Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Separating the art from the artist

This idea has been in my head since I watched a "Penn Says" on Crackle (if I get around to it, I'll add the link) where, in a story about how he was having to shill his "Bullshit" show on a Chicago radio station the same day that the news about Michael Jackson broke. And Penn Jillette, who I admire but don't always agree with, mentioned that he was okay with the mourning of MJ because he separated the art from the artist.

This made me think that I have a very difficult time doing that: two examples that come to mind immediately are James Brown, wife-beater, and Mel Gibson, crazy religion conspiracy nut. A less severe case is Harrison Ford who, after I heard him sound just dumb as a stump doing an interview, is a lot harder for me to take seriously when I see him in a serious role. I guess he's a little different because I can think of him as a blank slate who "becomes" his role. But what about Mel? This guy is in maybe my favorite movie of all time, "Payback," but actively supports (supported? maybe he's changed) a wacko-Catholic, anti-Jewish agenda.

As liberal as I am, I am still a supporter of capitalism and I hate the idea of "voting with my dollars" for people I don't want to enrich. And what if they are dead, as James Brown is? If I acknowledge that I want to dance to his music, am I adding to his legacy of rock greatness and ignoring his bad behavior?

It's not about politics: I'm still all about Tom Selleck because when he's expressed his conservative political views they seem thought out and rational (for him) to me.

Another example: Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Scientology is crazy and dangerous and I'm not going to modulate my position on that at all. How much of what I spend at the theatre is going to end up in the coffers of that brainwashing machine?

This is all kind of tricky for me. I'd like to think of myself as a live and let live sort of person, but I think I'm moving toward judgemental or at least protectivist (is that a word?) against letting the more errant members of society, especially the ones with a large public platform, have a long leash if any.

I'm happy to have written my 500 words today and vented about this, but I didn't actually resolve anything. Guess I'll have to write some more. LOL.



Joe of Tampa said...

Another issue with seperating the actions from the artists is that if they had not recieved their money they would not be acting a certain way. (james brown not included i am sure he was a wife beater either way). But John Travolta and Tom Cruise would not even be involved with Scientology were it not for their fame. I know famous people are scientologists, but I also know that the upper echelon of the scientologists go through great pains to keep these two particular guys in the fold. So the question is do you feed the beast(pay to see them) or do you shut out anything that deals with this subject and that is a tough question. If you did not want to see anything related to Scientology you could not listed or watch anything with Will or Jada Pinkett Smith, see anymore episodes of "the King of Queens"-because of the wife. or as already discussed watch anymore of John Travolta's movies. and then you also have the question of what to do about the stuff they made before they joined what is arguably the most underattacked cult/religion in the western world.
I think that you enjoy the shows and the music and like you tell your kids, these are not role models, this is all make believe and here is what is important.The bottom line is that your money is going to things you don't believe in and trying to root out every conflict is not possible or worth it.

I purposely did not see Mr. Travolata in Battlefield Earth-because that was too close to home with Scientology.

I would not give to a charity started by any of these guys because once again that money is too close to getting to something I don't believe in.

I think Mel Gibson is an even more pathetic case and while he has been in wonderful movies(payback is at the top of my list also) I will watch him in most movies as long as The movie istself is not propoganda for his message-see the passion of christ.

Now that I have typed all of that I guess where i draw the line is here. If the vechicle they are in-movie, album, book etc is about a message I don't agree with I am not going to get involved monetarily with it. If I have a problem with the person individually but they are just in a role or just singing or writing then I don't have a problem with paying for the experience. The message is important and overshadows the player. In exactly the same way that I would watch a movie about a person dying of cancer that could not get help in the US because he wasn't afforded health care, that starred charleton Heston: and I would not watch a program about how the homesexuals should be denied marriage rights that starred John Stewart.

one last thought about Mel-how does cheating on your wife and leaving her and having a baby with another mesh with the catholic viewpoint-DISCUSS.

Jennifer Peepas said...

I've been thinking about this in regard to Michael Jackson - the explosion of his music right after he died, with 18 year old club kids suddenly discovering Thriller and dancing to it. They grew up with the freaky possible child molester on television and never connected with the music itself, so with his death it was like something was freed and they could just enjoy the music and we could all just enjoy the music without having to engage so much with the problematic person.

I think plenty of great art has been made by a-holes throughout the ages, and I think it's important to put art in context with the person's life but also to evaluate it on what it's trying to say and how it makes you feel as a creation and in that moment it's not about the creator. Does the art make you feel something about yourself or the world that you didn't feel before, or ask you a question that never occurred to you? Maybe what you carry to the art is more important than anything in the artist's personal life. If we kicked all the drunks and adulterers and misogynists off the artistic roll call it would be a sadder, duller world.