Discussion in 'Community' started by DarthTunick
, Feb 3, 2014.
Do I have to come over there? Do I?
I don't think Ender was saying that it's impossible for an addict to give up his/her addiction. He was saying that there's a hell of a lot more to with it than, "he chose to be an addict." I like the way wocky put it... at one point in time, he chose to do a drug. He liked it, and chose to do it again. After a while, he became physically and psychologically addicted to it. When it gets to that point, one isn't just doing the drug by choice... they're doing it because they are in physical and emotional agony and doing the drug is the only thing that will alleviate that agony. I'm sure that when he was in the throws of withdrawal, he hated his addiction and wanted to be done with it. We know nothing about his family, so it's impossible to guess if he was predisposed to be an addict.
In answer to the thread's question, I would say yes. Good works of art do not in any way mitigate their creator's crime, but I don't see anything wrong with appreciating something made by a horrifically flawed individual.
Since the question also takes into account "works" (rather than just art), I would submit the (rather Godwin-heavy) example of animal welfare in Nazi Germany. The Nazis supported animal rights and were environmentalists. Horrifically ironic and hypocritical, of course, but just because the Nazis were scum does not mean that their every idea or every piece of legislation they passed was terrible.
As a more contemporary example, consider Fred Phelps -- founder of the Westboro Baptist Church. His protests at soldiers' funeral make him a heinous person, in my opinion, as does his stance on homosexuality. However, I will always respect his work for civil rights throughout the 1960s. I don't think the importance of that work is diminished by Fred Phelps' subsequent descent into homophobia. The man himself, yes, but not his work.
Well, but that's different Piett. Causes most always transcend the people that contribute to them. It's explicitly supposed to be about something greater, that is fundamental to humanity and how we interact with each other. By contrast, artwork is just as explicitly and unavoidably tied to the person that made it. Even if made entirely in the service of a larger cause (eg Stowe's "Uncle Tom Cabin" as an abolitionist text) it still bears the imprint of its author.
But that assumes a connection between the author's views, politics, and beliefs, and the work. That's not always the case.
Creators of art in any form can have repellent views that have zero impact on the art and it's a fallacy to assume otherwise.
True, but the OP did ask for "works," which was one of the things I addressed.
As for art, you're right that it is unavoidably tied to the person who made it, but I think it's a mistake to look at something and dismiss it simply because it was made by a terrible person. A lot of what an individual gets out of art has to do with what they put into it as well.
One example I can think of is Ender's Game where a lot of people I know enjoyed that book but disagree profoundly with Orson Scott Card's worldview. This is a case where I see nothing wrong with enjoying the work because you can get something meaningful out of it. Admittedly, I wouldn't be willing to pay to read the book, so maybe that makes me a hypocrite.
But it also comes back to how much you think an author's intention matters. When you enjoy a piece of art, I would argue that you're having a dialogue with text/work itself rather than the author. Because I've seen people come away with a completely different impression from a work than I have.
Or, as another point, should a work not be criticized because what you get out of it isn't what the author intended? The first thing that comes to mind, to me, is Twilight which was written as a romance. Many people can, and do, interpret it as an abusive relationship. The author Meyer is not (to the best of my knowledge) engaged in an abusive relationship or publicly promoting them. And I doubt she intended to idealize them in her book. But I think criticism of the book itself on that front is still fair, regardless of authorial intent.
I know a lot of people have this thing about not giving money to people with repellent worldviews. Like they don't want to pay money for Ender's Game because they disagree with Card's views. And the sexual abuse Woody Allen thing is kind of raising the issue of giving people awards for their work when they've done bad things.
But I just see the commerce as a lot more cut and dried by that. When I pay money to buy Ender's Game, I'm paying Card for writing a book, not for having whatever views he has. And like when Polanski won Best Director for The Pianist. Some people were upset by that. But the award is for the best director of a movie, not best director that also has not committed sexual assault. I mean, you give the guy an Oscar for directing. Maybe the directing was outstanding. That doesn't have anything, not one tiny thing, to do with whatever bad things he may have done. I mean, Polanski got an Oscar for the Pianist. That in no way validates his sexual assault. Nor does his sexual assault make him ineligible to win said award.
This is really explicitly discussed in the Woody Allen letter. The alleged victim said that she felt that Allen shouldn't have won any awards because of what he did to her. Well, even if he did do what she says he did, I don't understand what that has to do with whether or not he's worthy of an award that is specifically for his directing ability. It's like your giving an award for good behavior on last Tuesday and somebody says that someone shouldn't win that award because of something bad they did on last Wednesday. The award comes with limits on it; if something falls outside the purview of those limits, it shouldn't be considered when deciding the award. Period. I mean, why set up a award with limits (ie. this award is for this person's directing ability, not anything else) and then start dragging all these other considerations into it?
