10 Popular Artists Who Are Considered Jerks


The release of the film adaptation of Ender’s Game has placed Orson Scott Card, the original novel’s author, under increased scrutiny.

Whereas for decades Card was allowed the relative obscurity of being famous only among readers of science fiction literature, the blockbuster media blitz for his most famous work has brought his personal views into an unwanted – at least for the film’s stars and other producers – spotlight. Card’s comments on homosexuality, among them that it is a mental illness and that he would “act to destroy any government which permitted same-sex marriage,” led Geeks Out, a community of LGBT geeks, to call for a boycott of his film. It’s not because the book/film itself is homophobic but because the author is. Geeks Out argues that it’s wrong to reward such a person with the millions he could potentially earn as a producer of the movie.

Then, just when the ire over his stance on gay marriage seemed to be simmering down, Card wrote a blog post last May in which he basically compares Obama to Hitler.

Meanwhile, star Harrison Ford, director Gavin Hill and distributor Lionsgate have tried to cover for Card’s comments, and even the author himself has attempted to place distance between by stating that the Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 render the entire topic moot. Still, he has not retracted the statements nor the point of view, so the boycott remains.

Personally, I love Ender’s Game (even more its sequel Speaker of the Dead and its parallel novel Ender’s Shadow) and have wondered for years why it hasn’t been adapted to film. I want to see the film, but I also don’t want to financially support someone who has expounded such viciousness. This is the same tricky balance I’ve kept for years, participating in boycotts of sponsors of personalities whom I find irresponsible and offensive, while arguing they have a right to say what they please, just as I have a right to ignore them, and expounding on the need to separate an artist from their art; that who the artist is as a person makes no difference in the quality of their work.

If a book, film, song, painting, etc. is good, then it should not matter who made it. It’s a different case when the work itself, independent of the artist, is racist or homophobic or sexist or whatnot, but when the work, independent of the artist, is not, it feels wrong to discount it. As much as I disagree with Card’s views, Ender’s Game remains a brilliant book, and I will probably see the movie.

Card is of course not alone in presenting this rift, and the recent controversy over him got me thinking about other artists who are perceived to be unpleasant, distasteful or reprehensible by a large portion of the public and yet whose art has or does receive a lot of praise. And so in this vein I present ten artists, in no particular order, who fit this profile (some of them come from personal opinion, some of them are simply pulled  from popular perception).

Now, as we go through this list let’s keep in mind that everyone has different ideas of what constitute “bad” people and “good” art, and that there are surely many other artists out there who may belong on this list. These are just the ones who came to mind first, and I’d be happy to hear readers’ additions (or arguments against my selections) in the Comments section.


I’ve already discussed Card so moving on to next one…


Most recently, Kanye West has been making much of the media landscape focus on his favorite subject: himself. Even when it’s supposedly not about just him, as in his public marriage proposal to Kim Kardashian, it really is. The entire world has come to know him now as a petulant narcissist but millions still fawn over every new song he produces almost half as much as he fawns over it himself. The fact is the man does make entertaining art, but his long string of controversial incidents (like the one reported in the video below in which he retracts his old apology over the Taylor Swift incident at the 2009 VMA Awards) have fostered a very ambivalent relationship, to say the least, with the press and public.



Although I personally despise Quentin Tarantino’s movies even more than his personality, there is inarguably a huge audience of filmgoers eager to drop their money on anything with his name on it. He certainly has a large following both among critics and average moviegoers alike. On the other hand, he is widely regarded, even by some fans of his work, as childish, temperamental and violent, as evident in his well-publicized assaults against producer Don Murphy and a paparazzi cameraman. For a good example of QT at his obnoxious best, check out this infamous interview with Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy, particularly where Tarantino starts getting worked up at the 4:30 mark.



In one of the more disgusting cases on this list, Roman Polanski became a fugitive and fled the U.S. in 1978 after sedating and raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer (who recently published a book about the experience) in Jack Nicholson’s home. As an artist, however, he has made some remarkable films including one of the most celebrated films in cinematic history, Chinatown. And despite being a fugitive, he has continued to make films throughout the 36 years since his crime – some of them, like Carnage and The Pianist (for which he won an Academy Award in 2002), very good ones – and he’s never stopped attracting respectable stars to appear in his critically acclaimed films.



Going farther back in history we have Ernest Hemingway, whose work (again, like Tarantino) I personally find uninteresting and misogynistic but who is widely considered at once one of the greatest writers and most unpleasant people in American literature. Hemingway’s son, Gregory, once wrote in a letter to his father: “When it’s all added up, papa, it will be: he wrote a few good stories, had a novel and fresh approach to reality and he destroyed five persons — Hadley, Pauline, Marty, Patrick and possibly myself. Which do you think is the most important, your self-centered s**t, the stories or the people?”



