Bing Crosby beat his family. Marilyn Monroe was a well-known drug user. Babe Ruth was an alcoholic.
So why is that we remember these people fondly, when they did some terrible things outside of their chosen profession? Why is it that Bing Crosby has a monument to him at Gonzaga University? Why is Marilyn Monroe looked on as one of the greatest female role models? Why is Babe Ruth considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time and have his own candy bar?
There are a multitude of answers to these questions, by the most common you will hear is quite simple – You must separate the art from the artist.
If you try hard enough at anything, and I mean anything, you can make it an art form. You could be a janitor working the late shift, but if you excel at it well enough that you are praised for your work, you can make janitorial duty an art.
That is what separates a five-year olds’ macaroni project from the Mona Lisa. They’re both paintings, but only one of those is art.
I bring this up because the aforementioned people are all artists in their particular craft – Crosby in singing, Monroe in acting and Ruth in playing baseball.
People admire them for how good they were and what they stood for. That they were able to stand out above the rest and give back to the world something that we had never seen before.
In the face of all that, their downsides just seem almost insignificant.
Yes, these three people did some things that were not great, but who are we to judge that aspect of their lives? Unless we have been in their shoes and understand what they have gone through, it seems unfair to disregard these people and all that they’ve provided for us.
After all, they’re only people. We all make mistakes and do things that we’re not proud of. It is okay to judge the products and art of people, but not the people themselves.
In a perfect appreciation of art, we must analyze the art, not the person behind the art. If we did, then those mistakes and personal flaws would make watching a play, viewing a painting or watching a baseball game feel bitter, cold and unsatisfying. It would take all the joy out of art.
So what if Marilyn Monroe did drugs? That does not stop her from giving a hilarious performance in “Some Like It Hot.” So what if Babe Ruth loved alcohol? He still hit 714 career home runs, a record which would stand as the greatest feat in baseball history for over 30 years.
Those achievements and accomplishments will stand longer than any personal flaws. Because they left an impact on the world and made people appreciate their profession a bit more. That is the beauty of separating the art from the artist.