AACC students weigh-in on Michael Jackson allegations

The Art Versus the Artist


Michael Jackson has been accused of pedophilia throughout his career. Some AACC students said this effects how they view his music.

Amber Nathan and Alexandra Radovic

Some AACC students said they can separate the art from the artist when it comes to celebrities accused of sexual misconduct, while others disagreed.

In an informal survey of 57 AACC students, 33 said if an artist is accused of sexual misconduct, it doesn’t distract from their art. However, 24 said it does.

“Someone can do bad things and be a bad person some of the time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t create something good,” first-year theater student Logan Spates said.

Rapper R. Kelly and legendary singer Michael Jackson have both been prominent figures in the media this March. Kelly is facing backlash from repeated counts of sexual assault and Jackson’s reputation of child molestation is rising to the forefront of the American media again, with the airing of a new documentary.

Kelly has 10 charges of sexual assault against him, and Jackson battled accusations of pedophilia throughout his career, though he was never officially charged.

On March 3, HBO began airing the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which details the sexual abuse claims against Jackson. During the film, two men, now in their 30’s, recount being sexually abused by Jackson when they were children.

With new allegations on the rise, some fans have protested the artists, while others were able to separate the music from the crime.

“It’s kind of crappy if [Jackson] is [an accused pedophile,]” Gawen Keen, a second-year transfer studies student said.

But Keen said this doesn’t distract him from listening to Jackson’s music.  “His music is still good. I mean, I don’t listen to it that often, but if it comes on, I’m not going to turn off the radio to not listen to it.”

Other students agreed that Jackson’s music still has value, even with his character under scrutiny.

“I’m willing to separate what he might have done from his music,” second-year psychology student Adam Smith said. “A lot of his music was very very revolutionary … and a lot of it is still very popular even today.”

“The art that someone creates isn’t always them,” Smith added.

But some students said an artist’s character reflects how fans will view their work.

“Every time I hear [Jackson’s] music I’m going to think of those allegations … I’m still going to like listening to his music, but I’m probably not going to look at it in the same positive light again,”  Joshua Karbett, a first-year computer science student, said.

Some students compared Jackson and Kelly to other artist who faced similar backlash. Comedian Bill Cosby was charged with sexual assault in April 2018. In December of the same year, Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey was also accused of sexual assault.

“I used to look up to Kevin Spacey when I was younger,” Smith said. “I thought he was a really cool actor and a really cool person.”

“Then, you know…finding out what he’s done to people … it really makes me sick,” Smith added. “But I still think that the movies that he’s played in, for the most part, are pretty good movies.”

Fourth-year early childhood education student Amaris Cyrus, on the other hand, said how she views an artist depends on the level of crime they are under accusation for.

“I would say it’s situational,” Cyrus said. “My answer for Bill Cosby is different than someone like R. Kelly, which is different from Michael Jackson.”

“I would say for Michael Jackson, I personally could separate his art, because I look at the good it’s done for his community, as in the black community,” Cyrus added. “But I wouldn’t necessarily say the same for R. Kelly or Bill Cosby.”

However, Cyrus said it makes a difference whether the artist is accused or convicted.

“If tomorrow there was a clean-cut conviction,” Cyrus added, in regards to Jackson’s accusations. “My answer would change.”

Other students considered the question from a political perspective.

For example, Smith said students shouldn’t let allegations against a  public figure tarnish the quality of his/her fan base or following. “We can distinguish the people of America from the president,” he said. “Being able to separate those things is very important, because it allows for more mindfulness to set it.”