I understand that there's a more complicated case to be made here. Awards won by a director raise his artistic profile, which enables him to accrue more money and continue his career, all of which will help him continue to elude prison for the crimes he committed and, perhaps, though I don't really think we have allegations regarding either Allen or Polanski on this, even continue committing said crimes. But I'm just of the school that we shouldn't really overthink something as simple as a trophy for Best Director. I mean, let it be what it is . . . a trophy for the person who did the best movie directing. And nothing more or less.
Well, I wouldn't necessarily say that rejecting all an author's works because the author is objectionable is an obligation. I do, though, think it's a strong and valid option. It's much like boycotts. There's not really a way for someone's bigotry to inform how they cook food or design tires. But boycotting someone's tire factory or restaurant as part of a divestment campaign can still be a powerful message of moral disgust. I think that sort of thing is absolutely valid to organize and hit an artist with. The only question is whether their bad behavior is enough to merit it.
This is a much, much better position than your previous one about the creator infusing their views to their art, and I agree with what you've said as a result.
I know Brand may not be to everyone's tastes, but I just so happened to be reading this this morning, and thought it relevant to the (previous) discussion. it's a very good read.
It goes without saying that if Woody Allen actually did what he has been accused of doing, he's a monster. I don't recall seeing many of his films, the only one I am conscious of seeing I saw last week, it was 'Zelig', and that film is brilliant. I'd like to believe Allen was incapable of something like what he has been accused of, but we don't truly know any of these people whose art we enjoy so much.
But I just see the commerce as a lot more cut and dried by that. When I pay money to buy Ender's Game, I'm paying Card for writing a book, not for having whatever views he has. And like when Polanski won Best Director for The Pianist.
Ender's Game comes from the same personality and the same intellect of a man with abhorrent views that are unacceptable to me today. Yes, you're paying him for writing a book, but that book came from the same mind that believes the things he's stated in the past.
To go off of what Darth Guy was saying earlier about Polanski, his pregnant wife was also raped and murdered by the Manson family, so that was another aspect that probably drove him to commit the crime. Personally, his crime is unforgivable and repugnant, but that doesn't necessarily stop me from enjoying his movies. Chinatown is one of the best films I've ever seen, and Frantic is a great little atmospheric thriller.
i think wocky's boycott point probably makes the most sense here. there isn't any real reason to stop enjoying a piece of art just because the artist has committed other repugnant acts or has repugnant views. a piece of art, once created, becomes its own entity, and you enjoy it for its own sake, not because of who the artist is. i can understand, however, why someone may choose to boycott certain art by certain artists as a kind of protest vote; that seems logical to me, even if i don't becessarily agree with the need to do so.
No piece of art is its own entity to me. It is permanently fused with its creator, no matter what.
what would you make of a piece of art by an anonymous or unknown creator?
What about a work of art that is delicious like cookies or pizza?
i do understand your point, but to me, a great movie or a great book is something that transcends even the realms of the medium, and that includes even having a "director" or "author". a great story to me is about the characters, the mood, the sense of relation it has to my own life. great art in general feels very personal to me -- the artist is merely the conduit of that piece of art. they are obviously incredibly important, but the artist isn't what i'm interested in when i'm enjoying the piece of art itself.
movies, particularly, are a collobration: there is so much more that goes into that particular medium than just the input of the director. it seems a shame to tarnish the efforts of all the individuals involved just because of the actions of the director.
I think I definitely have to agree with this. I mean, an artist creates a work of art and then releases it into the world. The artwork then becomes it's own thing, completely subject to the viewers. We can create our own, equally valid interpretations of the art; we can give our own opinions of the quality of the art; we can allow that art to connect with us in a deeply personal way, in a way that it will never connect to anyone else. The creator is anything but fused to the artist. The art comes out of the artist and is then completely and totally freed. It can be interesting and engaging to look at the creator and the artwork in light of each other, but in no way is that necessary or even always desirable.
I'd also like to just push back against something that I've noted happen repeatedly in this thread and that's calling people "monsters." If Allen did what they say he did, he's a monster; Polanski is a monster; etc. No matter what they've done, folks, we have to resist the easy way out. We can't simply demonize these people (quite literally into monsters, right?) and thus give humanity a pass. It's far more morally complex than that. They're human beings and that means that we have to consider two unpleasant, very complicated things: human beings are capable of horrible things & these people still deserve our respect and empathy as fellow human beings. Whatever problems these people might have or what they might be capable of doing, they share our basic humanity and they deserve a basic level of respect that all human beings deserve. And all human beings do deserve a basic level of respect. Yes, our respect diminishes as we discover these things about people. But they're still human beings with a basic right to life, a right to be heard in their own defense and a right to self-determination inside the law. As we believe they step outside the law, they have the right to due process and protection as decisions are made about them. And they have the right to be called human beings and not monsters or animals.
