The reveal of a new Harry Potter universe video game has reignited debate over a few issues. Are you a bad person if you empower and enrich awful creators? If you boycott and this leads to people losing their jobs do you own that loss? Should you abstain from the works of creators who are revealed to be terrible well after their deaths?
I think about this a lot, regardless of whether J.K Rowling is being a hostile TERF. Not because I enjoy Harry Potter. I don’t. No, it’s because of Azealia Banks.
If you weren’t aware, Azealia Banks is an extremely talented rapper and singer. She has a truly unique sound that melds house, hip-hop, soul, and pop. It’s deep, but infectious. I just cannot understate how brilliant Azealia Banks is… in spite of saying and doing objectively terrible things.
There was the time Azealia Banks told the Breakfast Club that Cardi B was an “illiterate, untalented rat” and called her a “caricature of a black woman.” The time she showed an image of a chicken blood-drenched bedroom. The time she called Zayn Malik a “hairy curry scented bitch,” and followed that up by saying he looked like a trans man. The time she insulted Lily Allen’s children. The time she called A$AP Rocky homosexual, like it was a bad thing. Oh, and the time she spat on someone because he was blocking an exit.
This is what I mean when I say “problematic.”
For many, Banks behaviour would be beyond the pale. Her career didn’t blow up the way it should have given her talent. It stalled along with her social media as she was cancelled every other year. Yet, music still managed to trickle out. Good music. Music you can’t find elsewhere.
Problematic faves aren’t a topic because they are horrible people who make poor content. It is relevant because it is relatable. We all have faves and most of us have experienced the gut wrenching feeling of creator disappointment. Maybe it’s finding out that the author of Harry Potter doesn’t believe in rights for all minorities. Perhaps it’s learning that X-Men legend John Byrne is actually an asshole. The “problematic fave” is often tried publicly over social media, making them a shared experience. How you reconcile them is entirely individual.
I, for instance, am unable to reconcile the actions and statements of Kanye West with the quality of his music. I can’t even have his music in my library anymore. It has become an unappealing reminder of a terrible ego. Why not the same with Azealia Banks?
Call me a softy, but I always hold my breath for people. I spent a decade working in HR and if there is anything I’ve learned it’s that people shouldn’t be written off. At least, not without trying to first understand them.
Azealia Banks is an incredibly open artist, some would say too open. She shares what’s on her mind whenever she feels like it, and in the hip-hop world that is often applauded with her male peers. She has never been afforded the same treatment because she’s a woman. A black woman. Someone who escaped an abusive household and fought for pretty much everything she has.
If you cancelled her you’d probably never appreciate those details. You probably also have ignored that time Russell Crowe allegedly kicked her out of dinner party, called her the n-word, chocked her, and spat on her. Something the RZA all but confirmed took place. Why care about a cancelled person, right?
I’m not arguing in favour of supporting Azealia Banks, J.K. Rowling, or Kanye. And I am certainly not saying your are a bad person for hitting a block button. You have a right to filter out anyone you do not wish to support. You also have the inalienable right to like what you like. It’s a complicated thing only you can untangle.
Ultimately, I feel we need to take the time to understand our problematic faves. Give them the opportunity to show us the nature of their actions and self-evaluate from there. If they are truly shitty, they can get shit canned.