Centuries before Hemingway we find Renaissance painter and sculptor Michelangelo, who by all accounts was an arrogant, unfriendly, generally anti-social person and who incorrigibly fought with clients, popes and fellow artists alike. He had ongoing rivalries with Raphael and Leonardo Di Vinci and had such a low opinion of painting that he’d probably punch me for calling him a “painter” before “sculptor.” But he is universally seen as one of the most important figures in all of Western art, and the Sistine Chapel is perhaps the most amazing thing I have ever personally beheld (though if he were alive today he’d likely scoff at that statement).  Besides, he’s every kid’s favorite ninja turtle.



Axl Rose stirred up controversy again last year when he withdrew his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Guns N’ Roses (the other former members accepted). Some might say that this is further evidence that the once potentially great rocker is far-gone or no longer relevant. Indeed, the years of being an obnoxious, angry little despot seemed to finally catch up to Rose when Chinese Democracy was met with a disappointing reception. It received some fairly positive reviews but sales were sluggish and completely failed to launch Guns N’ Roses comeback. Still, Rose did provide his formerly-magnificent vocals to what is widely considered one of the greatest rock albums ever, Appetite For Destruction.



Mel Gibson, who has not only had a long and successful acting career but has made some interesting films as a director, has been on a notable backslide ever since the disclosure of his various anti-semitic rants and run-ins with the law. His disturbing behavior reached an apex last year when screenwriter Joe Eszterhas released a recording of the director of Apocalypto in a frightening rage, screaming at Eszterhas at the top of his lungs. In a very recent interview with The Guardian, Eszterhas reiterated his belief that Gibson is in serious need of intervention: “Mel truly needs help. Something is very wrong. Unless something is done, unless someone intervenes, terrible things are going to happen, either to Mel or the people around him.”



Frank Miller will always be remembered as the man responsible for The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, Sin City, and one of the best runs on Daredevil. In short, he’s one of the most influential artists in comics ever. (And I’m still eager to see Sin City 2). But in recent years, his descent from casual misogyny and homophobia to bats**t crazy paranoia of the entire Islamic world and outright hatred of the Occupy Movement (calling the activists “a pack of louts, thieves and rapists”) timed so perfectly with his slide into sloppy, misguided, “naked propaganda” that it was easy to completely dismiss everything he wrote as the ramblings of a cranking old loon who had finally succumbed to the insanity we all kinda suspected was there for years. Hell, even notorious curmudgeon Alan Moore has implied Miller as bordering on sociopathic. Alan. Moore.



Perhaps the most disturbing case of this group is Varg Vikernes of the one-man music project Burzum. Vikernes, a self-admitted racist and neo-Nazi (though he has since preferred to be associated with “Odalism” over neo-Nazism) was arrested in 1993 for the murder of fellow black metal musician Euronymous as well as the arsons of numerous churches in Norway. At the time of arrest, the police found 3,000 rounds of ammunition and 150 kg of explosives in his home. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison and served 15 but was again arrested in July of this year under suspicions of plotting a terrorist attack. But the fact that his albums have and continued to receive very strong reviews (and that Vikernes is able to maintain a thriving musical career) is a testament to the public’s willingness to separate his art from him – or perhaps that his audience is largely composed of people who share his ideology.



I’ll end this post with where I began, with Orson Scott Card.

Despite Card’s best attempts to alienate a portion of his audience, I’m sure Ender’s Game will still make plenty of money, including several millions directly into his possibly racist, definitely homophobic pockets. But it isn’t a reward for his attitude, it’s a reward for his craft. This is a good thing. It means that we as an audience, as a culture, can overlook an individual’s flaws, however severe, and say we like the product for what it is and don’t hate it for who made it. It says that no matter the person’s gender, race, age, religion, politics, shoe size, whatever, if they make good art, we will accept them.

There are still those who will see/refuse to see a movie or purchase an album or book because they agree/disagree with the artist’s beliefs or are/aren’t the artist’s gender or race. It’s their right to do so, just as it’s my right to ignore them, or in the case of Geeks Out  commend them but respectfully decline, and enjoy the work regardless of anything other than the work itself. Besides, it’s as impossible to please everyone as a person as it is to please everyone as an artist. This ability to separate art from artist shows us to be tolerant. That’s what we should reward.

About Jess Kroll

Jess Kroll
Jess Kroll is a novelist and university professor born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and based in Daegu, South Korea. He has been writing film reviews since 2004 and has been exclusive to Pop Mythology since 2012. His novels include 'Land of Smiles' from Monsoon Books and young adult series 'The One' and 'Werewolf Council' from Epic Press.


  1. Yeah … that’s it in a nut-shell. Card is a repugnant bigot but this is just such a damn good piece of writing. I want to see this story.

    All I can say is that this would have never had happened in the 50’s.