I'm sorry-- I just can't abide any art made by anyone who has done awful things to other people. Movies are a collaborative process, and so it depends on the level of involvement a given person has.
The artwork is never just its own thing to me. Everyone's interpretation of the art is on an equal level to the artist's, but that doesn't mean there's a separation between art and the artists. I understand your interpretation, Stephen (and epic). I just don't subscribe to it. Indeed, I fundamentally disagree with it.
Well I actually hold both views. On the one hand, I think the boycott point is a good way to understand these issues. Separately, though, I do think it is pretty difficult to separate an artist from their work. Even when they don't intentionally try to embed aspects of themselves in it, it's often easy enough to see. Said, Achebe, and other anti-colonialist thinkers have done a pretty good job of demonstrating how this can be the case. Fortunately, I think they also provided a pretty good framework for making sense of it. Neither Said in his follow-up Culture & Imperialism nor Achebe, in his famous takedown essay of Conrad, argued that these sort of readings should replace the primary meaning derived from authorial intent and standard analysis. Instead, they both pushed the notion of a complimentary reading. That is, these alternative takes should always be acknowledged and grappled with when the work is picked up.
How do I apply that in the cases we're discussing? I personally take it as ruling out both extremes. On the one hand, we don't throw everything in the garbage because the author thought or did something bad. On the other, we don't pretend that a piece of artwork can be entirely severed from the person who made it. Instead, confront the problem head on. Every time you listen to Wagner, think actively about the ways he engaged in anti-Semitism and how that can be detected in his work. View the Polanski film a work of a fugitive guilty of rape, and try to understand all the ways that does or doesn't subtly change his presentation of whatever topics are in the film. This neither denies the quality of the art nor the dark consequences of the artist's misdeeds.
But I think where this philosophy could benefit from some nuance is context. Again, I'll use Wagner because he's a great example of someone who has been unfairly tainted through history.
Nothing in any of his major operas - Der Ring Das Nibelungen, Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde - reflects his anti-Semitism. Moreover, his anti-Semitism was entirely consistent with left-wing German thinking at the time. Marx, too, is similar - very strong views on Jews which were undermined by circumstance (Marx was born Jewish; Wagner had a Jewish stepfather and both Marx and Wagner had close Jewish friends). Part of the rejection of Freudian analysis was rooted in his Jewishness... at the time, let's be honest, hating Jews was just a given. If we can't conceive of this in a post-WWII, post-Israel society fair enough.
What harms Wagner is that despite his very left wing leanings, Adolf Hitler was a fan and there are suggestions that Wagner inspired Nazism. Rubbish. Hitler liked Wagner's works, felt it showed the best of Teutonic genius, but failed to appreciate the socialist message of much of it
If I am to use your criteria, KW, I can't listen to Wagner because music and creator are intertwined. But I can see no evidence to suggest his work was inspired by anti-Semitism. Nor can I see evidence that his anti-Semitism was a unique black mark against him, when his peers and contemporaries were equally anti-Semitic.
I get what you're saying, but absolutism is a fundamentally emotional and not intellectual stance. It needs to be tempered and often on a case by case basis, by the facts of each scenario.
I guess I am more agreed with you on Wagner, Ender, in that there are still ways to listen to him. On the other hand, though, I'm not sure your modern examples hold up quite so well. For instance, is it honestly the case that there's no synergy between Nordic revivalism and white supremacy? While there's no obligate connection, the two have had some quite robust linkages for a very long time.
Did people boycott the Ender's Game movie because of Card's homophobia?
Wocky, you're referring to Varg Vikernes aka Count Grisnakh or Burzum? The musician whose racist idiocy I sadly quoted a few pages back?
I would dispute that in and of itself, Odinist revivalism is inherent white supremacy, despite celebrating an inherently white culture. In that other bands that celebrate Nordic heritage, like Amon Amarth, aren't espousing racist views nor are the other black metallers from Varg's era necessarily sharing his views.
If you're suggest Nordic revivalism is racist because it celebrates white culture, I'd say you're wrong. It celebrates a white culture and not for being white, but because in that idealised period of history there were few if any nonwhites in the time. But that's not what makes it important, it's the ideals and the warrior spirit and the gods and the traditions.