Way to Ruin It

I am fascinated, because I don’t quite understand it, by the moment when I decide an artist’s personal life makes it impossible for me to enjoy his or her art. Like this morning “I Love the Way You Lie” came on and at the same time that I was thinking “Wow, that’s a good song,” I realized I was turning the channel. It kind of took me aback.

I think it’s an intensely personal decision and reaction when an artist’s behavior becomes something you just can’t get past, so please don’t think I’m dogging on anyone if they still love Eminem. Instead, I’m just wondering what it is that makes a person, in this case me, turn the channel one morning, when any other morning she’d be watching.

It’s funny. I remember being so into Guns & Roses as a kid. I can remember, as I’ve told you before I’m sure, sitting in Chorus in middle school when Taryn Berta sneaked up to the tape player while Mrs. Wise was out of the room and dropped her tape in and out came the opening strains of “Welcome to the Jungle” and I was blown away. I knew I was hearing something you were not supposed to tell adults about.

But by the end of high school, I bought the Use Your Illusions albums, but I remember being… frustrated… I guess that it sounded so… big, pretentious, I guess. And then there was Nirvana. And once I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I just couldn’t bring myself to continue to love Guns & Roses.

Eh, maybe that’s not the same as Eminem. Just that I remember being so newly in North Carolina and sitting in the parking lot before heading into work listening to “My Name Is…” and just laughing with delight, like, yep, here’s something delightfully weird. And now, I’d rather hear something else.


12 thoughts on “Way to Ruin It

  1. “Love the Way You Lie”‘s glamorization of domestic violence turns me off on it’s own, regardless of who is singing it and what they’ve done.

  2. I can separate the art from the artist up to a point. If I removed everyone from my iPod whose behavior was at all questionable, I’d have… not much left. I mean, I listened absolute rubbish when I was a teenager. I’d be a hypocrite if I said, yes, 100% an artist’s personal life effects my enjoyment of his music. (And frankly, it usually is a “he.”) There are a few I just can’t listen to anymore without that twinge of “Wow, maybe this person isn’t someone I’d rather be giving my fan dollars to right now.” I used to be a fan of Morrissey and The Smiths, but his racist remarks — and his fans’ nonchalant reactions to them — turned me off in a big way.

  3. For me the conflict is Wagner. His Ring opera is one of the greatest pieces ever composed, but he was a rabid Jew-hater and his music was glorified by the Nazis. But what can be greater than Flight of the Valkyries?

  4. Ever since reading vicious, nasty diatribes by Alton Brown and Anthony Bourdain against fat people, I can’t watch them. Especially Alton. Bourdain kind of makes his living being a big jerk, so even though it’s offensive it’s still in character. Alton seems all reasonable, smart and nice. But now I look at him and can’t help but realize that if he could see me through the TV screen he’d hate me too. I can’t forget that.

  5. With me it kind of depends on what the personal behaviour is. I won’t stop listening to someone or reading their books if I don’t like their politics, for instance. But if they are a rapist? Yeah, I’m done with them.

    But like O.C. my biggest issue is with the anti-fat prejudice and anti-woman stuff. I’m a fat woman. My politics are something that I chose, that I can change. But I am intrinsically fat, intrinsically woman. Those are part of the essence of me and if you hate those things you hate me and I can’t be bothered to spend my fat woman money and fat woman time on you.

  6. Oh, O.C., with my whole heart, I wish I didn’t know that about Alton Brown. Yes, Bourdain already is an asshole, so that doesn’t surprise me. But Brown? Who rides his motorcycle across America? Eating charming local fare? He hates the people who have opened their homes and restaurants to him?

    That makes me want to throw up.

    I realized professional wrestling, as a whole, is also ruined for me because I feel like I’m watching people injure their brains in ways that will lead to their deaths and possibly the deaths of people they love. I just read that 13 of the 48 wrestlers who participated in Wrestlemania in 1991 are dead.

    I remember the huge deal it was when Benoit, Guerrero, Saturn, and Malenko came over to the WWE(F at the time) from the WCW. That was only ten years ago. Benoit (and his family) and Guerrero are dead. Saturn has not been well, to put it mildly. Only Malenko seems to still be doing okay. Those seem like some terrible odds.

  7. Boxing…god, I love boxing. But I just can’t watch it any more.

    And yeah, I am pretty much done with people who hate fat and/or women. Especially since much of the time, they seem to be using “fat” as synedoche for “white trash.” (My identity trifecta.)

  8. Yeah, the whole class issue is why I guess Bourdain bothers me less than Brown. I know Bourdain is an asshole snob at the get-go. But even Brown’s “Good Eats” is about helping regular people learn practical cooking tips. Regular people are fat.

    Bridgett, I think this is a tip of the iceberg thing you’re getting at here at how “worldly” “cosmopolitan” white people who would never consider themselves racist (or even be necessarily recognized as racist by others) have these racist, classist positions that piss me off.

    Oh, I am so sorry I am not performing whiteness to Alton Brown’s standard, that my performance of whiteness makes me seem trashy because I am unseemly and fat, but I didn’t realize whiteness was still a border that needed to be patrolled so hard to keep out the “wrong kinds” of people from it.

  9. Oh, yes! Or rather, no! The “white trash” thing. Ben Folds is another musician who works anti-fat, anti “trailer trash” lyrics into his songs occasionally, and I’ve heard some of the same in his stage banter. Why why why is that supposed to be ok? At least when I’m in a conversation with someone face to face I can say “I’m white, I’ve lived in a trailer. What do you mean by that?” and watch them squirm. But with a performer I feel helpless. Sure, I could write them, or comment on their facebook profile, but sometimes I just don’t have the energy.

    Fully agree with the wrestling and boxing comments above. Very very sad.

  10. B – since you started the conversation about artists and whether their art is still appreciated when their personal lives creep in — here’s my 2 cents: artists are f*cked up and insecure people most of the time. That — more often than not — is why they create. And art should make people uncomfortable to some degree – not in a hate tone, mind you – but often the best art makes us confront our own feelings, good or bad.

  11. After reading about Brown here for the first time I went down the Rabbit Hole and found out that his statements are both vitriolic and frequent about fat people. And, apparently, also motivated by a personal weight issue of Brown’s.

    Whether or not he’s projecting his self-hatred outward is beside the point, of course. Hate is hate.

    But I kinda feel bad for the guy. Self-love (both kinds, actually) is one of the most liberating things out there. Self-hate is the worst prison. And he can’t even refuse to watch his own show.

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