Life vs. Art
Note: First time in a while since I chimed in on the ol’ blog. When I started this two-plus years ago I envisioned blogging on a regular basis. Turns out the combination of work, raising six and four-year-old boys, and home-owning makes blogging an easier-said-than-done hobby. For the few who have followed my infrequent musings, I’m grateful and humbled. For me, part of blogging is just occasionally getting my thoughts on print. Yet I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t thrill me to think others may read this stuff from time to time. When those times have occurred, I hope I’ve been able to make you laugh, teach you something you may have not known about, taken you down memory lane, provided a different perspective for you to consider……or perhaps a bit of all-of-the-above. In my perfect little world I’d have something new to share two or three days a week, and have about 50 or so loyal readers who follow along. Of course I know I’ll never find the time to write three days a week, and I’m not sure there’s 50 people out there who realize I’m still alive! 😉 At any rate, tonight I wanted to spout off about something that’s been on my mind of late, and hopefully elicit some feedback as well.
Last month HBO released a highly anticipated and controversial documentary entitled, Leaving Neverland. Full disclosure, I haven’t seen it. That said, I’ve read enough about it to know its content, and grasp the shocking reactions from it.
Unless you’re a generation younger than me, or you’ve been living under a rock, you’re certainly aware of the pedophile allegations and talk that’s surrounded the life of the late Michael Jackson. With that in mind, the HBO documentary isn’t exactly “breaking news.” To my understanding however, it’s the pain-staking detail and candid interviews of this new doc that’s led to a larger light and more public awareness of Michael’s alleged pederastic exploits than ever before.
This public backlash has led to radio stations across the world pulling The King of Pop’s tunes from their airwaves. There’s been talk that Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show Michael Jackson: ONE should permanently go dark. The animated Michael Jackson’s Halloween movie CBS aired a couple of years ago that my kids loved? Yeah, highly doubt “America’s most-watched network” will ever show that again!
So I have a few questions: Is it now in poor taste for me to tap my foot to a classic Michael Jackson song? Granted, dancing to a Jacko song probably would be in poor taste, but that’s because of my dancing skills. What about simply listening to Off the Wall or Thriller? Do I need to be alone to do this? Will others be offended if I play a Jackson song while entertaining at the house? Must I turn it down or change the song if Jackson is playing in my car when someone pulls up next to me at a red light? If I don’t, will people think I don’t sympathize with Jackson’s victims? Or worse yet, would it imply I’m supporting a child molester?
I opened this blog entry with the Jackson piece because it leads to a larger, over-arching question…….Can we as a society no longer separate the person from their craft? Their life from their art? Should we? It’s become more and more clear to me in recent years that many people no longer can. To each their own. My opinion doesn’t make me right. It doesn’t make someone else wrong. I also don’t think the issue is black and white. Like everything in life, there are degrees of sensible gray in everything. As far as I’m concerned however, separating one’s life and one’s art is a necessity.
Bill Cosby. The artist formerly known as America’s Dad. Today we know him as Bill Cosby, convicted rapist. Turns out my kids love watching the old cartoons I watched when I was a kid. What if my kids want to watch Fat Albert? If I let them watch, and God forbid, eat Jell-O pudding pops while viewing, is that offensive?
Scientology. I don’t practice it. I’ve never closely studied it. I have zero interest in ever doing so. From the outside looking in though, fair or not, it sounds like a bunch of cuckoos following a cuckoo religion. Battlefield Earth anyone? The two most high-profile cuckoos of the Scientology band of gypsies are none other than Tom Cruise and John Travolta. So I may not like Scientology, but should I take it out on Vinnie Barbarino and Maverick? Tony Manero and Jerry Maguire? Chili Palmer and Jack Reacher? Listen, Cruise and Travolta have both made their fair share of crap movies over the years, but they’ve also made films and played characters I’ve very much enjoyed and been entertained by. I may disagree with their “religious” beliefs, but I’m still going to enjoy watching Tom shoot pool in The Color of Money and John dance in Pulp Fiction.
Then there’s Hollywood and politics. Ironic isn’t it? Based on the goings-on the past few years in Washington, the two words could be synonyms. You might think it takes a team of fiction script writers to create the things we’ve seen, but I digress.
Let’s cut to the chase. We know which political party most prominent Hollywood actors support. It’s not the one the red-hat-wearing-folks support. Fortunately for me, I tend to lean more their way than I do the MAGA-nites, so by and large I don’t find them as offensive as others do. (Ask a Republican what they think of Alec Baldwin for example). That’s not to say I agree with the Hollywooders lock step. I’m with them on social equality and most environmental issues, but I’m not concerned about the diminishing spotted owl population and shit like that. They’re rich. They can afford to worry about things like that. I’m a school teacher. I’m worried about making my mortgage payment next month.
That said, even if I was the biggest Republican this side of Tucker Carlson, should I not watch and enjoy the films of Robert DeNiro, Sean Penn, Meryl Streep, or even the aforementioned Alec Baldwin for example? Are you nuts? I’d have no problem pushing my politics to the side so I could enjoy a viewing of Bob DeNiro in Goodfellas.
Harvey Weinstein. A disgraceful, disgusting, pig of a man. I admittedly feel a bit grossed out just looking at him, let alone thinking about what he put many women through. Yet his former film studios, Miramax and The Weinstein Company made many movies I’ve enjoyed over the past 25 years. Should I not watch anything this guy ever made now?
Is it fair to separate the craft or art from the person who created or played a role in its creation? I don’t like pederasts, but I like Michael Jackson’s music. I don’t like rapists, but I like Fat Albert and the Cosby Show. I liked many of the movies produced by a film company once owned by a sexual predator.
Earlier I mentioned degrees of gray. Does that apply here? Is separation of art and life ok when it’s differing religious or political views? What about separation of art and life when we’re talking about sexual criminals? I believe the separation applies to both.
We could stop listening to Michael Jackson’s music. Those young boys still got molested and worse. We could ban Weinstein’s films. Those women still got sexually assaulted. Cable stations can stop showing reruns of The Cosby Show. Those women still got raped. You can choose not to watch films with certain actors in them on account of their political or religious views. Those films and acting performances are still good.
Art in all its forms provides so much. Entertainment. Joy. Sadness. Comfort. It hits on all emotions. It defines culture. It sets trends. It gives us something to talk and think about. In a perfect world perhaps all artists would be wonderfully good people. But the world is not perfect. So perhaps it’s for my own sanity, but for someone who loves music, film, television, literature, etc, I have no choice but to separate the art and the person. Can you?
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