    … And the truth of the matter is, how many of our favourite celebrities have had outlandish and repugnant opinions that we just don’t know about? We’d still continue to support them, being completely unaware of their attitudes. Back in the hey-day of Hollywood, an actor’s private life was a carefully guarded secret. Today, with the internet and social media, it’s so easy for those secrets to be exposed.

    What’s really sad, is that if Card had have just kept his mouth shut, people would be going to see and looking forward to enjoying his incredibly entertaining story brought to life on film and loving every minute of it. Afterwards, they’d be talking about how close it was to the text or how the characters deviated from their expectations. They’d be discussing Harrison Ford’s performance. Instead, Card has divided his audience in half and crippled the reach of his art.

    There’s something to be said for being famous in the 50’s. You could have been a Nazi and if you kept your mouth quiet, you’d still be a success with a sterling reputation.

    • Jess Kroll

      That’s an excellent point, John. Modern coverage of popular figures has become so ubiquitous that it’s almost impossible to not know their every thought. At the same time though, most people seem happy to reveal their secrets. Just look at Twitter. For Card, he was giving these opinions long before social media. He wrote his views into a novel in 1980, even before Ender’s Game, and specifically stated them in a 1990 interview. He wants to share this opinion. I do agree though that in the 1950’s we would have never heard any of Mel Gibson or Tarantino’s rants. Hey, Miller might’ve been applauded as a good American, carry the banner against communism (you should read that in the voice of a 1940 propaganda film announcer, which is the only impression I can do). In some ways it’s sad that we have all this access to the lives of artist whom he may admire as it can shatter our illusions. At the same time, it shows that even people whom we may consider geniuses are still human, with the same flaws as anyone else. And that’s kind of nice.

  2. Is that Axl Rose or Rip Taylor’s illegitimate son? All that’s missing is the paper bag full of confetti

  3. Jacob Gallman-Dreiling

    I actually don’t have a problem with Card saying whatever he wants, wherever he wants, as loudly as he wants. I do have a problem with him using the money that he makes off the movie and books to hurt me and my family. As one of the higher-ups at NOM and by saying that he will act to destroy the government, he puts his money towards this purpose. THAT is why I boycott his stuff.

    • Jess Kroll

      Hi Jacob, thanks for the response. That is a good point, however, as Card himself would point out, even whatever efforts he’s made are essentially moot if the majority of the public and public policies don’t follow them. There will always be people who want to put their money into something we may consider harmful, be it Card’s opinion on homosexuality or efforts to limit voting rights, and chances are most of us are supporting these people through seeing a movie, buying gasoline, eating a pizza, etc. The good thing is that as time goes by these points of view, no matter the money their holders may invest in them, are becoming as antiquated as those who opposed inter-racial marriage or created Jim Crow laws. It’s unfortunate that there seems to be a resurgence in some of these but hopefully the tide of history will continue undeterred. I can definitely understand the boycotts though as I’ve joined a few myself against people who expound opinions which I find offense in a non-creative context (radio show hosts, television personalities, etc.) and obviously wouldn’t put my money into something that were intolerant as a piece of art. If nothing else, perhaps Card will notice that his other works in which homophobia and propaganda are actual features of the story are nowhere near as successful as his stories which don’t. Perhaps this could sway him somewhat to rethink his views, at least on that financial level. Just a thought. I commend your effort though and thanks for the reply.

  4. To an extent,I agree that a person’s art can be separate from their persona,until it turns into a monetary issue.I can’t,in clear conscience,knowingly support the art of a person i disagree with on a fundamental level.It does boil down to the brass tacks of it.You are directly financing and indirectly supporting their views when you knowingly pay money to a project they will see a direct return on.I empathize with the studio president and the producers of Ender’s Game…it must be a real circus trying to get Card to please shut up til the movie comes out.One would think he would require handlers of a much different nature.But the cat’s out of the bag.I would not discount that the lowest among us is capable of creating amazing art,but I wouldn’t have bought one of Hitler’s paintings if he had been the next Rembrandt.

    • Jess Kroll

      Thanks for the comment B^4. I too feel for the studio and the stars of the film for having to deal with Card, and I think his comments about the Supreme Court rendering the topic moot were his own way of trying to quell the controversy if only because the producers told him so. As stated in the reply to Jacob’s comment, it’s almost impossible to not knowing contribute money to people you disagree with. Banks, telecommunication companies, fast food restaurants, we may not think about where their profits are going but we do know probably know which causes our money is going towards through their products. The flipside of it is should we pay for bad art or even bad products because we agree with that person or company’s cause? As for the Hitler/Rembrandt comment, it’s funny that Hitler’s paintings were so uninteresting, maybe if he had been a more successful painter he wouldn’t have become the standard by which all evil is compared. There was a funny bit on the Colbert Report a couple years ago with guest Steve Martin evaluating whether certain paintings were good art or not. One of them was Hitler’s. Thanks for the contributing to the discussion.

