Separating Art from the Artist
by Ece HASGÜL
After the trans erasing and transphobic tweets from J.K. Rowling users have started to declare Daniel Radcliffe and many other fictional characters as the writer of the infamous book series, Harry Potter. As the book series holds dear memories in both young and old fans’ hearts, they did not want to associate those precious feelings with someone who is clearly and openly exclusive anymore.
This trend of erasing artist’s names from their artwork is nothing new. When fans or consumers of those find out these people, not only the artist but also game developers too, are actually problematic, there are two options to choose from: Either thinking art and the artwork on their own and continuing to consume the art or not purchasing the art or its side products to prevent supporting the person. “The Death of the Author” as the name suggests is an article published by the French literary critic and theorist Roland Barthes in 1967 which argues that writing and creator are unrelated and usually cited when the topic is discussed.
However, can we really separate the artist from their work and ignore their relations with it? The answer is both yes and no since it is a gray area that depends on many variables. If the artist is already dead, then not recognizing their “personal” ideas within the context of the work is not even a big problem and this circumstance can fit the phenomenon with ease. Since artists cannot interact with the public anymore, they cannot push their “problematic” agenda further. Some invaluable artworks which are recognized globally fit it too. One doesn’t need to know about Michelangelo’s ideas to admire the perfection of Mona Lisa nor Van Gogh’s lifestyle to like the use of colors in Starry Night.
This is where it mainly differs from the case of J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter: Even after book series and movies were long gone, Rowling still made claims about the books and the characters. She took a role in every step while creating the franchise, the theme park, and any other thing that came with it that today, you cannot think of Harry Potter without the name of Rowling lingering somewhere in your mind. She is fairly young too, and with her frequent use of social media, she doesn’t hold back while expressing her ideas and interacting with the book fanbase. This is the reason why so many individuals are upset about her transphobic tweets. She is not a mere person but one of the most, maybe the only one, influential and powerful authors of this era. Someone this powerful using exclusive language and thinking she doesn’t do anything wrong, not seeing the problem with it results in others being more courageous while saying similar things publicly.
So while fans choose to not acknowledge J.K. Rowling as the author of the series and keep on talking about Harry Potter in their own bubble, they must consider how that relates to Rowling’s power. Not spending a single penny on books nor branded goods but still being a part of that popular culture still adds up to her scale of influence. On the other hand, it is very hard to do so. Living in this environment surrounded by pop culture and growing up with Harry Potter, it could take tremendous effort to let go of it. In the time being, neither Rowling’s power seems to fade away nor her discriminating thoughts, creating a dilemma for those who enjoyed her works.