Separating the art from the artist

I am a fan of the band Teen Suicide, a lo-fi noise-pop band based in Baltimore, Maryland, comprised of two core members, Sam Ray and Eric Livingston. Unfortunately for me, and many other fans of theirs, they never venture to the west coast to play shows. A while ago, I liked their Facebook page hoping that one day I might find out they were coming to Vancouver.

That day came about a week ago when they announced their west coast tour beginning on October 1, including a Vancouver date. Fans living on the west coast, myself included, were thrilled to receive the news that their dream of seeing Teen Suicide was finally going to come true.

However, the post was strange — no venue was listed for any of the 15 advertised shows. As the concert date approached, and no ticket or venue details were released, I became more concerned. Finally, on October 4, three alleged concerts having passed, Teen Suicide posted this status on their Facebook page: “If anyone still believes it, the tour was a lie. Sorry. Our social media strategist fucked up.”  So it was all just a bad joke. 

Naturally, fans were devastated, or simply annoyed, replying with comments like, “You guys are gonna lose your fan base.” Teen Suicide responded by saying, “Our fans are all idiots, and we hate them.” This comment doesn’t stand alone — their whole page is riddled with mean comments directed at fans.

So, should we all hate Teen Suicide and stop listening to their music? There is a difference between liking a band and liking a band’s music, and I’d almost go so far as to applaud Teen Suicide for creating this ‘asshole persona.’

An artist’s actions should not have any bearing on our judgments of their art. To truly appreciate art, we should appreciate the qualities it has in itself, not the qualities of the author — a separate entity. A lot of people in the world of fandom blur this distinction or even throw it out completely. 

It seems intuitively strange to judge art based on the artist. About a year ago when Woody Allen, a celebrated film director, was accused of pedophilia, his work was put into question. It just seems strange to me that we held Allen’s body of work in such high esteem prior to the accusation, and then suddenly, when we find out that he might have molested Dylan Farrow, the general public started to question his cinematography.

Art should be appreciated independently of the artist, and Teen Suicide should perhaps be commended for their meanness, as it can be seen as a way to try to alienate fans — the bad kind of fan, who is infatuated with Teen Suicide as a band as opposed to their music. Teen Suicide doesn’t want people to like them — they want people to like their music.

On the other hand, maybe Teen Suicide is taking their asshole persona too far. It’s possible that their blatant rudeness towards fans is just another marketing strategy. Their disrespectful conduct is so excessively over the top that it’s caricaturesque. They are creating hype for themselves through playing up the whole ‘pretentious artist’ persona. Maybe they’re just trying to be controversial for the sake of controversy. 

I was never a fan of Teen Suicide as individuals, and I can’t say that I respect them as artists, but what I can say is that I’m a fan of Teen Suicide’s music. Although artists can take care to conduct themselves in a professional manner, I maintain that their actions should not have a bearing on your opinion of their creations.

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