Is It Wrong To Enjoy Good Art Made By Bad People?

Is it wrong to like the new song and music video from As I Lay Dying? It seems the music community is divided. Some are boycotting their music. Others are saying Lambesis did the time, he’s paid for his crime. What do YOU think?

The official video for “My Own Grave”, a brand new song from California metal band, As I Lay Dying, was released just yesterday. This is the first release from the band since the release of their sixth album, “Awakened”, back in September 2012. The track features the return of the band’s classic lineup — Tim Lambesis, Jordan Mancino, Phil Sgrosso, Nick Hipa, and Josh Gilbert.


According to – In May 2014, Lambesis was sentenced to six years in jail after pleading guilty to paying a San Diego police officer posing as a hitman $1,000 to kill his wife. Approximately two and a half years later — on December 17, 2016 — he was discharged from a California detention facility and was transferred to the Division of Adult Parole Operations.


Last December, Lambesis released a statement in which he apologized to his former wife and children for his “appalling actions.” He also accepted responsibility for being “the sole offender and the only one to blame for everything that happened.”


This subject has been widely debated before, many times over, throughout history. Is it wrong to enjoy or appreciate art, that was made by horrible people? Or people who have been perceived to have done something wrong? There are entire fan groups dedicated to the art of serial killers. Should we all stop watching Roseanne because she said something racist. Should I never watch a Morgan Freeman movie again, because he was accused of sexual misconduct? If I still enjoy these people’s art, am I supporting their behaviour?


Russell Smith, writer for The Global Mail writes:

“A moral question arises, to me, only when money is exchanged. Looking is one thing, but what about buying? If I buy the photo of the work of a baby-eater, am I enriching a criminal and therefore perpetuating criminal acts?”


He goes on to say that:

“I am baffled, genuinely baffled, by the idea that by consuming art one is somehow perpetuating the ideas in it. Do I absorb the values of Nazism by looking at Hitler’s watercolours? Do I advance Nazism if I reprint Hitler’s watercolours in a history book? And should I feel guilt if I find any of Hitler’s watercolours pleasant?”


He closes with this thought:

“Eliminate the bad artists from the canon and you might as well eliminate art itself.”


In a New York Times article, written by Charles McGrath, he states that:

“The reason that question – “Can bad people create good art?” – is misleading is that badness and goodness in this formulation don’t refer to the same thing. In the case of the artist, badness or goodness is a moral quality or judgment; in the case of his art goodness and badness are terms of aesthetic merit, to which morality does not apply.”


McGrath goes on to point out that:

“The conductor Daniel Barenboim, a Jew, is a champion of Wagner’s music (A known anti-Semite), for example, and has made a point of playing it in Israel, where it is hardly welcome. His defense is that while Wagner may have been reprehensible, his music is not. Barenboim likes to say that Wagner did not compose a single note that is anti-Semitic. And the disconnect between art and morality goes further than that: not only can a “bad” person write a good novel or paint a good picture, but a good picture or a good novel can depict a very bad thing. Think of Picasso’s Guernica or Nabokov’s Lolita, an exceptionally good novel about the sexual abuse of a minor, described in a way that makes the protagonist seem almost sympathetic.”


These are all great points. There’s so many burning questions. Many different points of view. The answers are harder to find than we think. Let’s take a look at some related examples throughout history:


Frank Miller: Comic book artist and misogynist.

Banksy: Vandal.

H.P. Lovecraft: Racist.

Picasso: Womanizer.

Egon Schiele abused teenage girls.

Mailer tried to kill his wife.

Woody Allen was accused of sexually molesting a child.

J.D. Salinger: Author of The Catcher in the Rye, pedophile, and adulterer.

William S. Burroughs: Famous writer, who killed his wife.

Zhu Lu photographed himself eating a human fetus.

Ezra Pound, T.S. Elliot, and Degas are known anti-Semites.

Sade was a rapist.

Anne Perry: A crime novelist who murdered her mother.

William Golding: Author of Lord of the Flies and attempted rapist.

Charles Dickens was a terrible husband.

Dr. Seuss: Racist.

Michelangelo was an asshole.

This list could go on forever…

Anybody wanna hang out later and watch The Cosby Show?


Article by Noah “Shark” Robertson

Entertainer, Drummer, Comedian, Musician, Artist, Teacher, Shark Enthusiast, Writer, Insane Person


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