• James Hewlett

Separating Art From Artist: The Expanse

Today’s topic relates to a greater issue I’ve written about before and will unfortunately, almost certainly have to write about again; separating art from artist.

Is it okay to still enjoy something even when people involved our scumbags?

Can I still get enjoyment out of whatever it is, regardless of how I’ve chosen to judge and separate the two things?

This could be a much broader post in light of the most recent, wide sweeping, wave of people coming forward and telling their stories of abuse and mistreatment.

‘Me Too’ hit Hollywood hard a couple of years ago but this time, rightfully so, no area is being left untouched. Just in my narrow frame of reference people ranging from comic creators to tattoo artists to game designers to professional wrestlers and everything in between are being outed for disgraceful and often unforgivable behaviour that ranges from immoral to criminal.

I want to focus on one case though as it struck very close to a property I hold dear.

The Expanse tv show will always go hand in hand with the novels for me; I read the first five books after binge watching the first four episodes as I was instantly hooked.

Sure, as always, the books a better and are able to expand and delve deeper and give me more of what I want, but the show was my initial introduction so what I see when I’m reading about Holden, Naomi, Amos and Alex are the actors who portray them in the show. The latter two in particular as those actors fit the descriptions of their written counterparts almost uncannily.

So it was with much dismay when last week news broke among the amazing fan community surrounding the series that Cas Anvar who portrays Alex on the show had been repeatedly and aggressively extremely inappropriate towards multiple underage fans from his time as the primary voice actor in the first Assassins Creed video game.

Now it is worth noting that there is an open investigation in to this matter by an independent third party hired by the production company behind the show and they are taking all these allegations extremely seriously, as have all of the cast and crew who have almost all made statements of support for the victims while being reserved about what else they say for now. Anvar has denied any wrong doing and until such time as an official decision has been made I’m going to try and withhold judgement.

But that’s the real trick isn’t it?

The damage has already done. Wether or not he’s guilty of these acts or not, if he’s let go from the show, if there is any criminal investigation or not these brave women, who were just seventeen years old girls at the time, believe and feel and have suffered because of what happened to them and I don’t think it’s a bold statement to say I wouldn’t wish that betrayal of trust or abuse of power on anyone.

The thing that really irks me about this one on particular is just how good, connected and active among the community Anvar was. He always seemed like he was one of us, a fan, who just happened to be on the show at the same time.

When the show was struggling to find a new home after being cancelled by SyFy, Anvar was the one among the cast who wasn’t going to go down without a fight; he was the lynchpin between the fam community who banded together and the rest of the cast and crew, most of whom would have otherwise been out looking for new jobs. Because of him they all rallied around the drive to ‘Save The Expanse’ as banners were flown over eventual new home Amazon Studios and models of the ship from the show were literally launched into space.

It was Anvar who unashamedly approached the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos at a space and science event they were both attending and asked him if Amazon was going to save his show and it was him filming on his cellphone later that night when Bezos announced on stage that they were in fact.

He helped coin the name Screaming Firehawks for the community of fans and is was him who betrayed their trust.

I can’t help but wonder now how much of that love and enthusiasm and charisma he projected was really for the community and the show or just for his own, gross, self gain.

I know the next season of the show has already wrapped and is deep into post production. I know that he will be in that season as Alex. Beyond that no one knows yet but I knew I would have to see that and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel.

So I decided to start watching the show again from the start, to see if I am able to separate the art from the artist.

The conclusion I’ve come to is this; I can’t say on a blanket scale that I can or can’t do that. There have been many cases, probably more than not, in which I can’t separate the two and certain movies, shows, comics or whatever have been lost to me.

But there have been exceptions and I’m happy to say that The Expanse, so far at least, has been one. Maybe it’s a testament to my fandom towards the show, maybe it is a statement on the quality of the writing, production and performances that I’m able to get lost in it. Whatever it is a am still able to enjoy it despite having seen it multiple time’s before and feeling more than a bit icky when Alex, who had previously been a favourite and highlight of mine, is in a scene.

My hopes are that season five plays out without need for any alterations and then all parties involved decide to part ways and Alex is recast with another actor of similar quality.

I know a couple of names have been bandied about among fans; Taika Waititi, who is almost certainly too busy acting and directing in his own projects to take the role of offered and Naveen Andrews, who isn’t without his own previous levels of controversy but without doing any research I believe is generally considered to be a good dude.

Only time will tell what will happen with The Expanse but I have been so glad to see the reaction among the Screaming Firehawks, they have rallied together as a family and have not been quick to defend Anvar in some form of hero worship.

The important thing to do is to listen to people who are coming forward, be supportive and understanding and not a dick towards them just because the person who they’re accusing is someone you are a fan of, people are more important that media.


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©2017 by James Hewlett.