Note: This isn’t an attempt to change anyone’s view on the topic, I’m just sharing my thoughts on it.
If there’s any topic that could be considered relevant in the discussion surrounding various forms of entertainment, Anime and Manga included, it would be this idea of whether a work should always be associated with its creator. Particularly if the creator in question has carried out some form of immoral wrongdoing, has been involved in illegal activities or has generally been shown to be a terrible person.
This has become especially relevant in the Anime and Manga community recently, with the shocking reveal that the creator of Rurouni Kenshin, Nobuhiro Watsuki, is a bloody paedophile and was charged with possession of child pornography. Of course he’s been let off easy and his currently ongoing reboot of Kenshin is still being published in spite of his crimes. And this is just one of many similar cases of a famous creator that many of us have looked up to, or who’s works we have enjoyed, being outed as a terrible and immoral person.
So it goes without saying that in each of these cases, the vast majority of people who were fans of these creators have chosen to no longer associate themselves with their work. They’re unable to separate the art from the crimes of the artist, and I can understand why. If someone were to create a story where the central message was “murder is wrong” and then proceeded to carry out a mass shooting in the real world a decade later, then yeah, you’d probably question the sincerity and validity of the story’s message.
But, as we’ve all established many times before, I’m weird and I have dumb opinions, so I’m going to explain why I actually feel the complete opposite and think that in just about every case, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to separate a creators misdeeds from their body of work. Or to put it more simply: I want to explain why I’m able to do so.
Now I can understand that if a creator goes against the message of their work that it can make the work feel hypocritical. After all, how can we as an audience believe in what the Anime, Manga, TV series, song or video game is trying to tell us, if the very person that created it doesn’t truly believe it themselves?
But the way I’ve always seen it is that even if the creator themselves doesn’t necessarily represent the central theme, focus or message of the stories they create, that doesn’t automatically make their work invalid when it comes to portraying whatever it is they’re attempting to portray. Even if that were the case, fiction in general is always open to one’s own interpretation and there are always multiple perspectives as to what a piece of work was trying to accomplish with its story, characters, or whatever else. What one person may get out of a show another may not. And at the end of the day, my interpretation of the story’s message and what I get out of it through watching it is what matters the most to me, whether or not it was the authors intention or otherwise.
Believe it or not, I’m a huge fan of the Crunkcore duo Blood on the Dance Floor, who are not only notable for being popular amongst teenage scene kids (a group of people I don’t fall under I can assure you), but who have also become one of the most negatively viewed acts in modern music due to the immoral behaviour of their lead singer. I’m not entirely sure how true any of these allegations are, but he supposedly treats the other acts they tour with pretty terribly, apparently acts creepy and misogynistic towards females who come into contact with him and has an ego that dwarfs that of the average Anime YouTuber. And all of this behaviour goes against a lot of the positive messages in their lyrics and upbeat, energetic and often silly nature of the music they perform in general.
Yet, none of the singer’s actions take away from the fact that I still find the music itself fun to listen to. It still puts me in a good mood, makes me laugh and fills me with positivity. Because the message is still there, even if it’s presented by a hypocrite who doesn’t necessarily believe in it themselves.
I can understand that continuing to be a fan of the work could also be interpreted as directly supporting any negative behaviour associated with its creator, and in a lot of ways yeah… That could be said to be true. If you’re buying the Manga of a drug abuser, you’re probably funding their drug habit. So my solution to that is simple: Don’t buy it. Just read it. Or watch it. Or stream it. Or download it. Or whatever. Simply consuming the product isn’t the same as directly purchasing it. Is it immoral? Definitely. But if you’re so hung up on the idea of supporting the artist who’s behaviour you don’t agree with, you probably weren’t going to support them anyway, so why deprive yourself of their work that you enjoy too?
In short, I think it’s perfectly acceptable, and healthy, to separate the artist from the art, especially in these kinds of situations. Because at the end of the day, Word of God is not the end all be all of a piece of work, and we, as fans of a work or piece of art are perfectly capable of taking what it means to us and how it shapes us as individuals into our own hands. No creator or their actions should have the right to take our connection to their art away from us. At least, that’s how I feel.
But maybe I’m just daft. That’s also pretty likely.
What do you think of this topic? Are you able to separate the art from the artist? Or do you feel different? Let me know!