Works created by accused sexual abusers separate from their wrongdoings

There have been a series of disturbing reports about famous men committing sexual misconduct: Harvey Weinstein, Ben Affleck, Kevin Spacey, Jeffrey Tambor, Brett Ratner, Louis C.K., Matt Lauer and many others have all been accused of varying levels of inappropriate to outright criminal behavior. 

Weinstein was fired from his own studio, Spacey’s show “House of Cards” removed him from the helm and may finish without him and the release of Louis C.K.’s new film has been canceled. 

Before the silence and quiet acceptance of this sort of behavior allowed the sexual assaulters’ shows, films or other entertainment products to continue. This new surge of brave confessions from the victims has Hollywood turning a new leaf, one of accountability and consequences. 

This new leaf has caused many fans of the accused men to be rightly upset. It has a lot of people wondering about whether or not it is still appropriate to love, or at least appreciate, the work these men have done.

It’s common in media analysis to separate the creator from the creation, and from a purely intellectual standpoint, this makes complete sense. After a work has been released to the public, it is no longer solely the creation of the writer or the actors. Many beloved works of the past would not exist if we had held people as accountable for their actions as we do now. 

Disney films hold a special place in many hearts, despite the studio’s early egregious racism, and Bill Cosby’s “The Cosby Show” was groundbreaking on many levels and earned him the title of “America’s Dad.” 

But the line has to be drawn between appreciation for the content of accused abusers and the material support of these men, which is sometimes not so easy to do. For instance, Weinstein was fired, and this was appropriate to remove him from the position that allowed him to use his power over his victims.  

Furthermore, Spacey was removed from “House of Cards,” which was the best way to prevent other incidents like the one reported by an anonymous production assistant. 

Additionally, Matt Lauer, the anchor of NBC News’s Today, was dismissed from his job on Wednesday Nov. 29 after a sexual misconduct review. The familiar face that had been welcomed into homes all across the United States was accused of inappropriate behavior with a female coworker starting at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and extending out beyond that event. 

The company was prompt in removing Lauer from his position, as they had credible reason to believe his behavior was more than an isolated incident. In all cases where a particular decision can protect past and potential victims, it needs to be executed. 

We cannot allow these prominent individuals to keep their jobs, when in many cases their occupations were vehicles they used to find and silence victims. The reduction of their creations might sting in the short term, but it allows for the potential of new creators who might otherwise have been silenced by their assaulters to make their own mark on our cultural landscape.  

Does this mean that you can’t watch Pulp Fiction because it was created by Weinstein’s production company? No. Appreciation for the media these people had created is not necessarily a bad thing. As long as the individual has been held accountable and you have a full understanding of the person behind the work, it is completely legitimate to enjoy their projects. 

If, however, they have not been held accountable, there is something powerful in boycotting any further content they create. Abusers use their power, their accolades and their money to implicitly and sometimes explicitly push their victims toward silence. 

If we continue to let these abusers keep their prestige, what we are saying is that we care more about their shows and films than actual people’s lives, which is unforgivable.u