artist who did some terrible sin, well, you’d pretty much have to live in a box and not watch or listen to anything. We’ve all fallen short and I know I’m no saint. Who am I to judge the life of other artists. As long as the art in and of itself is not offensive to me, I’ll engage (especially if you can see the artist using that art to deal with their “demons” and provoke intriguing thought.) We must be allowed to offer grace, understanding and forgiveness where its warranted. But at the same time, we need to be wary of any messages that may be given in the artists’ art and the effect it may be having on us. (Is it a coincidence that Manhattan is about an older divorcee having a relationship with a high school girl?)
And if you’re a parent, I do think you need to step in and limit/manage/monitor what your children watch or listen to. Mainly because whereas YOU may be able to separate art from the artists, impressionable children haven’t usually developed that skill or reached that level of maturity. I can admire Gibson’s films and not be influenced by his lifestyle; however a teen girl may follow the careers of Miley, Britney, or Lady Ga-Ga and want to BE like them (dress, talk, and yes, even act). Until they reach adult age and leave the nest, it’s your job as parent to guide them in the ways you want them to live and be a contributor to society.
So, what’s your take on this topic? Do you separate the two? If so how? If not, why?