I am what I say … or am I?

If you’re an artist, a writer, designer, painter, director, actor … should you keep your thoughts to yourself for risk of discouraging potential fans? Or should you say what you think? In short, how much are artists representative of their art?

Let’s look at some examples.

1) Oscar Wilde – Author, essayist and playwright. Wilde firmly believed art contained no moral Unknowninstruction. “Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” He thought that whatever meaning the reader interpreted, came from the reader and not the work or the writer. Ironically, Wilde’s own novel was used against him in his trial as proof of his homosexuality. His work might have worked against him at the time but Wilde’s notoriety has helped his work stay canonical. In history, art and artist have been bound, despite that artists protestations.

 

2) Mel Gibson – Actor. A more recent example. In 2006, Gibson reportedly said anti-Semitic mel_gibson320remarks when he was arrested for drunk driving. It was a bad night all round for him on the PR front. No one is contesting that racism is wrong or that drunk driving is dangerous but should the actors actions off screen effect the way you view their films? (Good) Actors are chameleons, slipping their skin to throw themselves into a role, so little of themselves remain in the character. Is there a separation between liking the actor, admitting he’s good at his job, and disliking the man, in this case because he’s a racist? Or are the two too closely linked?

JK3) J.K. Rowling – Author. In more current news, Rowling gave a sizeable contribution to the Scotland ‘Stay Together’ campaign. Arguably, this is much less controversial than the other two examples but raises the same point. Rowling’s support for this political issue has nothing to do with her work. But there are people out there that would turn away from it because they hold the opposite political view, even though this political view would be cited nowhere in her work.

 

These are just three examples but there are tons more, some more controversial than others. Should we view art and artist separately or not? Historically they have been viewed as one and the same and you can see the reasons why. On the one hand, you’re paying these people and you may not want to see them better off for views or actions you disagree with. But there is a case to be made for viewing them separately, you may be paying these people but they’re not politicians (yet). You’re not paying them for their views, you’re paying them for their work, which can have nothing to do with them as a person.

It’s a fact that you can’t please everybody. Whether it’s your religion, politics or lifestyle choices, you are going to offend somebody … but you can avoid deliberately annoying them (or inciting hatred). Artists in the public eye tread a fine line, sometimes the less controversial you are the better you do, i.e Matt Damon, and sometimes controversy can boost you up, i.e. Oscar Wilde or Miley Cyrus. (I never thought I’d use those two in the same sentence).

I try to separate the artist and the art in my mind but sometimes it’s hard. What about you? Do you think they should be viewed separately? Have you heard something about an artist that made you boycott their work?

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8 thoughts on “I am what I say … or am I?

  1. Miley Cyrus is an example who uses controversy to purposely bolster their career. And there are many others. Which I feel neutral for, except that I find it distasteful and degrading.
    However, I think that an artist should be allowed to have an opinion. Even though their opinions would cause severe consequences. Mainly because if an artist has an opinion people listen, and this can quickly change the over all thoughts of people. But then again, it was a lot of work to become famous, they deserve I think to be allowed to have that extra sway.
    If not for famous people the news stations are swaying opinions.
    So why not famous people?
    One terrific example of something controversial is that Einstein had huge political views and was obviously very important. But he was for communism during the time when communism was considered a threat. So I think it was Hoover who was in office at the time. But there was a lot going at the time to keep him out of the US and quiet about his communist views.

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  2. I immediately thought of the current Amazon/Hachette debate – authors on either side taking public stands against other authors! It’s almost become an indie/small-publisher versus mainstream/traditionally-published war. But I still respect opinions on either side, like I respect authors having the ability to take public stands and raise awareness about an issue just like any other celebrity. If anything, I think it’s almost BETTER when writers do it because writers understand the power of one’s words to create an impact. Taking a stand on an issue helps readers see the writer as a person rather than just a name on a page.

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  3. I think this is a great question and can be boiled down to a smaller scale and how your average authors use Twitter for example. How outspoken should they be? Or should they just be nice polite PR. Machines now they have books on shelves?

    And in answer to your question. Yes. I have been put off artist/s because of behaviour. There are so many about you can afford to go off one or two.

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    • Thanks for comment. I think as a general rule you should use freedom if speech cautiously. It depends whether you are selling yourself as a part of your work in which case a PR machine might be a necessary evil.

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