Separating the Art from the Artists Involved

Jack Shields | @Jack_Shields20

I, like so many comic book fans, had already known for over a month what my plans for last weekend were going to be. Since the unexpected success of Ironman from which the unprecedented and extremely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe was born, I knew that every opening weekend I would be spending my Friday night in a movie theater. Last weekend it was the premiere of Captain Marvel, and in the months leading up to it, I was quite excited. The trailers were fun, she’s an awesome superhero with an interesting backstory, and seeing Nick Fury with two eyes was reason enough to watch the movie to see if I could learn how he loses his eye. Yet, this was different, especially considering the statements of actress Brie Larson before the release of the movie.

A Different Expectation

With the past twenty opening weekends of the MCU, I knew that I was going to see an entertaining movie. (Unfortunately, I have no such luxury when preparing to watch DC films at its current state of mediocrity.) With Captain Marvel, however, I was worried. The movie had a horrible rating on Rotten Tomatoes, especially by MCU standards. There were lots of people online saying this movie was a disappointment and one of the worst movies in the MCU.

This was combined with the fact that the actress who plays Captain Marvel, Brie Larson, had spent the last few weeks talking about how she wouldn’t let too many white people or men be around the movie, and didn’t care what forty-year-old men (you know, the ones with the money to actually buy the tickets to her movie) thought about her movie. There was no mention of actually making a good movie. I was worried I was seeing a repeat of what I and my poor childhood had to go through last year; seeing Star Wars, one of the best movie series in history, destroyed before my very eyes when Disney decided that diversity would be more important than actually making a good movie with The Last Jedi. 

I sat down in the theater not sure what to expect. Either the movie was a diverse pile of garbage, or a bunch of trolls online had way too much free time. Thankfully, it was the latter. Captain Marvel was a really good movie. It wasn’t something that could be compared to Infinity War or Thor: Ragnarok, but it was still a 7/10, and Captain Marvel is definitely going to be an amazing part of Avengers: Endgame. 

The Reviews: Was the Movie Bad or Just Brie Larson?

With the movie just being your normal superhero movie that’s a good way to spend a few hours, it was clear that the terrible ratings and bad reviews weren’t coming from these people’s opinion on the movie. It was their opinion on Brie Larson. It is very clear that we have a major problem of being unable to separate art from the artist, and it is a problem which the country would be in a much better place if it was solved.

To be fair, Larson’s comments offended me too, and I thought they were rude, narrow-minded, and racist. However, Brie Larson isn’t Captain Marvel. Yes, she is the actress who plays Captain Marvel, but they are not the same person. Brie Larson is a progressive from the coast who obviously lives in a bubble disconnected from anyone who disagrees with her including all the people who review superhero movies.  Captain Marvel is a former U.S. Air Force pilot who is a soldier with superpowers for the Kree Empire. They don’t have a lot in common. I seriously doubt they have all the same opinions on racial and gender issues, gun control, abortion, or any other controversial issue.

Larson isn’t the only person in Hollywood with these beliefs. She just made the unfortunate choice of saying it out loud. I know Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson think the same exact things. But I enjoy their movies anyway, and we should keep it that way.

Defining the Actor and the Character

A distinction must be made between the artist and their art. Or really the work of anyone. Say someone invented a cure for cancer. It was later found out the scientist was a Nazi, an abusive husband and father, and had committed numerous crimes before finally inventing the cure for cancer. Would we stop giving the cure to patients upon learning this? Of course not. We would clearly be able to desperate the evil actions of an evil man and the product he has created, which would be producing a great good for the entire world. 

With art and entertainment, it is admittedly a little less obvious. A product with a practical application is easier to separate from its creator. It is a little less obvious with art. It depends on what the art is trying to show. For example, while we should separate the politics of actors and actresses in Marvel from their movies, we should not separate the politics of actors and actresses in Birth of a Nation from the movie. Because in the former, the politics were disconnected from the main point of the film, while in the latter the political beliefs are the same point of the film. This isn’t just with movies. While you may be for or against Colin Kaepernick when he started kneeling in games, it was okay to let it affect your opinion of watching the NFL. Because it was now a major part of the product. But it should not make you hate watching the classic 2012 NFC Championship game in which he played amazingly until a fourth-quarter blunder. This is because he wasn’t kneeling then, it was just a game, and that’s all it should be judged on.

This extends to even more extreme examples. C.K. Louis’s jokes are still funny. Harvey Weinstein’s movies are still great. Michael Jackson’s music is fun to listen to. Are they awful people? Yes, but we can still enjoy the product insofar is it is not a creation rooted in their immoral behavior. Not only can we, but we also must.

We don’t agree on much right now in this country. We are getting more and more partisan, and more and more hateful. We need some common ground and we need a way to disconnect occasionally from the issues we are divided on. We used to have it. It used to be a football game or the latest movie. But we’ve stopped letting that happen. We now let the things we disagree on seep into everything we have common ground on. We can’t agree if Captain Marvel punching that guy is awesome, because we are too busy fighting about whether Larson is wonderful or awful. If we wish to reverse the tide, and start being less hateful, less partisan, and more unified, we must be able to separate the art from the artist, or things are only going to get worse.

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