  5. Hold on a minute. Let’s use some critical thinking skills. Ernest Hemingway was a crummy father and a jerk. Orson Scott Card puts the money from his sales into organizations that actively attempt to remove and block the civil rights of an entire group of people. Ernest Hemingway can be compared to Orson Scott Card. It doesn’t work, does it? You were closer with Mel Gibson and Roman Polanski who are despicable enough human beings that any morally conscientious person would not support them. IF we could enjoy someone’s art and NOT being giving our money to the very causes that they support (say…like they were dead like Hemingway), there would be some validity to your argument, but that isn’t the case at all. When we give our money to these individuals, we aren’t JUST supporting their art. We are FUNDING discrimination and anti-civil rights movements. If we value art above morality, we have a serious issue. Sadly, as you’ve made clear in this post, many people do exactly that and then boast about it as if this makes them culturally superior. I don’t watch Mel Gibson movies. I don’t watch Roman Polanski movies. I haven’t purchased Orson Scott Card’s books since I discovered where his money goes, and I won’t watch this movie–even though I absolutely believe that Ender’s Game is an excellent book. It isn’t because I don’t value the art, and it isn’t because I don’t think these artists are talented. It’s because I value human beings more. Period.

    • Jess Kroll

      Hi Larina. That’s a good point about the false equivalency between Hemingway and Card’s level of effort, but if we were to look at result, Hemingway, as we can see through his son’s comments, had a direct and possibly ruinous effect on his children’s lives. Card’s effort meanwhile have become increasingly futile. I’d say the least harmful person on this list is Kanye West since as arrogant and annoying as he may be, he hasn’t done much harm to anyone other than a couple of photographers and Taylor Swift fans. He did saddle his daughter, North, with the worst name short of Once Upon a Time in the but we have yet to see if that will have any negative impact on her life. As for valuing art over morality, mortality itself can be as hard to standardize as art, but I don’t think separating art from artist values art over morality. In the case of Gibson or Miller, a lot of people, myself included, did not spend money on their work which we found immoral. Their more successful works, both critically and commercially, are those which aren’t deemed culturally or socially offensive. In this sense the morality has a direct influence on the art, bad mortality/art is punished, good mortality/art is rewarded. As mentioned in the response to Jacob’s comment, perhaps this can get them to rethink their stances, at least creatively. In regards to the piece is claiming culturally superiority, I’m sorry you read it that way. It’s not about superiority (however, saying that no morally conscientious person would pay for Gibson or Polanski movie is a statement of superiority), it’s about tolerance and in some ways forgiveness. After all, as Oscar Wilde said, “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.” Thanks for voicing your concerns.

  6. So rape and antisemitism are just jerky?

    • The Pop Mythologist

      Hi, TychaBrahe, thanks for your comment. I’m Daniel, the editor. No, of course rape and antisemitism are not limited to being just “jerkish.” However, in the post, the author says the artists on this list range from the unpleasant and/or unlikable to the reprehensible. It’s a range. The point of the list wasn’t to be a very focused list in which, say, everyone is a child-raping monster, or everyone is a bigot, or whatever. The point was to have a general list of people in which there was a rift between the critically praised quality of their work and the public perception of them being largely negative in *some kind of way*. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to think of a post title that encompasses the subtlety and complexity of all this *and* still manage to convey what the post is about in a clear and succinct way. Add to that the need for blog posts to have SEO-friendly titles if the blog is to attract decent traffic and survive and hence continue offering content. So, no, the people on this list are not limited to only being “jerky,” but you can perhaps understand now why we might have settled on a word like “jerk.” We thought of other words and phrases like “bad people” but even that’s not fully accurate in the case of guys like Kanye West who may be rude and arrogant but not necessarily “bad.” The thing is, sometimes people don’t carefully read the actual article and oversimplify the points it tries to make in their comments. Granted, post titles themselves often oversimplify what the post is actually saying, but they are kind of a necessary evil in this day and age as anyone who has tried the supremely difficult work of making a blog both intelligent AND successful can attest to.

    • The Pop Mythologist

      Oh, and also, if you read the individual commentary for each individual artist, you can see that the post author also uses specific adjectives suitable for that person. For example, he uses the word “disgusting” for Roman Polanski and “disturbing” for Varg Vikernes but doesn’t use such strong words for, say, Kanye West. And, lastly, in fairness to the post author, as the editor I am the one who settled on this post title, and I knew from the beginning that there was some danger of it causing confusion. But, frankly, I couldn’t think of a better post title.

  7. That post just gets more relevant everyday.

    Also makes me think of a Murs and Aesop Rock show I attended one day after spraining my ankle. A couple months later I told Murs at another show about how I stood in the back and waved my crutch in the air. His response was a big hug.

  8. He is the definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

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